The deal that our country reached with Iran and five other world powers this month is an impressive diplomatic achievement that has the potential to peacefully resolve one of the most intractable problems facing our country and the world today. While acknowledging some of the flaws and risks inherent in a deal negotiated with this many countries and with our principal enemy in the region, I come to the conclusion that it is the best available way forward to achieve our two primary goals in the Middle East: stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensuring the security of Israel and our regional allies.
To be clear, this deal will not address all of the problems posed by Iran in the region and the threat it poses to the United States and Israel. The Iranian leadership has the blood of Americans and Israelis on its hands, and its continued support of militias, terrorists and repressive mass murderers like Bashar al-Assad will not end with this agreement. We must do more with our allies in the region to curb Iran’s malign influence and actions.
But what this deal does achieve is important. It removes 98% of Iran’s enriched uranium, it closes the country’s pathway to producing weapons-grade plutonium, it removes 2/3rds of its first generation centrifuges and it takes Iran from a projected 2–3 month timeline to develop nuclear weapons capacity to more than a year. That — and an intrusive inspections and verification regime — means that the U.S. and the international community can effectively prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon.
And importantly — this deal does not remove any of our current options. If Iran cheats, we can re-impose U.S. and international sanctions; if Iran kicks out inspectors, flouts the terms of the agreement or is seen to be “breaking out” to nuclear weapons capacity, we can and will use military force. And, by taking this important step of joining the international community in a peaceful attempt to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear threat, we will have a much better chance of forming a broad coalition to impose far more punishing sanctions or even military force, should those options be needed.
Without this deal, there will likely be no other deal. The premise that, after two years of negotiations and an agreement that enjoys the support of 99% of the world community, we can unilaterally reject this deal and then somehow bring everyone back to the negotiating table is not a likely one. We will forego active, eyes-on intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. We will lose the international coalition that we have built, a coalition whose united sanctions program brought Iran to the table in the first place. Iran will not have an incentive to stop their development of nuclear weapons capacity and will be much closer, and much more likely, to develop a nuclear weapon. That will threaten not only our country, but our principal allies in the region and it will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
This deal is not perfect and it is not without risk. It will require American leadership and resolve to ensure that it fulfills its promise. And it must also have the commitment of this country that Iranian violations will be met by punishing sanctions, and that any outright pursuit of a nuclear weapon will be met by military force. But it is the best option before us, and I will support it because it improves the safety of our country and that of our allies.