Why we disagree with Chuck Schumer on the Iran deal
Former U.S. senators Lugar and Bennett argue that U.S. rejection of the nuclear deal with Iran would exhaust the patience of our allies to negotiate further, giving Iran exactly what it wanted: relief from international sanctions without any restrictions on its nuclear program.
Tehran would be the winner of this U.S. rejection because it would achieve its major objective: the lifting of most sanctions without being required to accept constraints on its nuclear program. Iran could also claim to be a victim of American perfidy and try to convince other nations to break with U.S. leadership and with the entire international sanctions regime.
Meanwhile, Israel would be the loser, as Iran would resume its nuclear program without inspections and would garner support from other nations around the world. Ninety countries, including Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, have already supported the deal. Though Israel opposes it, many key Israelis do not, including retired senior generals and a former Mossad leader.
The history of Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear program without constraints is instructive. From 2005 to 2013, Iran rocketed from about 200 installed centrifuges to 20,000, while Washington sought to stop them through sanctions. Unrestrained by the joint nuclear agreement, Iran could quickly resume its aggressive nuclear program: move from 20,000 to 200,000 installed centrifuges, resume enriching uranium to 20 percent in its deeply buried facility, finish its plutonium reactor and develop reprocessing.
Vindicated in his distrust of the United States, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would no longer have any incentive to negotiate. The much flaunted and powerful Iranian “hard-liners” would likely return to dominate national politics and push President Hassan Rouhani’s more centrist team aside permanently. A return to the “hard-trodden path of diplomacy,” as Schumer proposes, would have to be conducted without Iran and its six negotiating parties.
Rejection of the agreement would severely undermine the U.S. role as a leader and reliable partner around the globe. If Washington walks away from this hard-fought multilateral agreement, its dependability would likely be doubted for decades.
Rejection would also destroy the effective coalition that brought Iran to the negotiating table. China and Russia would likely resume trade with Iran. U.S. allies, unsettled by Washington’s behavior, would move their own separate ways.
The other five negotiators would likely have little stomach for going back to Iran “for a better deal.” The ambassadors of the five countries recently assured members of Congress that their governments would not return to the negotiating table should Washington reject the agreement.
Future sanctions would then have to be largely unilateral U.S. efforts — and less effective. There would be no coalition standing by to restore sanctions or apply other pressures if Iran did not comply. It would also be difficult to develop joint forceful action against Iran should it decide to go for a nuclear weapon.
If the U.S. congress rejects the nuclear deal with Iran, it will have multiple negative reprecussions for U.S. interests and security. The most likely impact of U.S. rejection of the deal will be a gradual collapse of the sanctions regime as our partners have no interest in reopening negotiations with Iran and are already starting to renew trade relations. Additionally, rejection of the deal will damage U.S. credibility as a global leader and its diplomatic capital for many years as the U.S. was critical in forming the consensus for the deal in the first place.