Sheffey: Let's Read the Iran Deal Before We Oppose It

We are close to a deal with Iran. Anyone who has been to an American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference knows that Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is one of Israel's best friends on either side of the aisle. We should judge any deal with Iran based on the criteria Hoyer outlined on July 2

Note that Hoyer's criteria are not AIPAC's. Rather, Hoyer endorses the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's  bipartisan recommendations , which essentially mirror the administration's position on what constitutes a good deal.

The administration will not agree to any deal that provides sanctions relief in advance of Iran meeting its obligations. Iran will earn sanctions relief as it meets its obligations and sanctions will snap back if Iran subsequently violates its commitments.

The deal will require intrusive inspections. It will not require anywhere anytime inspections with no notice. No sovereign country would agree to that. The deal will require inspections necessary to detect and prevent cheating, with access wherever we need to inspect, regardless of the type of facility. 

The Arms Control Association notes that most critics of the deal 

  • mischaracterize the original aims of the P5+1;
  • recommend that the P5+1 negotiators hold out for terms that are not attainable nor necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran (such as dismantling all of Iran's nuclear infrastructure);
  • fail to acknowledge the very substantial nonproliferation benefits that would derive from the agreement as outlined on April 2; or
  • all of the above... 

 The ACA explains that

"walking away" from an agreement that is consistent with the April 2 framework--which would block all of Iran's potential pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place extraordinary, new monitoring and verification measures to provide very early warning of noncompliance--would be an "own goal" error with long-term, dangerous security ramifications.

"Walking away" from an effective deal would only serve to undermine our negotiating partners, unravel the international sanctions on Iran, open the door to a vast expansion of Iran's nuclear capacity, and increase the risk of an Iranian bomb and a military conflict.

Statements from Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, do contradict the administration's position. If this is just rhetoric from Khamenei aimed at his domestic audiences, it doesn't matter. If he is trying to gain leverage and push the administration off its positions, it doesn't matter--the administration has made clear that it will not move off these positions.

But if Khamenei is really backing away from what Iran has agreed to, then there will be no agreement. In that case, our allies will view Iran, not the United States, as the intransigent party, making it much easier for us to work with our allies to isolate Iran.

As Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) said, "It's not what the Supreme Leader says, it's what's in the agreement."

But isn't Iran evil? Of course Iran is evil. That's the point. We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union even though the Soviets engaged in terrorism and sought world domination precisely because a world with less Soviet nuclear capacity was a safer world. The goal of a deal with Iran is not to turn the Iranians into angels, but to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran will get more money from sanctions relief if it complies with the agreement, and that money could be used to promote terrorism. But if we don't get a deal and the U.S. is seen as the unreasonable party, the international sanctions regime will unravel and Iran will get even more money more quickly, in return for nothing. Also, the internal political advantage to Iran from a deal is economic relief for its people--if Iran siphons off too much money for terrorism, that rationale is lost. Finally, any deal will not preclude us from applying financial or other pressure against Iran to stop its support of terrorism. 

The real question is whether you'd prefer a terrorist state with or without nuclear weapons. I prefer the latter and that's why I support a deal consistent with the administration's previously announced framework.

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