Tough talk is coming from some Members of Congress who oppose the new international agreement to limit the Iran nuclear program and want to plow ahead with additional sanctions, even though that vote could jeopardize the agreement and lead America into another Mid-East War.
The deal was negotiated between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – including the United States – plus Germany.
Under the agreement, Iran will freeze its nuclear development program and will neutralize its entire stockpile of uranium that has already been enriched at a level that is close to what is needed to make a nuclear weapon. Iran will submit to international inspections to verify that it is living up to the terms of the agreement. In return, the United States and other countries will reduce some economic sanctions on Iran, while leaving most economic sanctions in place, and agree not to place any new sanctions on Iran while the agreement is in force.
The agreement is for six months, during which time there will be negotiations to reach a long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. If a permanent deal is not achieved during this period, sanctions could be reinstated and toughened.
When the polling firm Hart Research read this description of the deal to a random sample of American voters, 63% said they supported it, and only 24% were opposed. Thirteen percent said they were undecided. (Poll conducted November 26 - December 1)
In addition the overwhelming number of national security and military experts support the accord.
Experts on this agreement – and the Obama Administration that helped negotiate it – point out that the agreement explicitly prohibits additional sanctions on Iran during the six months it is in effect. That was the quid pro quo for Iran’s willingness to freeze their nuclear program while a long-term deal is negotiated.
Regardless, there are some in Congress who are intent on passing new sanctions right away, even if it would threaten the entire negotiation.
Those Members need to read further in the Hart poll. Sixty-seven percent say they would agree more with a Member of Congress who wants to give the new agreement and further negotiations a chance to work before deciding on any additional economic sanctions. Only 25% prefer that Congress pass new sanctions on Iran now, even if it puts the new agreement and further negotiations at risk.
The reason American voters feel so strongly, is that they categorically oppose allowing the United States to be dragged into another war in the Middle East.
In fact, 68% of poll respondents think that it is a convincing argument that we must try to reach a negotiated resolution preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon because the principle alternative would be military action and another U.S. war in the Middle East.
There are only three alternatives when dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. Either we must negotiate a diplomatic agreement that prevents them from having a nuclear bomb, but allows some form of civilian nuclear energy program; or we let them have a nuclear bomb; or America – and/or its allies -- takes military action that would draw us into another Mideast war.
Given those alternatives, national security experts and ordinary people alike all agree that the best option is a negotiated solution. While most voters might not trust the intentions of the Iranian leadership, they know that a path to a verifiable negotiated agreement is head-and-shoulders superior to another war. They’ve seen that movie and it ended badly.
Many Members of Congress have seen that movie, too, and they also need to remember the ending.
Do they really want to take a vote for more sanctions now that could jeopardize the current agreement and the prospects for a negotiated, peaceful settlement? If the negotiation fails there will be plenty of time for new, tougher sanctions. The only imperative to pass additional sanctions now is the desire to please hard liners who really oppose any deal and actually want to promote military action.
In fact, experts agree that a vote now for new sanctions – even if they don’t go into effect for six or eight months – would provide a basis for hardliners in Iran to tube the deal and lead a drive to a nuclear weapon. Worse yet, such action could unravel the international support for sanctions that is necessary to make them effective.
If Congress takes matters into its own hands, and violates both the letter and spirit of the agreement, in order to score political points with hard-liners in the United States, they will also be breaking an agreement negotiated with the international community. That will give other nations the incentive to pull out of the sanctions regime that they are supposedly interested in strengthening.
But from the standpoint of Members of Congress, the worst thing that could happen is that down the road – six months or a year from now – if their vote causes negotiations to collapse, America might actually be drawn into another Mideast war – either because Iran’s hardliners actually develop a bomb, or because hardliners in Israel attack Iran.
If that happens, the voters will blame: them. Why would Members of Congress want to take that risk? Why would they take the risk that their actions might cause the collapse of negotiations that could lead to a peaceful settlement and be held responsible for dragging the country into another war in the Middle East?
Before they take a vote that could undermine negotiations with Iran, Members of Congress should think back on how most of their current and former colleagues feel now about the vote they took to authorize the Iraq War. There aren’t many who would say it was their proudest moment.
Many of the same Neo-Cons and hard liners who are itching for a military attack on Iran stampeded Members of Congress into voting to launch the Iraq War – which is now universally recognized as one of the worst single foreign policy mistakes of the last 50 years.
Many have had to live with that vote their entire careers. For others, it ended their careers in politics altogether.
There are scores of current and former Members of Congress who have wished many times that they could take that vote back.
Most voters don’t know all the ins and outs of nuclear policy, or policy toward Iran. But one thing is for sure: The voters will blame Members of Congress whose votes get America into another Mideast war.
Call your Member of Congress. Tell them that before they vote, they need to remember back to that vote that launched America into the War in Iraq.