For the American people who do not want to see another US war in the Middle East or a nuclear-armed Iran, finally there is victory. The news last Tuesday that America has led a decisive international action to peacefully prevent the emergence of another nuclear armed nation after decades of teetering on the brink of war is to be welcomed. We have seen Iran’s nuclear programme grow since the 1990s yet now, after a few years of concerted efforts, diplomacy has put an end to the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.
We have the opportunity to stand behind a strong deal, to overcome the temptation of dangerous, combustible alternatives brought forth out of fear and recklessness. Now that an accord has been reached, Congress must decide whether it will choose peace and support the deal or choose conflict by voting against it. America has seen the devastating consequences of starting two wars in the Middle East and I am hopeful that Congress will learn from past mistakes. We need both the critical support of the international community and any hope of a peaceful resolution in the near future. The United States cannot afford to gamble with the country’s security and that of its allies.
Under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) signed in 2013, the US has successfully stopped Iran from expanding its uranium enrichment and heavy water reactor programmes. In compliance with the preliminary agreement, Iran eliminated what had for years been its most sensitive stockpile of enriched uranium a prime ingredient that could have been further enriched for a nuclear weapon. The JPOA has ensured the International Atomic Energy Agency has had unprecedented access to Iran’s facilities.
As US President Barack Obama pointed out, the deal signed will go even further and finally close off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. Iran will have to rip out two-thirds of its centrifuges and will not be able to make any uranium for a bomb. Tehran’s potential plutonium path to a bomb will also be shut down, by requiring that Iran reconfigure its Arak heavy water reactor and ship spent fuel out of the country.
International inspectors will enjoy unrivalled access to all nuclear sites and Iran’s programme will be monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Sanctions will not be lifted until international inspectors verify Iran’s full compliance with the deal. If Iran cheats, those sanctions would be reinstated immediately. In short, Iran will not be able to scam its way to a nuclear weapon undetected – thanks to the most intrusive inspections regime in history. It is a strong deal and Congress should stand behind it. We know that the alternatives look grim. As former National Security Council official Philip Gordon has pointed out, if this deal is rejected, Iran’s nuclear programme will be unconstrained: “Kill that deal and tomorrow Iran can resume enrichment, including to higher levels, keep its fissile material stockpile, finish building its heavy water reactor and do unlimited R&D [research and development] – all without transparency or international supervision.”
It should be noted that this agreement does not only belong to the US or Iran, but to the entire international community. If Congress moves unilaterally to reject this deal and the herculean efforts of US allies, it will be seen as extraordinarily provocative. It will embolden Iranian hardliners who exploit the widespread perception in Iran that the US is a dominating, capricious aggressor who turns away at the opportunity to engage in dialogue.
Rejecting this landmark agreement would be a flagrant rejection of the tremendous progress America’s diplomats and allies have made to rein-in Iran’s nuclear programme and the leadership the country has shown on the international stage. In the coming weeks, both chambers of US Congress are expected to vote on whether or not this agreement moves forward. I will be voting in support of this monumental diplomatic achievement and in support of peace. More than 30 renowned nuclear non-proliferation experts have concluded that the parameters of the deal are a “net plus for non-proliferation”.
Additionally, US and Israeli security experts have long called for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear programme. We have an opportunity to choose peace. It is time for Congress to be on the right side of history. Hank Johnson is the US Representative for Georgia’s fourth congressional district and a member of the House Armed Services and Judiciary Committees.
Guardian News & Media Ltd