Foreign Policy Expert Consensus: Iran Deal is a Good Deal

December 4, 2013

On November 23 President Obama announced to the country that world powers reached agreement on the first step of an accord with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. While details of implementation of the first step remain to be worked out, the accord will slow and roll back key elements of the nuclear program putting in place intrusive inspections, while providing modest sanctions relief for Iran. The deal has received some criticism in Congress and from war hawks like John Bolton. Most foreign policy experts, though, have expressed strong support for the deal, and many have called on Congress not to interfere with negotiations by adding on additional sanctions. The widespread support across the political spectrum will provide space for negotiators to move forward with the challenging work that lies ahead before a lasting diplomatic solution can be reached.

National security professionals say “recent agreement… is good deal”:

 Survey of national security insiders: The National Journal conducted a survey of 56 national security insiders finding, “A strong majority of National Journal’s National Security Insiders thought the recent agreement between world powers and Iran—to limit its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief—is a ‘good deal,’ … The agreement… ‘is better than expected and rolls back key aspects of the Iranian progress toward bomb-grade highly enriched uranium,’ one Insider said.” In the survey, 75.5% responded yes to the question, “Is the recent agreement between world powers and Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief a good deal?” [National Journal, 12/3/13]

 Letter from former Ambassadors to Israel and Undersecretaries of State: “We are persuaded that this agreement arrests Iran’s nuclear program for the first time in nearly a decade and opens the possibility of ultimately stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.  More than any other option, a diplomatic breakthrough on this issue will help ensure Israel’s security and remove the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the region generally and Israel specifically. We are encouraged that this first-step agreement with Iran will constrain and make much more transparent its nuclear program.  This agreement contains concessions and limitations from Iran that few of us thought would have been possible just scant weeks ago.” [Ambassadors Letter, 12/3/13]

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Bush administration official: “The interim nuclear accord between Iran and the six world powers is a significant accomplishment by any measure… The interim agreement itself places meaningful constraints on several dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for providing Iran with a degree of financial relief from existing economic sanctions. The accord, better understood as a ceiling than a freeze, also establishes a level of inspections that is far more intrusive than what has existed.”  [Richard Haas, 11/24/13]

Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations: “The Obama team has won the first round on the six-month agreement with Iran by a knockout… Yes, there were disproportionate compromises made—by the Iranians. They froze, to greater and lesser degrees, virtually all of their nuclear programs. And critically for Western intelligence, Tehran also agreed to vast new inspections of their nuclear facilities by international experts. In return, the U.S. agreed to provide around $7 billion in sanctions relief. This is first rate bargaining by the American side.” [Les Gelb, 12/4/13]

Former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft: Ahead of the agreement the two former National Security Advisors wrote to Congressional leaders stating, “Additional sanctions now against Iran with the view to extracting even more concessions in the negotiations will risk undermining or even shutting down the negotiations. More sanctions now as these unprecedented negotiations are just getting underway would  reconfirm  Iranians in their belief that the US is not prepared to make any agreement with the current government of Iran.” [Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, 11/18/13]

 Members of Congress: Important move towards diplomatic solution.

 Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “I support the interim deal with Iran. It is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran’s nuclear weapon ambition.” [Carl Levin 11/24/13]

 Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “I support the agreement reached today between the P5+1 countries and Iran…By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time.” [Dianne Feinstein, 11/23/13]

 Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL): “It is a choice between a pause or imminent war. I choose a verifiable pause.” [Bill Nelson, 11/24/13]

 Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): “The deal struck this morning between the United States, our allies, and Iran is a wise and necessary first step toward resolving the decades-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.” [Chris Murphy, 11/24/13]

 Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE): “Yes, this [deal] is a very significant step. It’s filled with risk but I think it’s always important to try diplomatic solutions as best you can.” [Jeff Fortenberry, 11/26/13]

 Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL): “I welcome the opportunity for diplomacy, it is always preferable to sending our sons and daughters into harm’s way.” [Ted Yoho, 11/25/13]

 [A full list of congressional responses is available here: FCNL, 12/3/13]

The American public: supports deal; does not want Congress to move on sanctions. Politico reports, “Americans have a favorable early impression of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran and feel strong skepticism toward the prospect of military action against the Islamic state.”  Politico adds that the pollster who conducted the survey, “said the straightforward takeaway is that voters ‘clearly want to give negotiations a chance to work if there is a possibility negotiations can prevent Iran from acquiring a weapon without a military strike.’ ‘Americans do not want to get involved in another war in the Middle East,’… Offered a choice between two congressional approaches to the Iran deal, 68 percent of voters said they would prefer to see Congress ‘closely monitor’ the implementation without taking ‘any action that would block the agreement.’… In a sign of the country’s continuing war weariness, only 27 percent of respondents said they would take a favorable view of a lawmaker who backed ‘military action against Iran to destroy its nuclear development program.’”

Additionally a Reuters/Ipsos poll found, “Americans back a newly brokered nuclear deal with Iran by a 2-to-1 margin and are very wary of the United States resorting to military action against Tehran even if the historic diplomatic effort falls through… According to the Reuters/Ipsos survey, 44 percent of Americans support the interim deal reached between Iran and six world powers in Geneva last weekend, and 22 percent oppose it.” [Politico, 12/3/13. Reuters, 11/27/13]

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