Truman Staff on the Iran Framework

The Truman community has been active in their support of an agreement that will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Our staff and members have been working to shape our nation’s political debate, defending the diplomatic process from its opponents and stressing that tough diplomacy is critical to American security.  This week, Truman Project Executive Director Michael Breen, Truman Project Chief Strategy Officer Brandon Fureigh, and Center for National Policy President Scott Bates have had their writing on this subject published by newspapers in their respective home states.

 

Michael Breen, Truman Project Executive Director

This article appeared in the Concord Monitor on April 8, 2015

My Turn: Iran Deal Offers Best Path to Peace

Last week, the United States and world powers announced the framework of an agreement to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While there is much work left to do, there is no question that tough diplomacy and American leadership have frozen and rolled back Iran’s nuclear program – a historic breakthrough, achieved without a single shot fired.

A nuclear Iran would destabilize the Middle East, but this is not something that’s only happening “over there.” Last week’s announcement should be welcome news to everyone in New Hampshire, because it means that we as Americans have learned an important lesson from the past decade of war in the Middle East. My generation of combat veterans, and the civilian leaders we served alongside, understands all too well the sacrifice that may be required if diplomacy fails. Thousands of New Hampshire’s sons and daughters answered the call to serve in Iraq. I was proud to be one of them – and lucky enough to come home. That experience taught me – and others of my generation – that we needed a new way to project America’s strength and keep our nation safe. A smarter way.

The diplomatic process to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon began a year ago after crippling sanctions and an American-led coalition forced Iran to the table. While the negotiations have taken place, Iran’s nuclear program was frozen and rolled back. We gained unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and invaluable intelligence about their activities.

And, last week, the parties announced the framework of a deal to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon for good. There is much work to do between now and June to finalize this deal, but this is a historic breakthrough that represents American strength and leadership at its best. The deal is grounded in a simple truth: We cannot and do not trust Iran. The deal would close off all of the pathways for Iran to pursue a bomb but, more importantly, it would impose one of the most aggressive monitoring programs in the history of arms control agreements. If they try to cheat, we’ll know – and we’ll have the time we need and all the tools of American power to stop them.

Opponents of this framework – the same folks who have opposed this process at every step of the way – still have no serious alternative that will ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. They will attempt to undermine the framework by arguing for more sanctions, which would lead to Iran abandoning the talks and resuming its nuclear activity. But the simple fact is that the Bush administration already tried sanctions while refusing to negotiate, and the only thing they achieved was to bring Iran closer to a bomb. In the absence of other viable alternatives, the only other option on the table is military conflict.

We know that military force should only be a last resort. And we know if there’s a smarter way for America to lead – a way that does not needlessly risk American lives – we should take it. One way or another, America will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This agreement promises to do that without risking a single American life. We must support diplomacy when it has the chance of success before we ask our men and women in uniform to go into battle yet again.

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Brandon Fureigh, Truman Project Chief Strategic Officer

This article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 11, 2015

In a Tough Spot: Cotton Between Iran, Hard Place

Sen. Tom Cotton had a tough circle to square on national television this week. The leading powers of the world--the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United States--had just scored a diplomatic victory against Iran.

And while that is good news for U.S. national security, it put our senator in a tough spot.

For the past year and a half, this broad coalition of countries--inspired by U.S. Congress-led sanctions and rallied by the Obama administration's diplomats--has been hard at work negotiating an agreement that would keep a nuclear weapon from the hands of Iran. Their initial work produced success, freezing and even rolling back parts of the Iranian nuclear program for the first time in history.

And last week they saw the greatest fruits of their labor yet: A historic framework agreement that would cut off Iran's paths to the bomb.

Senator Cotton was less than enthused about this remarkable achievement. During an interview on CNN, he hinted coyly at more aggressive ways of stopping Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon, telling the anchor "there's lots of kinds of military action."

When pressed further and asked if military action was preferable to the announced framework, the senator refused to answer.

Members of Congress like Senator Cotton who refuse to acknowledge the benefits of tough diplomacy suffer from a kind of tunnel vision that prevents them from offering any constructive criticism that goes beyond stubborn naysaying. They claim that the alternative to this deal is a better one, but they fail to provide any path to that outcome.

I like unicorns as much as the next guy, but sadly, they don't exist. To these critics, even engaging the Iranians is a grave misstep--despite the fact that inspectors on the ground are the ones ensuring Iran's compliance with any agreement.

When these folks oppose the very idea of diplomacy as a way to resolve problems, it's hard to take the rest of their commentary seriously--mainly because they can't offer any alternatives beyond military conflict. What would a "limited" military solution even look like? Are we to believe that the Iranian air force would sit idly by as their country was attacked? Or that Iranians would not retaliate with terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East or threaten to close major oil shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf?

Why risk all this--and the lives of our men and women in uniform--when we are running the table at these negotiations, providing us a more effective diplomatic way forward that has been proven successful so far?

All this is not to say that diplomacy is an easy route. Like football, diplomacy is a game of inches; our negotiators have months of hard work ahead as they hammer down Iranian commitments.

But scientists, diplomats, world leaders, journalists, and pundits have all acknowledged that this framework was a tremendous step forward for international security.

It's time to let rest the dogs of war and allow tough diplomacy to see us through to the finish line. Senator Cotton needs to either suggest realistic alternatives to the successes of our negotiators or get much more honest about the risks and costs of the military option he seems so eager to pursue.

The American people and our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less than an honest dialogue on such an essential security challenge.

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Scott Bates, Center for National Policy President

This article appeared in the New London Day on April 12, 2015

Stonington-Based Foreign Policy Expert Backs Iran Deal

The recent historic framework announcement provides a path forward to keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran. American negotiators have fought long and hard to achieve this milestone, along the way freezing and even rolling back parts of the Iranian nuclear program.

Reaching such a framework was a key step towards securing our interests in the broader Middle East. These negotiations have focused on Iran’s nuclear program and eschewed other areas of contention, such as its regional adventurism and missile programs for a purpose: resolving the nuclear question is a longstanding foreign policy goal of the United States. Removing one key security challenge will allow for a shift of focus to other key concerns in the region.

By effectively blocking uranium and plutonium paths to an Iranian bomb, our diplomats are also working to protect our friends in the region. Saudi Arabia took notice and expressed support for a “Middle East and Arabian Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons”— a major endorsement from a cautious regime. But make no mistake: our commitment against an Iranian nuclear weapon has no timetable. Should Iran choose to cheat a day or a decade after the final deal is agreed upon, we will stand ready to act with our allies. This is why all current progress in the talks, and any future deal, is predicated entirely on verification of Iranian compliance for every step of the way.

Perhaps most critically, though, it is essential to note that the use of tough diplomacy has taken us this far without the life of one American service member. Those advocating against the framework and urging Congress to irresponsibly “kill the deal” provide no real alternatives beyond the threat of another destructive and deeply unnecessary war in the Middle East. We owe it to our military men and women to see diplomacy through to the end before relying on the use of force to achieve our goals.

There is still work to be done moving forward. Our diplomats will remain hard at work in this last round of negotiations, hammering out the technical details of how the framework will actually be implemented. Congress has a role to play as well, offering commentary as they learn more about the approaching deal in their private briefings of the coming weeks. One can only hope that more of our elected representatives follow the model of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has consistently recognized the efficacy of these negotiations.

President Obama called the framework a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” and it is hard to disagree — not every day do we get to see the international community take such an important step towards resolving a decades-old foreign policy challenge. I for one look forward to the final push for a historic and comprehensive agreement.