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Back from the Brink?
May 23, 2012
In the past few days, we have seen promising signs that the P5 + 1 and Iran are close to an agreement on Iran’s dual-use nuclear program. While an agreement would be the first of many confidence-building measures, this achievement is an indication that international diplomatic and financial pressure may have worked to bring Iran back to the negotiating table. If Iran shows its willingness to operate under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, the international community must ease economic sanctions and begin a process of normalizing relations with the country.
While these reports are a promising development, Iran has historically shown a willingness to walk back progress made on the negotiating table over their nuclear program. As we move forward, our imperative must be to provide Iran a reason to overcome their justified mistrust of the international community.
The recent debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an example of the type of counter-productive debate and action that we must avoid. Rep. Conaway (R-TX) successfully added an amendment to the NDAA that will:
- Add munitions and weapons to the forward-deployed U.S. stockpile in Israel
- Expand joint Israeli / U.S. joint military exercises and an expanded Israeli role in NATO
- Enhance the military capabilities of Persian Gulf allies to bolster the posture of such allies in relation to Iran.
If ratified, the NDAA could start an arms race in the Middle East. This language must be stripped from the final bill or the Administration should follow through on their threat to veto. Moves from the United States towards an aggressive posture on Iran will empower hardliners in Iran to override any recent progress. The only reasonable course of action is to provide a roadmap for Iran that pairs confidence-building actions with stepped decreases in international economic sanctions.
The larger context of the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program also must become part of the process. After the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, state parties agreed to five practical steps to make progress towards implementing the 1995 NPT Review Conference Middle East Resolution. The United States will have to play a key role in bringing Israel to the table and initiate the first steps towards a more stable Middle East.
In addition, the United States and Russia must take meaningful steps towards substantial bilateral reductions in their strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals. The continued possession of nuclear weapons is the strongest guarantee of proliferation and both countries' arsenals are far beyond even the levels needed for a minimum level of deterrence.
PSR Statement on Iran