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Op-Ed: Iran Nuke Deal Is Good For America And For Peace

 
By Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.)
 
We are both Democrats, but our districts and paths to Congress share little in common. A Catholic city councilman from Chicago and a Jewish journalist from Kentucky, the two of us naturally bring very different viewpoints to our work. But we are in complete agreement on one of the most important issues the U.S. faces—the nuclear agreement with Iran is good for America, crucial for Israel, and an important step toward a more peaceful Middle East.

The United States entered into P5+1 negotiations with one prevailing goal: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. After months of negotiations, we now have an agreement that will do just that. The deal severely restricts Iran’s nuclear program to only energy-grade enrichment, eliminates much of their uranium stockpile, retires most centrifuges, and gives International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors more access in Iran than in any country in the world. Most importantly, under this deal, Iran can never have a nuclear weapon.

We recognize that some of our colleagues do not share our enthusiasm for this deal, and we certainly share their mistrust for the Iranian regime. But, this agreement is not built on trust. It’s built on strict verification and unprecedented enforcement. Iran has agreed to submit to full IAEA inspections throughout their nuclear supply chain, leaving no site off-limits and ensuring the IAEA will have access wherever it needs it, whenever it needs it.

Iran conceded to these terms after the success of crippling international sanctions. Relief from those sanctions will be introduced gradually, only after Iranian compliance is verified. And should they fail to comply at any point, those sanctions will automatically snap back into place.

But make no mistake, sanctions were not delaying Iran’s march toward a bomb. Sanctions were designed to make that march unbearable and force Iran to the negotiating table where we could strike a deal that would truly make the world safer.

And it worked. Now, aside from war, we’re left with two choices. Either we support the deal and stop Iran from getting a bomb, or we oppose the deal and allow Iran to resume its nuclear path, unchecked and no longer encumbered by the pain of global sanctions.

Whether we like it or not, that is where we find ourselves. The sanctions’ effectiveness depended on a coalition that included China and Russia. Should the U.S. unilaterally defeat this agreement, deemed positive by all members of the coalition, China and Russia are unlikely to simply return to business as usual. The formation of the P5+1 was a unique historical moment. A failure by Congress to recognize the significance of today’s moment would undo more than a decade of progress while leaving Iran’s nuclear program fully intact.

There is simply no acceptable alternative to this deal. It’s why, despite all the criticism, no viable substitute has been offered. No one likes working with enemy nations, but deals like these aren’t necessary among friends. It’s understandable that much of the apprehension over these negotiations have to do with Iran’s history, and certainly, the past must be taken into account — it’s also why there is such high emphasis on verification. But we must not allow history to be the obstacle in working toward a better, more peaceful future.

Some have derided the agreement based on the Americans who remain unjustly imprisoned in Iran. We too had hoped negotiations would have already led to their release and share the urgent need to free them. But here too, the deal provides our best chance. An abrupt severing of ties would give us no means to free the prisoners, but in an improved negotiating climate, we have a real chance to secure their release.

These choices are never easy, but after more than a decade of groundwork, the best and right path is now clear.

To upend this agreement would be not only a setback for our shared goal of a peaceful world, but it would be a major blow to American diplomacy. If we walk away, the future of international relations within the Middle East will be put at risk. China and Russia will have no need to deal with us if they again have the ability to deal with Iran directly. And Iran’s nuclear program will resume its growth, free of safeguards from the international community.

The critics are right about one thing. This is not a perfect deal. But no negotiation ends in perfection, and the results of this negotiation are very good. To be certain, it’s the best deal available. It’s good for the United States, good for our allies, most especially Israel, and it’s good for the Middle East. By cautiously and carefully inviting Iran to rejoin the world stage, we can guarantee they play by the rules, and finally ensure regional stability and security for all.

Gutiérrez has represented Illinois’ 4th Congressional District since 1993. He sits on the Intelligence and the Judiciary committees. Yarmuth has represented Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District since 2007. He sits on the Budget and the Energy and Commerce committees.