|Ed Rendon, Op-ED Contributor|
(Note: I welcome ALL opinions from all points of view and from all over the world. This OP-ED is from Ed Rendon of Los Angeles, and his opinions are his own).
Negotiations are important. And they can be tricky, especially when dealing with a negotiating partner that you know you can’t trust.
I’ve been watching closely over the past 18 months as President Obama and his administration have worked to negotiate an agreement with Iran over its illicit nuclear weapons program. I am deeply appreciative of the president’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution. We need to try to find a peaceful solution, but we also need to make sure we have an agreement that meets our objectives. One thing I’ve learned is that a bad agreement today makes conflict more likely tomorrow.
Ultimately, the goal of these negotiations is to come to an agreement that truly prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. If a deal is reached and the president submits it to Congress, there are a number of specific, basic requirements I will be looking for to determine whether this agreement is good enough.
First, any agreement should provide us the ability to know whether or not Iran is complying, especially since Iran has a long history of hiding and lying about its nuclear program. The United States has asked for intrusive inspections that will allow international monitors unimpeded access to suspected nuclear sites, including military sites. Iran has said that military sites will be off limits, but that would just give Iran a built-in “safe zone” for conducting illegal nuclear research and development. Bottom line: we need full access, on a timely basis, to any suspected nuclear site.
Second, Iran needs to come clean on its past nuclear weapons activities. We know that at one point Iran was trying to figure out the technical angles on building a nuclear bomb. They have refused repeated international requests for information. For any future agreement to be meaningful, we need to know exactly what Iran did in the past so we will know whether or not they are cheating in the future.
Third, Iran wants international sanctions lifted at the same time the agreement is signed. That’s ridiculous. Iran wants to get paid up front just for signing. The reason Iran is negotiating in the first place is because Congress passed tough sanctions laws and the Obama Administration worked hard to build an international coalition to impose real sanctions that threatened the regime. If Iran gets relief up front, the incentives for complying with their obligations go way down. Any agreement must provide for sanctions relief over time, and only after Iran has fulfilled its obligations.
Fourth, the outline of the agreement announced in April indicated that Iran would be able to move full steam ahead after only ten years. I was deeply troubled when the President said the agreement would only prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons for 13 or 14 years. That’s not very long in the history of the world, but a nuclear Iran would definitely change world history. Any agreement should last for decades, not years, to ensure that Iran is not a threat to us or its neighbors.
Finally, Iran must dismantle the bulk of its nuclear infrastructure. If the infrastructure is left in place, it will be too easy for Iran to violate the agreement and covertly develop a nuclear weapon. Any agreement needs to require Iran to get rid of, not just but a padlock on, its nuclear infrastructure so that Iran won’t have either a uranium or plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon.
I remain hopeful that we can solve this problem diplomatically, and I know how difficult tense negotiations can be. But if we aren’t able to reach a good agreement that includes these five requirements, it’s imperative that our negotiators walk away from the table and continue to impose sanctions until Iran is ready to demonstrate it is truly serious about not having a nuclear weapons program. As President Obama has said repeatedly, “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
A good deal with Iran is one that gives America and our allies around the world the comfort of knowing that Iran cannot and will not become a nuclear state. Without these five elements – verification, transparency, gradual sanctions relief, a multi-decade timeframe and dismantlement – the agreement is not one we should support.