Congress Must Uphold Iran Deal
Iran is an externally volatile nation. It tests long range missiles, threatens our allies, and oppresses its citizens, as it has done for decades. During my Iraq deployment, I personally knew that the bad guys in Muqdar al Sadr’s “army” whom I was fighting (and those making IEDs) were trained by Iran’s Quds Force.
As I told President Obama and Secretary Kerry, when discussing the importance of the Iran Deal, “I like the United States being the hegemon.” That means that I like America leading, whether from the front or behind the scenes. The world looks to the United States to lead in most diplomatic and military actions, especially the tough ones, as we did with the Iran Deal.
The United States led the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia in negotiating a nuclear deal with Tehran. The deal was based not on trust, but on verification. Because of our nation’s leadership, the best nuclear inspectors in the world have had access to Iran’s complete nuclear supply chain; they’re watching the uranium from the moment it comes out of the mines to when it’s processed in the lab. The deal also puts hard limits on what Iran is permitted to do with that uranium by disabling thousands of centrifuges and reducing the stockpile they already had by 95 percent and shutting down entire nuclear facilities.
What is key about the deal is that we are not having to take Iran’s word for its adherence to the deal. The end result is an Iran without a nuclear weapon capability, making the United States and the world a safer place. From nuclear scientists to veterans of Israeli intelligence and European diplomats to retired U.S. military leaders, all agree that the Iran Deal is working.
Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford all support keeping it in place. But last Friday, President Trump announced his decision not to certify Iranian compliance with the deal. He professed that Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement with activities like missile tests, and argued that this refusal to recertify the deal will give us time to strengthen it.
This is a dangerous argument for two reasons.
First, though Iran continues to test its ballistic missiles, doing so is not breaking with the deal. Our allies were cognizant that the biggest threat was a nuclear Iran, so we focused on solving that problem first. If we want to keep Iran from testing missiles, we can focus on crafting a separate agreement — not tear down the one we already have in place.
Second, President Trump’s decertification does not strengthen the deal — it is more likely to destroy it. His choice is effectively passing the buck to the Senate, allowing it to consider re-imposing sanctions over a 60 day review period, which could be a violation of the terms of the deal. And there remains the risk that the administration may take some other provocative action to derail the deal.
Ask yourself this: What happens if we, the United States, are the sole country to walk away from the deal? The consequences are extremely dire. The world’s faith that the United States sticks to the agreements we make will be shaken — right when negotiating with and about North Korea is so crucial. If we pull out of the Iran Deal, our international partners would be hesitant to come together again on any diplomatic actions, including sanctions (especially when those nations can profit from trade with Iran). Most importantly, the limits on Iran’s nuclear program and the inspectors enforcing them would vanish, leaving Iran free to speedily develop nuclear weapon capability.
The Iran Deal may not be perfect, but what is? We must keep our focus on working to combat Iran’s destructive behavior in the Middle East. At the end of the day, it is incumbent upon us to uphold the deal and build on progress, rather than tearing it down. Our leaders in Congress should therefore focus on enforcing and providing oversight for their recent bipartisan sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program and refrain from taking further escalatory steps.
Terron Sims, II is a former captain with the U.S. Army. He served in Iraq from 2003–2004. He is currently a Security Fellow with Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own.