It’s Time to Pause Negotiations with Iran

The Obama Administration recently announced another extension of nuclear negotiations with Iran after failing to abide by its own, already-extended June 30 deadline. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry should use the opportunity to pause negotiations, take a step back and re-examine the point of the talks in the first place. Because,  as a senior Democrat Senator recently put it, “the trend lines of the Iran talks are deeply worrying” and “our red lines have turned into green lights.” This pause should allow time for the P5+1 to agree on the basic objectives of a deal: to establish complete agreement on ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections, to complete the disclosure of previous Iranian military-related nuclear research (including access to Iranian documents, facilities, scientists and officials), and to agree on the phased relief of sanctions tied to Iranian compliance.

Reaching the best deal acceptable to Iran, rather than actually furthering our goal of ending Iran's nuclear program, is a flawed premise. Establishing an internationally recognized Iranian nuclear program is not in the interest of the American people. But it now seems to be the premise upon which the Obama Administration is approaching these talks.

Consider the worrying interim agreement announced in April. 

It proposed bestowing international blessing for Iran to become a ‘nuclear threshold’ state—forever on the edge of obtaining a nuclear weapon—and a global go-ahead for Iran to pursue a 10-year nuclear research and development program. The interim agreement would also allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium, to retain thousands of nuclear centrifuges and to pursue development of even more advanced centrifuges.

That deal was bad enough, but apparently it was the high point—nearly every day since seems to bring news of a further weakening of an already-weakened Obama Administration position, encouraging hardliners in Tehran to insist upon additional concessions.

This, as Iran pursues a full-spectrum campaign to expand its sphere of influence and undermine America’s standing in the region. Beyond its nuclear program, Tehran is also working overtime to expand its ballistic missile and conventional military capabilities and to support terrorist proxies like Hezbollah, the Assad regime and Houthi insurgents in Yemen.

Iran’s aggressive behavior poses grave challenges to the world, to the region, to allies like Israel and to our own country. It also presents a host of problems for President Obama’s successor in the Oval Office.

Entering into a bad agreement with Iran now would only make those problems worse.

And yet, that seems exactly what the Obama Administration intends to do. It seems intent on muddling toward an unacceptable deal with Iran instead of pausing for a thoughtful reexamination of the P5+1’s bottom line. Their current course would only grant Iran additional legitimacy as it seeks to blame the West for anything short of instantaneous sanctions relief. It would also allow Iran to continue to press for additional concessions on verification and disclosures on the possible military dimensions of its nuclear research. Until we know more about Iran’s previous research, no nation can be sure of what Iran may have developed covertly already. But we can be sure of one thing: Iran would use funding derived from any sanctions relief to support proxy forces and advance its stockpile of missiles.

I hope the Obama Administration will make the right decision now and press pause before heading further toward a bad deal with Iran; I hope the administration will have the courage to explain why a deal that undermines international security is worse than no deal at all.

But if it doesn’t—if a flawed agreement is struck—then Congress will weigh why a nuclear agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. We will review these parameters more thoroughly, and approve or disapprove of the deal in accordance with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that passed the Senate with almost unanimous support this Spring.

The test of the agreement should be whether it leaves our country and our allies safer.

Either way, we stand ready to help the President deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

We plan to pursue the policies and the programs that will be required to rebuild our military to combat the many threats that challenge America today and America’s next President tomorrow: from the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIL in the Middle East to increasingly aggressive regimes in places like Moscow and Beijing.

Iran isn’t the only threat facing us, but it’s a grave one. The White House needs to remember that this is one of the most serious issues of our time. It needs to remember that the consequences of a bad agreement may be to simply defer a decision on military action to the next President. And it needs to know that the Congress elected by the people is prepared to do anything it can to make Americans safer: whether that means working collaboratively with the President to advance the goal or whether it means working against a bad agreement that threatens our country and our allies.

By:  Mitch McConnell
Source: Politico Magazine

Related Issues: Iran Nuclear Deal, Iran, National Security