The agreement reached this past weekend between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, and Iran sets a six month time-table and a stepping stone towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict over Iran’s uranium enrichment program. President Obama addressed the agreement late Saturday night saying:
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges, which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.
But the Orange County Register reports that Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, does not think it’s time to negotiate. “We have to be able to hold their feet to the fire over this deal,” Royce said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We need to ratchet up those sanctions until Iran is willing to agree to give up its right to enrich, to give up its nuclear program. Until they do that they’re still on the road to have the capability for undetectable nuclear weapons breakout and that’s the bottom line,” he said.
It must be frustrating for partisan Republicans like Royce to see President Obama’s administration make progress in addressing international relations through negotiation rather than war. Royce is apparently still living in the President George W. Bush years of “bomb first, negotiate later.” This historic agreement is not the end of Iran’s nuclear program. It is the beginning steps of a dialogue with a nation that the international community has sanctioned into the economic equivalent of the Dark Ages. Sanctions have worked, and Iran has come to the table under new leadership.
After 34 years of mistrust between Iran and the west, President Obama has seized the opportunity provided by a change Iranian leadership ending hostile rhetoric. We have tried “peace” through the barrel of the gun and that has proven in effective and expensive. Now we have the opportunity to find peace and reconciliation through dialogue. It will not be easy to bridge the decades of mistrust, and the current agreement could still fall apart if extremists in Iran or the United States get their way. But President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have taken the opportunity to try a diplomatic solution to thwart the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons capability.