March 20 marked the 16th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. It’s an appropriate time to remember the value of diplomacy in advancing America’s national security interests. And there is no better example of smart diplomacy than the Iran nuclear agreement, which blocked Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb without putting a single American life in harm’s way.
As a former technical sergeant with the United States Air Force and recipient of the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, I fully appreciate the gravity of what a nuclear Iran could mean. I also have no desire to see American service members needlessly put in danger. The Iran deal exemplified the critical role and brilliance of our nation’s diplomatic arm.
President Donald Trump intentionally violated the Iran deal by reimposing unilateral sanctions, even though Iran is complying. Trump’s careless violation of our obligations risks unraveling the very deal so many fought to create. The next president should reverse this reckless decision and re-enter the Iran agreement, for American security and the security of our allies.
12 years to negotiate
The nuclear deal was a triumph of international diplomacy. It took the U.S., Great Britain, France and Germany 12 years to negotiate. The sobering reality is that before the deal was signed in 2015, Iran was on the brink of a nuclear bomb. The U.S. and allies imposed severe economic sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table and convinced Iran to end its dangerous nuclear activities. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran submitted to the most intensive monitoring regime ever negotiated, ensuring that its nuclear activities remain peaceful. The relief of sanctions was our international promise that Trump is intent on breaking.
Trump, claiming Iran was not complying, reimposed nuclear sanctions, violating our commitment under the agreement. However, the president’s claims have no basis in reality. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel recently testified to Congress that Iran is not conducting nuclear weapons work. This assessment is shared by the Israeli intelligence community and by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has inspectors on the ground in Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The only person who shares the president’s conviction is his national security adviser, John Bolton. Yet Bolton is hardly a credible source. As the top arms control analyst for President George W. Bush, Bolton advocated for the Iraq war, claiming Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and ignoring evidence to the contrary. Bolton supported the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran agreement and now claims that Iran “continues to seek nuclear weapons,” despite clear evidence that Iran is complying. Bolton’s claims about Iran do not reflect the facts, but they do reflect his role in the Iraq war and his advice, laid out in a New York Times op-ed, “to stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.” We should not let a warmonger lie to us (again) and undermine 12 years of courageous work.
A reckless and dangerous decision
Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal was reckless and dangerous. It has severely damaged our relationship with our European allies who helped broker this deal. The U.S. role as a global leader is not based solely in our military might but in our economic influence and in our ability to conduct diplomacy with democratic allies in Western Europe. By withdrawing from the Iran deal and threatening to sanction our allies if they do not do the same, the Trump administration has undercut both our economic and our diplomatic relationships.
Trump once sent a bizarre, all caps tweet threatening Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” As Sen. Amy Klobuchar says, “our front line troops, diplomats and intelligence officers … who are out there every day risking their lives for us … deserve better than foreign policy by Tweet.” She is absolutely right.
The Trump administration’s disdain for diplomacy and over-reliance on crude military force has damaged America’s standing on the global state. We cannot and we must not bludgeon our way through foreign policy. We need the next president to restore our role as a world leader, trusted partner and committed advocate for diplomacy and democracy. Klobuchar has already taken a good step by committing to the climate accord — and I applaud her for that. As her constituent, I urge her to take the next crucial step of committing to rejoin the nuclear agreement. Not only is it the right choice for America and for our allies, it is the only choice that keeps our nation safe from a nuclear threat from Iran.
Jacob Thomas, of Minneapolis, is an Air Force veteran and member of Common Defense, a grassroots organization of veterans.
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