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My Turn: Iran deal offers best path to peace

Last modified: 4/9/2015 1:16:11 AM
Last week, the United States and world powers announced the framework of an agreement to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While there is much work left to do, there is no question that tough diplomacy and American leadership have frozen and rolled back Iran’s nuclear program – a historic breakthrough, achieved without a single shot fired.

A nuclear Iran would destabilize the Middle East, but this is not something that’s only happening “over there.” Last week’s announcement should be welcome news to everyone in New Hampshire, because it means that we as Americans have learned an important lesson from the past decade of war in the Middle East. My generation of combat veterans, and the civilian leaders we served alongside, understands all too well the sacrifice that may be required if diplomacy fails. Thousands of New Hampshire’s sons and daughters answered the call to serve in Iraq. I was proud to be one of them – and lucky enough to come home. That experience taught me – and others of my generation – that we needed a new way to project America’s strength and keep our nation safe. A smarter way.

The diplomatic process to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon began a year ago after crippling sanctions and an American-led coalition forced Iran to the table. While the negotiations have taken place, Iran’s nuclear program was frozen and rolled back. We gained unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and invaluable intelligence about their activities.

And, last week, the parties announced the framework of a deal to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon for good. There is much work to do between now and June to finalize this deal, but this is a historic breakthrough that represents American strength and leadership at its best. The deal is grounded in a simple truth: We cannot and do not trust Iran. The deal would close off all of the pathways for Iran to pursue a bomb but, more importantly, it would impose one of the most aggressive monitoring programs in the history of arms control agreements. If they try to cheat, we’ll know – and we’ll have the time we need and all the tools of American power to stop them.

Opponents of this framework – the same folks who have opposed this process at every step of the way – still have no serious alternative that will ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. They will attempt to undermine the framework by arguing for more sanctions, which would lead to Iran abandoning the talks and resuming its nuclear activity. But the simple fact is that the Bush administration already tried sanctions while refusing to negotiate, and the only thing they achieved was to bring Iran closer to a bomb. In the absence of other viable alternatives, the only other option on the table is military conflict.

We know that military force should only be a last resort. And we know if there’s a smarter way for America to lead – a way that does not needlessly risk American lives – we should take it. One way or another, America will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This agreement promises to do that without risking a single American life. We must support diplomacy when it has the chance of success before we ask our men and women in uniform to go into battle yet again.

(Michael Breen, a former Army captain, is the executive director of the Truman National Security Project.)


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