Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine Meghan McCain: ‘I no longer recognize my party’ Ex-UN ambassador John Bolton: Trump should take back NATO remarks MORE (R-S.C.) got a lot of attention recently for saying that the agreement with Iran was like taking a "can of gasoline and [throwing] it on a fire." But Graham and other opponents of the negotiations have it backwards: It is resorting to the use of force and rejecting diplomacy that pours gasoline on the fire of war.
Unfortunately, there are a host of other current examples where the use of force pours gasoline on the fire. In Libya, our military support for the rebellion led to continued civil war, Benghazi and ISIS activity in Libya. Drone attacks in Yemen helped to destabilize the government, plunging that country into civil war and an air invasion from Saudi Arabia. The civilian toll in drone attacks in Pakistan, more than 900 in the first five years, has only won more animosity toward the United States while terrorists have continued to make gains.
For once, instead of pouring more gasoline on conflicts, the agreement with Iran to derail their nuclear weapons program is a stellar example of fire prevention. The agreement blocks Iran's pathways to nuclear weapons. The breakout time to develop enough material for one bomb will be four times longer with a deal than without one.
Rigorous inspections will guard against cheating, subject to the most intrusive inspections regime ever negotiated. Uranium will be subject to cradle-to-grave monitoring, which will deter and detect any diversion. Inspectors will have access to all of Iran's nuclear sites and will be granted access to military sites if there are concerns about illicit nuclear activities.
U.S. sanctions will be suspended only after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifies that Iran has taken the key steps it agreed to as part of the nuclear deal. Because the U.S. sanctions architecture is only suspended, not terminated, sanctions can snap back into force if Iran reneges on its commitments.
Remarkably and vitally, the agreement was negotiated with two world powers with whom the U.S. has shaky and sometime adversarial relationships: Russia and China. Their participation makes it much harder for Iran to violate the agreement. It also underscores why, if the U.S. rejected the agreement, Russia and China would likely support Iran's conclusion that the U.S. will reject any diplomatic solution and only seek to subjugate Iran.
Unfortunately, Iran would be right in making that assertion. Those who advocate for rejecting the agreement offer no alternative other than igniting a conflagration in Iran, which would put America and Americans in harms way, spread more hatred of the United States, create more terrorists and leave us diplomatically isolated. There would be no option for tougher sanctions and our allies would not keep the ones we've had in place. The only option if Iran moved toward nuclear weapons would be war.
In today's global world, we have no choice but to work with others to solve the big problems. It's the only way we can be effectively tough, not just rhetorically tough, as we have been both with the sanctions on Iran and with the agreement to derail their nuclear weapons program. It's time we switched from being the world's policeman to organizing the world to prevent fires.
Kirsch is a senior fellow at The Roosevelt Institute and a senior adviser to USAction. Follow him @_RichardKirsch.