As the deadline in the nuclear negotiations with Iran has been extended yet another time, there is a rising concern about what the key elements of any potential deal would look like. And while the mere fact that the parties have stayed at the table raise hopes that progress is being made, the irresponsible rhetoric and posturing of the Iranians creates concern over whether a truly “good” deal is even possible, let alone at hand.
The negotiations deadline comes at a particularly worrisome time in the U.S.-Israel relationship, specifically with respect to the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. But history shows that the ties that bind the U.S. and Israel are too strong to be frayed by personal friction between the countries’ leaders. It is crucial for the President and the Prime Minister to move toward repairing and strengthening our strong alliance.
We must not allow the tensions of late to lead us to forget that the United States and Israel share similar values, historical foundations, and a commitment to peace and helping others. Israel has been and will remain our most important strategic partner in a very dangerous region. Israel is on our side in the fight against extremism and global terrorism.
That fight includes preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear a weapons capability. Peacefully stopping Iran requires a combination of sanctions, a credible military threat and ultimately hard negotiations through which Iran credibly and verifiably abandons its nuclear programs.
We don’t yet know what the negotiations will bring. But the pressure must be on Iran rather than the P5+1. Experts in the U.S. and around the world have been clear that any deal must include specific elements that will halt Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons, including:
- If a deal must include some uranium enrichment, and I don’t think it must, such enrichment must be extremely limited, fully constrained and absolutely open to unfettered international inspection.
- There should be no enrichment in fortified, hard-to-detect, hard-to-defend installations — specifically, no enrichment, or enrichment capability at the Fordow nuclear site.
- The Arak heavy water reactor should be dismantled or converted so that it cannot produce plutonium (an alternative pathway from uranium to a nuclear weapon).
- Iran must allow international inspectors complete access to any site, at any time.
- Iran must disclose all past efforts at weaponization and any other possible military dimensions of its nuclear programs.
Additionally, the term of any agreement should be measured in generations, rather than years. Any deal that would end while the current leaders of Iran are still ensconced in power will at best be a pause and not a permanent block.
Furthermore, if the current negotiations in Switzerland do ultimately lead to a deal framework, before any U.S. sanctions are removed, the final details of that deal must be presented to Congress. It was Congress that implemented the sanctions in the first place, and only Congress that can amend or repeal those laws. And if the proposed deal does not end Iran’s programs, Congress should hold its ground.
Iran’s nuclear program is not the only concern in the Middle East. The entire region is aflame and Iran’s pernicious influence is evident in conflicts including Syria, Iraq, the Gulf and now Yemen. The U.S., working with our allies in the region including Israel, must develop a coherent, cohesive and comprehensive strategy to turn the tide. We must recognize that Iran, with its current regime, has no interest in achieving either peace or stability. And we must negotiate accordingly.