A year ago Iran’s nuclear program was expanding, talks with the Ahmadinejad regime had collapsed, and newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani’s commitment to a nuclear deal remained untested.
Over the past 12 months, Iran, the United States, and five world powers reached an interim agreement that has rolled back aspects of Iran’s nuclear program and halted its expansion in return for modest sanctions relief. Iran is now much further from a nuclear weapon than it was a year ago. Iran also is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to answer questions about its past work related to nuclear weapons development.
In short, Iran is following through on its interim commitments, negotiating a comprehensive deal in good faith, and being more transparent about its past activities. All of these actions support Kerry’s assertion that Iran wants a comprehensive deal.
Negotiators may not be able to close all of the gaps before July 20. But a good deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program and puts in place intrusive monitoring and verification measures in return for relief from nuclear related-sanctions is in everyone’s best interest.
President Barack Obama said on July 16 that there is a “credible way forward” in the negotiations. So policymakers in Washington should do their part to support a deal — and the ongoing negotiations — that protects the national security interests of the United States. In the long-term, that means preparing to support a good deal by lifting sanctions in accordance with Iran’s compliance. In the short term, that means refraining from imposing additional sanctions and constraints on the deal, like the Graham-Menendez letter, and allowing US diplomats to negotiate an agreement that protects US security.
Kelsey Davenport is the non-proliferation analyst for the Arms Control Association, where she focuses on the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea and nuclear security issues.