The nuclear agreement with Iran presents us with opportunity as well as risk. It clearly states in its “Preamble and General Provisions”: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” If it were only that simple. The agreement also affirms Iran’s right to develop a “peaceful nuclear programme” for energy purposes just like any other nation. Therein lies the problem: Iran is not any other nation. It is a supporter of terrorism. Its leaders have steadfastly denied the Holocaust and denounced Israel’s right to exist. “Death to America” remains a popular theme in Tehran. We can’t trust Iran’s leaders, so we have sought to contain them.
The multilayered sanctions imposed by the US and its allies have weighed heavily on Iran. Iran’s oil, coal, auto, aircraft, financial, and textile industries are reeling from US-led sanctions. Due to the embargo of aircraft components, visitors regularly express dread at the prospect of flying within Iran because of the woeful condition of their domestic airlines. Iran’s policies have brought isolation and few allies. Indeed many experts view the election of President Hassan Rouhani, the more moderate candidate, as an expression of the Iranian people’s desire to move in a new direction.
All this has created the opportunity for President Obama and Secretary John Kerry to try to forge an agreement that could make the world a safer place. Safer for the US, safer for the EU, and yes, safer for Israel.
The agreement authorizes inspectors to conduct a forensic study of the Iranian nuclear threat and also reprograms Iran’s existing nuclear facilities for domestic energy purposes.
While the opportunity is here, the trust necessary to move forward is not. Fortunately, the agreement does not require us to place our trust in Iran. Under its terms and the “road map” for the clarification of nuclear issues in Iran, this entire agreement hinges on the adoption and implementation of a rigorous International Atomic Energy Agency inspection, monitoring, and guidance procedure. Indeed, the agreement relies more on the IAEA inspectors than on any other party. Because in the absence of trust, we will need the IAEA’s assurance that Iran will remain in compliance.
Lastly, we should not fall into the trap of thinking that every Iranian citizen agrees with their former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We must seek their better angels. As novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.”
While we should move forward with care and every precaution for ourselves and for our allies, let us nonetheless move forward.
Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts’ 8th District.