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Congressman John Larson

Representing the 1st District of Connecticut

The Best Path Forward

September 8, 2015
Op-Ed and Letters
Originially published on Medium, on 09-08-15.

 

Christopher Backemeyer, lead sanctions expert for the U.S. Department of State in the negotiations with Iran, recently joined me for a town hall forum at the University of Hartford. For well over two hours, he answered in great detail every question constituents asked, unraveling the complexities of the nuclear agreement with Iran. Many left reassured, some still skeptical, but all better informed.

I support this agreement as the best path forward to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

 

My position is clear, and I was pleased to have Mr. Backemeyer publicly underscore my rationale. I respect those who may arrive at a different conclusion, for ultimately this is a vote of conscience.

History will bear out, our nation made one of its worst foreign policy decisions with the unilateral invasion of Iraq. We found ourselves isolated and alone, embroiled in a long, costly war that led to greater upheaval across an already unstable Middle East. Clearly the U.S. can no longer sustain a foreign policy that exceeds our military grasp.

Mr. Backemeyer pointed out that sanctions from the United Nations’ Security Council are the hardest to secure. It took years to impose them on Iran, and they proved instrumental in bringing them to the table. These sanctions led to Iran’s willingness to curtail its nuclear program. If the U.S. now rejects this deal, it would signal to the world we are unwilling to be part of an international, diplomatic solution. Iran would have little incentive to curb its nuclear program, nor would our allies be inclined to continue sanctions.

The President has stated unequivocally that he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. I agree.

 

No one should doubt the will of this President to act hold Iran accountable. His hand is only strengthened with a deal?—?and weakened without one.

Some have questioned if Iran can be trusted. This deal is not about trust?—?it is about verification. In examining the soundness of this agreement, I looked at the economic, scientific, and military perspectives. I met directly with the Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of State, and the President. Under this agreement, Iran will submit to the most intrusive, stringent inspections ever imposed on any nation. If they cheat, we will know. The United States will have both the moral authority and the support of the world to take decisive action.

Others worry that as the sanctions are lifted, Iran will use the influx of money to fund terrorist activities. I share this concern, but as Mr. Backemeyer and Secretary Jack Lew have indicated, there are strong reasons to believe extraordinary pressures on the Rouhani Administration will lead to investments in long-neglected domestic programs. That includes nearly half a trillion dollars in unfunded infrastructure, energy, and agricultural initiatives. The Iranian people elected President Rouhani to address economic concerns resulting from the sanctions, which is why Iran came to the table to negotiate on the nuclear program in the first place.

Still others have argued that we should simply eliminate Iran’s nuclear program through a swift air campaign. Our military has said that while this may roll back the clock on their nuclear program, we would only eliminate their infrastructure?—?not their knowledge. Our intelligence reports indicate it would only be a few years before they would be back on their feet.Forcefully dismantling their infrastructure would require more than air strikes; it would mean boots on the ground. Though Iran’s actions may eventually dictate the use of force, this agreement assures a decisive and firm response from the entire world?—?a measure the United States military can deliver, strengthened by the resolve of our global allies.

This agreement is not without risk, but it still represents the best path forward.

 

I know not everyone shares this opinion. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made his objections clear. He has also said that whatever path America chooses, no daylight will ever come between our two nations. President Obama concurs: Israel is part of our family, and familial disagreements are bound to occur. But they will never divide us.

The vote on the Iran deal is one of conscience, and my conscience is clear: diplomacy represents the best path forward.

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