Iran talks to America and Europe

The agreement reached over the weekend between the United States, Iran and major European nations is an important first step. The deal has the ultimate potential to fail, if Iran does not act in good faith to verifiably forego nuclear weapons. But it also has the opportunity to become a "Nixon goes to China" breakthrough that brings more stability and prosperity to all nations involved in and affected by the agreement.

For those in the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia who are skeptical of or flatly oppose negotiations with Iran, let me make one observation and ask one question. The observation is that the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, campaigned for his recent election on a platform of improving relations with the United States and the West, reaching diplomatic agreements, and turning his government toward improving the Iranian economy.

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Rouhani was an honest candidate campaigning in an open election who won a major victory promising to do the very things he is doing now. The people of Iran showed in the last election that they want a negotiated solution and favor placing Iran's economic well-being ahead of nuclear weapons and regional wars.

Of course, there are forces in Iran who oppose this, as there are forces in the United States, Israel and Europe who oppose this. But the Iranian people voted for this and elected a president who is implementing this. The possibility of diplomatic solutions should be tested. That is what the new agreement does, with inspectors having the capability of verifying those steps taken under the agreement.

My question to opponents is: What exactly is your alternative? In the final analysis, if diplomacy is sabotaged, the real alternative is the military option. How many people in America, Europe, Israel and Iran want more war? I give great credit to Secretary of State John Kerry for showing the statesmanship, leadership, perseverance and skill to advance these talks to this preliminary agreement.

I give great credit to his European counterpart, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. And I give great credit to Rouhani and his government for moving forcefully to fulfill his campaign promises and acting to choose diplomacy over conflict.

The road ahead with Iran will be hard, but as President Kennedy said, we aspire to do great things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Let the inspectors do their job while the diplomats do their job. All options for all nations remain on the table, but let's give the negotiated option a chance.

Diplomacy is far preferable for the U.S. and Iran than endless cycles of military conflict and economic pain.