NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, August 31st, 2015

JCPOA with Iran will increase global security: An open letter to uncommitted Democrats

Editor’s Note: The fol­low­ing mes­sage regard­ing the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action to pre­vent Iran from obtain­ing a nuclear weapon is being sent today to North­west Democ­rats Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden, Suzan Del­Bene, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Adam Smith, Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, and Kurt Schrad­er, who have not yet com­mit­ted to tak­ing a posi­tion on the agree­ment with Iran nego­ti­at­ed by Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s admin­is­tra­tion. We are pub­lish­ing our mes­sage to them here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate as an open letter.

Dear Sen­a­tors and Representatives:

Sev­en years ago, at the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Den­ver, Col­orado, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton gave a speech in sup­port of our cur­rent Pres­i­dent, Barack Oba­ma, dur­ing which he astute­ly not­ed, “Peo­ple the world over have always been more impressed by the pow­er of our exam­ple than by the exam­ple of our power.”

Those words res­onat­ed then, and they con­tin­ue to res­onate today.

In coop­er­a­tion with the oth­er four per­ma­nent mem­bers of the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil as well as Ger­many and the Euro­pean Union, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s admin­is­tra­tion has nego­ti­at­ed a his­toric agree­ment with Iran that will increase glob­al secu­ri­ty by pre­vent­ing Iran from obtain­ing a nuclear weapon.

Our recent P5+1 talks with the admin­is­tra­tion of Has­san Rouhani, which pro­duced an accord that the world com­mu­ni­ty enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­ports, demon­strates our abil­i­ty to lead by exam­ple through diplomacy.

As Repub­li­cans in Con­gress move for­ward with plans to sched­ule a vote on a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval against this his­toric Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action with Iran, we ask that you join your col­leagues Pat­ty Mur­ray, Jeff Merkley, Jim McDer­mott, Den­ny Heck, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Peter DeFazio in endors­ing it with­out delay. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma at least needs the sup­port of his own par­ty in Con­gress to show the world that he is not the only Amer­i­can elect­ed leader com­mit­ted to hon­or­ing the agree­ment we negotiated.

Con­trary to what many Repub­li­cans in Con­gress have sug­gest­ed, going back to the nego­ti­at­ing table is not an option. They should heed the words of fel­low Repub­li­can Brent Scow­croft, who served Pres­i­dents Ford and George H.W. Bush as Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er. In a recent op-ed for The Wash­ing­ton Post, Scow­croft wrote:

There is no cred­i­ble alter­na­tive were Con­gress to pre­vent U.S. par­tic­i­pa­tion in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone. The world’s lead­ing pow­ers worked togeth­er effec­tive­ly because of U.S. lead­er­ship. To turn our back on this accom­plish­ment would be an abdi­ca­tion of the Unit­ed States’ unique role and respon­si­bil­i­ty, incur­ring jus­ti­fied dis­may among our allies and friends. We would lose all lever­age over Iran’s nuclear activ­i­ties. The inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions regime would dis­solve. And no mem­ber of Con­gress should be under the illu­sion that anoth­er U.S. inva­sion of the Mid­dle East would be helpful.

Twen­ty-nine lead­ing Amer­i­can nuclear sci­en­tists also believe this agree­ment is a sig­nif­i­cant accom­plish­ment. In an August 8th let­ter to Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, they offered their enthu­si­as­tic endorse­ment and con­grat­u­la­tions, writ­ing:

As you have stat­ed, this deal does not take any options off the table for you or any future pres­i­dent. Indeed it will make it much eas­i­er for you or a future pres­i­dent to know if and when Iran heads for a bomb, and the detec­tion of a sig­nif­i­cant vio­la­tion of this agree­ment will pro­vide strong, inter­na­tion­al­ly sup­port­ed jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for intervention.

Over sev­en­ty nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion experts have care­ful­ly inspect­ed the text of the JCPOA and deter­mined that it is “strong, long-term, and ver­i­fi­able agree­ment”:

The JCPOA is effec­tive­ly ver­i­fi­able. The agree­ment will put in place a mul­ti-lay­ered mon­i­tor­ing regime across Iran’s entire nuclear sup­ply chain, includ­ing cen­trifuge man­u­fac­tur­ing sites (for 20 years), ura­ni­um min­ing and milling (for 25 years), and con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing of a larg­er num­ber of nuclear and nuclear-relat­ed sites.

Dozens of respect­ed retired mil­i­tary lead­ers — includ­ing Gen­er­als James Car­tright (U.S. Marine Corps), Mer­rill McPeak (U.S. Air Force), and Lloyd New­ton (U.S. Army) — agree. In a recent­ly released open let­ter, they state:

There is no bet­ter option to pre­vent an Iran­ian nuclear weapon. Mil­i­tary action would be less effec­tive than the deal, assum­ing it is ful­ly imple­ment­ed. If the Ira­ni­ans cheat, our advanced tech­nol­o­gy, intel­li­gence and the inspec­tions will reveal it, and U.S. mil­i­tary options remain on the table. And if the deal is reject­ed by Amer­i­ca, the Ira­ni­ans could have a nuclear weapon with­in a year. The choice is that stark.

Sev­en­ty-five for­mer mem­bers of Con­gress, includ­ing Repub­li­cans Richard Lugar, Paul Find­ley, Philip Ruppe, Daniel Ham­burg, and Wayne Gilchrest, have like­wise eval­u­at­ed the JCPOA and have con­clud­ed it is worth supporting.

In a let­ter dat­ed today, they write:

We agree that no deal is bet­ter than a bad deal. But we also agree that a good deal is bet­ter than no deal. Con­gress has played an impor­tant role in mak­ing this agree­ment pos­si­ble through bipar­ti­san sup­port of sanc­tion­ing and iso­lat­ing the gov­ern­ment of Iran. We urge you and your col­leagues to take the next steps by sup­port­ing this agree­ment and then exer­cis­ing your over­sight role through the robust mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion of its implementation.

Three hun­dred and forty U.S. rab­bis (includ­ing ten from Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon)  recent­ly added their voic­es in sup­port as well, not­ing that research shows a major­i­ty of Amer­i­can Jews are in favor of the JCPOA. They write:

Now that a nuclear agree­ment has been reached, we call on the Unit­ed States and its inter­na­tion­al part­ners to strength­en their resolve and ded­i­cate addi­tion­al resources to con­front Iran­ian threats to Israel and oth­er states. Most espe­cial­ly, we are deeply con­cerned with the impres­sion that the lead­er­ship of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty is unit­ed in oppo­si­tion to the agree­ment. We, along with many oth­er Jew­ish lead­ers, ful­ly sup­port this his­toric nuclear accord.

You have doubt­less already received many let­ters, phone calls, emails, and fax­es gen­er­at­ed by the well-orga­nized lob­bies fight­ing for the rejec­tion of this agree­ment. Sad­ly, oppo­nents of Amer­i­ca’s suc­cess­ful diplo­ma­cy are spend­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in an effort to sway pub­lic opin­ion and mem­bers of Con­gress to their side. If they win, Amer­i­ca’s com­mit­ment to the piv­otal agree­ment that our diplo­mats pro­vid­ed a lead­ing role in bring­ing about will be in jeopardy.

Amer­i­ca has a noble tra­di­tion of doing the pub­lic’s busi­ness in pub­lic; the free­doms guar­an­teed to us in the Bill of Rights, includ­ing the free­dom of the press, have long per­mit­ted our pol­i­tics to be more eas­i­ly fol­lowed and stud­ied from afar.

The oth­er par­ties to this agree­ment, the Unit­ed Nations, and observers through­out the world com­mu­ni­ty are watch­ing the debate we are hav­ing now about the JCPOA. They under­stand that the cur­rent crop of Repub­li­cans in Con­gress are reflex­ive­ly (or almost reflex­ive­ly) opposed to what­ev­er Pres­i­dent Oba­ma does or proposes.

What they want to know is whether Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of the Unit­ed States Con­gress will step up and sus­tain this piv­otal agreement.

We believe that there is only one respon­si­ble posi­tion to take on the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action, and that is to ful­ly sup­port its implementation.

Last week, as men­tioned, your col­league Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray took such a posi­tion. She said, “I will be vot­ing to sup­port the agree­ment to pre­vent Iran from devel­op­ing a nuclear weapon. I will vote against the res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval, and, if need­ed, I will vote against over­rid­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s veto.”

We ask you to make this same com­mit­ment with­out delay.

We do not have the lux­u­ry of start­ing over. The JCPOA is an agree­ment pro­duced by months and years of mul­ti­lat­er­al nego­ti­a­tions. As Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has said, it is an agree­ment that is based on ver­i­fi­ca­tion mea­sures, not trust or hope. For it to work as intend­ed, Democ­rats in Con­gress must endorse it.

Time — and our intel­li­gence — will tell if Iran lives up to its com­mit­ments under the JCPOA. But we must at least live up to ours. And we also must rec­og­nize that imple­ment­ing the JCPOA puts us in a bet­ter posi­tion to respond if Iran does not ulti­mate­ly fol­low through on its obligations.

As Sen­a­tor Mur­ray said in her state­ment of sup­port, “I believe it puts us in a bet­ter and stronger posi­tion to pre­vent Iran from devel­op­ing nuclear weapons now and in the future — even if they con­tin­ue down their cur­rent extreme path, and even if they get worse. This deal gives us more tools to respond – not less, and it keeps the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty behind us in that effort.”

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, Sec­re­tary Ker­ry, and our hard­work­ing diplo­mats have done their part to advance the cause of nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion by nego­ti­at­ing the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action with Iran and oth­er world pow­ers. Amer­i­ca’s com­mit­ment to this incred­i­bly impor­tant accord is now in your hands. We urge you to pub­lish a state­ment emphat­i­cal­ly declar­ing your sup­port for the JCPOA and pledg­ing to vote accord­ing­ly before this com­ing Labor Day weekend.

Thank you for your ser­vice to our country.


The North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute

Andrew Vil­leneuve
Founder and exec­u­tive director
Robert Cruick­shank
Gael Tar­leton
Vice President-Secretary
Essie Hicks

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