Originally published in the Seattle Times, 8/24/15
AS a former Cold War nuclear intelligence analyst for the Pentagon, I can say with confidence that nuclear proliferation in the Middle East poses a vital threat to U.S. security interests.
As leaders in the international community, Americans have a special responsibility to take actions preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program.
It is time for some diplomatic solutions to the arc of conflict that extends from the Middle East to South Asia. That is why I’m a strong supporter of the Iran nuclear deal currently under consideration by Congress.
Looking back on decades of diplomatic initiatives and military conflicts designed to deter or contain nuclear-proliferation risks, I know this: The Iran nuclear deal breaks new ground.
The Iran deal is the world’s best chance to prevent a new nuclear state in this turbulent region. Instead of reliving the past when we negotiated nuclear treaties only after states had built their bomb, the international community has opened a door to monitor Iran’s nuclear program before it becomes a deadly nuclear threat.
Since the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, the United States and the former Soviet Union have invested a great deal of time, energy and resources in destroying thousands of nuclear warheads and halting nuclear tests. That was true progress. Now the P5+1 — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany — have negotiated a joint plan to stop Iran from entering the nuclear club.
These nations, all with divergent national interests, have endured grueling diplomatic negotiations with Iran to reach a deal. It’s a deal that would set back Tehran’s nuclear program for well over a decade.
Prevention, not confrontation, is the right path forward.
I support this deal for three main reasons:
- This agreement would be a major setback for nuclear weapons production in Iran. Without this deal, Iran could be just a few months away from producing a nuclear weapon. With this deal, Iran would be prevented from producing weapons-grade plutonium for at least 15 more years and its stockpile of uranium would be reduced by 98 percent.
- It has strong accountability measures. The agreement would prevent Iran from implementing any covert nuclear programs outside of this deal. Unprecedented layers of verification and inspection would be implemented to ensure Iran holds up its end of the bargain. Today, we have proven monitoring methods using on-site inspection technologies and intelligence gathering that give us more confidence that we would detect Iranian efforts to circumvent the deal. Sanctions may be reimposed if we discover violations. Neither China nor Russia can veto renewal of sanctions.
- It shows diplomacy can work. Throughout history, nations have been quick to resort to violence when conflicts emerge. But in this moment, we have an opportunity to do better, to avoid a war before it starts. Finalizing this agreement with a country that has held long-standing nuclear ambitions would be a major step in the right direction and a positive sign for resolving future conflicts peacefully.
We can spend the next 15 years fighting about who lost the chance to prevent a nuclear Iran, or we can begin to carve a diplomatic path to a post-nuclear future. It’s time for the U.S. Senate to seal this deal.
The stakes are too high to delay action and let this historic opportunity slip by. Please join me in supporting this agreement and urging Congress to approve the Iran nuclear deal.