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A call for diplomacy: the need for USA to maintain the Iran nuclear deal

Congress should be a voice of caution and restraint. Any marginal benefit of this legislation is outweighed by the risk of giving an impulsive president license to take steps that could undermine a deal that is working, isolate the United States, and put U.S. troops at risk. 

Dear Senators: Push Back Against Iran, but Not at the Expense of the
Nuclear Deal, Foreign Policy,  
BY ANTONY J. BLINKENAVRIL HAINESCOLIN KAHLJEFF PRESCOTTJON FINERPHILIP GORDONROBERT MALLEY MARCH 31, 2017 – During our time in government, there were few issues on which it was easier to build a bipartisan consensus in Congress than the need to contend with the range of threats posed by Iran. Congress played a critical role in penalizing Iran for supporting terrorism, providing support to U.S. partners in the region threatened by Iran, and establishing the sanctions regime that, combined with tough diplomacy, led to a deal that prevents Iran from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. Momentum is again building in Congress to impose additional sanctions on Iran, including with the introduction last week of the Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 by Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Robert Menendez. The bill has already garnered more than two-dozen cosponsors. Unfortunately, as currently drafted, this bill would do more harm than good.

Thanks in large part to Congress’s support — including some difficult votes — the United States and our partners were able to address the most immediate and consequential threat posed by Iran. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran has dismantled much of its nuclear infrastructure: removing two-thirds of the centrifuges it had installed (well over 10,000 centrifuges), shipping out 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, decommissioning a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb, and putting all of its nuclear facilities under strict international monitoring.
Iran has committed in writing that, pursuant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it will never seek a nuclear weapon and has put all key elements of its program under close surveillance. Most important of all: The deal is working.

By all accounts — including those of International Atomic Energy Agency, inspectors we have trained, and our own intelligence community — Iran is complying with its commitments. In other words, we were able to eliminate a potential threat to our allies and our nation without firing a shot — and the only price we paid was a relaxation of those international sanctions whose very purpose was to enable us to address the nuclear threat at the negotiating table. Non-nuclear sanctions, on matters like ballistic missiles, terrorism, and human rights violations, remain in place. And Iran essentially paid for the nuclear deal with its own money, which the international community had frozen in banks around the world, to increase pressure on Iranian leaders to make a deal. In short,

President Donald Trump has inherited an Iran policy that leaves us significantly safer than when his predecessor took office. This context is important in evaluating the potential upsides — and downsides — of new legislation to impose additional sanctions on Iran.

Many senators will be tempted to support the Corker-Menendez legislation, which at first glance seems to accomplish a rare feat in Washington these days: bringing together bipartisan support to address a known national-security threat. We share concerns about threats from Iran to the United States and our allies, including the challenges posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism. But when it comes to an arrangement as complex as the JCPOA, the details matter, and this legislation, in its current form, includes several significant risks that could undermine the nuclear deal.

First, the bill adds new conditions that must be met before Washington can lift sanctions on certain Iranian parties in the future, including sanctions we are already committed to remove if Tehran continues to comply with the nuclear deal……..

Second, the legislation would, most likely, lead the president to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist group. …….

Third, by mandating sanctions on any person or entity that “poses a risk of materially contributing” to Iran’s ballistic missile program, the bill introduces a standard that is overly broad and vague. Such a loose definition could potentially be used to impose sanctions in violation of the JCPOA — particularly when in the hands of an administration that is overtly hostile to the deal.

………Congress should not take any steps that our international partners might view as violating a deal that, so far, has fulfilled its goals. Rather than containing Iran, such steps would isolate the United States.

……..Trump promised during his campaign that his “number one priority is to dismantle” the deal. On February 2, then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn publicly, and vaguely, put Iran “on notice,” followed the next day by Trump declaring on Twitter that Iran was “playing with fire.” Trump’s team has not since publicly outlined any overall approach to Iran policy, engaged openly with Iranian diplomats, or publicly committed to working with our closest allies in keeping the nuclear deal intact. In this uncertain environment, Congress should be a voice of caution and restraint. Any marginal benefit of this legislation is outweighed by the risk of giving an impulsive president license to take steps that could undermine a deal that is working, isolate the United States, and put U.S. troops at risk.

April 1, 2017 - Posted by | politics

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