Last week, the United States and the other member nations of the P5+1 reached an agreement whereby Iran will suspend much of its nuclear program, including diluting its stockpile of enriched uranium, in return for limited and reversible sanctions relief. The strongest components of the sanctions infrastructure – banking, financial, and petroleum measures costing Iran $30 billion in lost revenue – remain in place pending further negotiations.
When weighed against decades of acrimony and isolationism, this compromise is remarkable.
The agreement is a long way from a final deal. But it is the first time in a decade that Iran has agreed to suspend its program. More importantly, the success of the negotiations represents a vindication of the Obama Administration’s approach that engagement with Iran can produce results that make the world safer.
The constant clamor in Congress for ever-tougher sanctions against Iran has at times obscured the fact that economic sanctions are but one tool among many elements of statecraft necessary to enhance our security and advance our interests. I believe that U.S. influence in the world increases when our government invests not only in our military but also in diplomacy and smart power – the ability to attract allies though the legitimacy of our policies and the values supporting them.
Indeed, the multilateral sanctions that are in place against Iran are there because the Obama Administration convinced the global community – including both allies like Britain and France, and rivals like China and Russia – that we were serious about achieving peace at the negotiating table. The President ran on that premise, and he has followed through with this milestone agreement.
The deal does not mean we forgive Iran’s atrocious human rights record. Just before Secretary Kerry announced the agreement, I spoke on the House floor about Iran’s continued repression of the Baha’i community and other minorities. But as we do so, our efforts at the negotiating table show that we can advance our interests through good faith, hard-nosed, and pragmatic dialogue.
The coming months will bring many challenges as the United States and our allies seek to compel Iran to meet the terms of the agreement. Today however, Iran is further away from developing a nuclear weapon than it was two weeks ago. This is only a first step towards halting the Iranian weapons program, but it is an historic moment that lays the groundwork for a comprehensive and durable resolution.