WASHINGTON, D.C. - As chaos and turmoil grip Iraq, the United States is again reminded of the great dangers in the world and how quickly foreign affairs can change.
The ongoing nuclear negotiations in Iran — quietly overshadowed on the global stage in recent months — will soon again make headlines as we approach the July 20 deadline for an agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. This deadline is fast approaching, and it appears the gaps between the sides remain vast. Iran’s intransigence stands as the key stumbling block to attaining a comprehensive resolution that will ensure Iran is blocked from any pathway to a nuclear weapons capability.
A nuclear Iran would forever change the balance of power in the world away from those who work toward peace through deterrence. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty would be mortally wounded as rival powers scramble to acquire their own nuclear weapons, ensuring proliferation of the world’s deadliest weapons in the world’s most volatile region.
A robust nuclear program is the centerpiece in Iran’s strategy to dominate the Middle East and reduce the influence of the United States. And of most pressing concern, a nuclear Iran would pose a direct existential threat to our nation and to our key Middle Eastern ally, Israel. Simply put: The United States and Israel cannot abide a nuclear-capable Iran.
The U.S. made a good-faith effort to resolve the issue diplomatically. By contrast, Iran has responded to the West’s overtures by ramping up oppression at home and escalating its support for terror abroad. Iran’s leadership has repeatedly declared its unwillingness to compromise on core issues, including centrifuges, addressing possible military dimensions of the nuclear program and Iran’s ballistic missile program.
As such, any final agreement with Iran must lead to the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure so that it is left without a uranium or plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon. Iran must agree to a robust inspection regime that allows for full-time monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities and no-notice spot inspections. Any comprehensive final agreement must also address the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, as well as past efforts in the realm of weaponization and Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Despite Iran’s defiant rhetoric, the West has the leverage to make such a deal attainable. Iran’s economy is in shambles, badly hampered by years of strict sanctions, and rumors of a restless citizenry work in our favor. Enforcement of the current sanctions on the books will keep the economic screws tight on Tehran, and ensuring the global sanctions regime maintains its integrity will also keep up the pressure.
We cannot allow Tehran to extend the talks past the July 20 deadline and receive further sanctions relief merely for keeping the talks going. The administration cannot allow Iran to use the negotiations as a ploy to secure an economic lifeline while advancing its nuclear program.
We need tangible Iranian concessions. Tehran must take steps to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and commit to a robust inspections and verification regime. These tenets are the bare minimum before sanctions can be eased.
Disregard Iran’s public bravado. Its leaders will only make concessions if the alternative is economic ruin, but, of course, even then there are no guarantees. The path to ending Iran’s economic isolation is crystal clear, but first Tehran must overcome its own intransigence.
The United States and Israel have a great deal at stake in the coming weeks.
Lance has represented New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District since 2009. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and he is co-chairman of the Republican Israel Caucus.