I am writing to urge you to approve the agreement among the United States, Iran, Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and the EU, under which Iran agrees to restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of economic sanctions against Iran.
This agreement significantly restricts Iran’s nuclear program and will make it more difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, which it was already prohibited from doing by its membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT allows members to develop nuclear energy in almost any way as long as it is not used for military or explosive purposes. Nuclear energy, scientific research and medical activities are all allowed, along with the infrastructure to support those activities. Iran has agreed to much stricter controls on its program. Its current program will become much smaller and less threatening, with less nuclear material, less enrichment capability and less plutonium production capability. It has agreed to a more intrusive inspection regime than that usually applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency. I am sure that in addition, the US will use its own “National Technical Means” of verification like that it has used to monitor nuclear agreements with the Soviet Union and Russia, and to monitor the activities of rogue nuclear countries such as Pakistan and North Korea.
For me, however, the main argument in favor of the agreement is the lack of a better alternative. Without this agreement Iran would only be bound by the much less restrictive verification measures applied to NPT members, measures that already applied to Iran without this deal. If this agreement had not been finalized, the other partners in our sanctions regime against Iran would probably have dropped out, leaving us with a much weaker regime. The only non-diplomatic option that I see would be a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, or perhaps a more generalized attack on the nation itself, like our earlier invasions of its eastern and western neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t support such an attack, and I think that most Americans are weary of war in that region. It’s possible that the agreement could have been stronger, eliminating more of Iran’s centrifuges, for example, but this agreement is strong, and more delay might have alienated our partners as well as the Iranians, possibly jeopardizing any deal at all. The best is often the enemy of the good.
Therefore, I urge you to support the agreement.
As background, I am a retired Foreign Service officer who spent ten or more years of my career working on nuclear non-proliferation issues. I spent most of my time working on the South American nuclear rivalry between Argentina and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s. At times this competition seemed to be following the course of Pakistan and India, but I was pleased that in the 1980s while I was serving as science officer at the American Embassy in Brasilia with responsibility for nuclear issues, Brazil and Argentina agreed to end their nuclear competition. It took some time, but in the 1990s both countries joined the NPT. While working on non-proliferation issues, I often crossed paths with other people working on the issue, such as Richard Clarke, Robert Gallucci, Charles Duelfer, and Gary Samore. I have been retired for almost twenty years, but I remain interested in these issues and continue to follow them.
I was motivated to write this letter by President Obama’s request on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” that ordinary Americans do so. I agree with the President and Secretary of State Kerry that this agreement is good for the US, and for the world, including Israel and the Sunni Arab countries.