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.
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
Founder and executive director