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Dealing with Iran

December 1, 2014
Weekly Columns

Since 1984, Iran has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a sponsor of terrorism around the world. Without question, this designation has set a precedent in our relationship with Iran, causing distrust and caution in our dealings with the country. In fact, last year was the first time since 1979 that direct communication between the U.S. and Iranian heads of government even took place, when President Barack Obama reached out to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with a phone call.

When President Obama communicated with Iranian President Rouhani, he ran the risk of looking naïve and undercutting other negotiations. This came in the midst of talks between Iran and the P5+1, consisting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia) and Germany.  A couple months later in November of last year, the P5+1 announced a temporary deal that would lift some sanctions on Iran and unfreeze some Iranian assets if Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program, particularly the ability to enrich uranium at the levels needed to make an atomic bomb.  

At the time this temporary deal was unveiled, it was presented as a way to provide more time for a comprehensive agreement and supposedly incentivize Iran’s cooperation. Since that first announcement, the agreement has been extended twice to allow more time in these talks. This includes the most recent seven-month extension that was announced last week.

While the Administration obviously hopes that a deal is possible, it is better and safer for the American people and our friends around the globe to only accept an agreement that permanently eliminates Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. Iran cannot be allowed to build an atomic bomb, and the only way we can prevent that from becoming a reality is by eliminating—not simply limiting—the means to do that.

We must always remember who we trust and who has proven trustworthy. In the fight against terror, it’s always better to fight alongside our known friends rather than foolishly try to reason with our suspected and declared enemies. Iran has shown itself to be a player in promoting terrorism, not a partner in fighting against it. 

Despite Iran’s recently declared intentions and observed actions, we cannot be confident that peaceful intentions exist today. In the days ahead during talks between the P5+1 and Iran, I hope that any comprehensive deal reached is brought to and approved by Congress before it is implemented. Unless such a deal eliminates Iran’s nuclear weapons capacity, it is important to renew previous pressure on Iran through sanctions.