Countdown to zero: The case for the Iran deal
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Wake up. We are sleepwalking into an armed conflict. The hidden scandal of the Iraq War — the manipulation of intelligence to support a predetermined outcome — is now an overt political strategy to undermine a multilateral nonproliferation agreement. At a time when Iran was hurtling toward a nuclear threshold not easily undone by force or persuasion, the United States struck an accord with allies and adversaries alike that averted the solution everyone feared most — the kinetic option.

Now, those most vocal prior to the deal about the imminent threat of a nuclear Iran want to scrap the deal, put the world back on the brink of conflict, and open up a second nuclear front.   

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By Oct. 15, President Trump must decide whether or not to certify to Congress that Iran is complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Let us count down the reasons why the United States should remain a party to the nuclear agreement:

5. By all accounts, Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Iran has poured concrete into its plutonium reactor, reduced its centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,104, reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium to no more than 300 kilograms enriched no higher than 3.67 percent, and submitted to continuous monitoring and inspections at its key nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has released nine verification and monitoring reports indicating that Iran has not violated the agreement, and the president has certified to Congress six times that Iran is in compliance.

Additionally, I have introduced the bipartisan Commission to Verify Iranian Nuclear Compliance Act (H.R. 3810) with Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.). This legislation would establish a Congressional-Executive Commission with bipartisan-appointed staff to oversee the implementation of the JCPOA and verify Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the deal. Congress should act immediately to advance one of the rare proposals on Capitol Hill that has garnered support from both sides of the heated JCPOA debate.

4. Withdrawing from the deal would damage U.S. credibility in the eyes of our allies and adversaries and weaken our leverage to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements with Iran or other states. The leaders of all parties to the agreement, except the United States, maintain that Iran is in compliance, and the Trump administration has offered no evidence of Iranian violations.

3. The Trump administration posits that it could renegotiate “a better deal.” However, the truth is that it took robust global sanctions and a Herculean diplomatic effort to convene the P5+1 with Iran and negotiate the JCPOA. Our allies across the board are unwilling to return to square one. We should always endeavor to improve the deal and further constrain the Iranian nuclear program, but not in a unilateral fashion and not at the expense of the broader agreement.

2. Critics of the JCPOA charge that it is not an all-encompassing agreement, that it does not address all of Iran’s other malign behavior. I’ll be the first to agree that Iran’s ballistic missile program, support for terrorism, destabilizing regional behavior and suppression of human rights are abhorrent activities that must be countered. That is precisely why we recently enacted the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (P.L. 115-44), which is the most robust sanctions regime ever passed by Congress. If President Trump shares my concern for Iran’s other problematic behavior, then he should employ the authorities granted him under that law, which the administration has failed to implement.

1. The deal is accomplishing a critical national security priority — preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. If we withdraw, not only can Iran immediately restart its nuclear program, but we are left with only military options to combat Iranian nuclear proliferation. The last thing the world needs right now is an additional nuclear front. 

Zero evidence has been provided to Congress concerning Iranian noncompliance, despite the fact that President Trump has reportedly already made his decision regarding recertification. If the president decertifies, the United States will have zero credibility on nonproliferation matters, zero partners to negotiate a better or more comprehensive deal, and zero diplomatic options to avert a nuclear-armed Iran. 

Connolly represents Virginia’s 11th District and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.