Shawn VanDiver, 11/24/2014 [Archive]

Patience Required in Iranian Nuclear Talks

By Shawn VanDiver

Over the past year, our nation's diplomats, along with global powers, have been working tirelessly to produce an agreement that will prevent both an Iranian nuclear weapon and another war in the Middle East. Keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is of central importance to American security — and achieving this through tough diplomacy is difficult, but very possible.

To be sure, Monday's announcement that negotiations would continue was not the conclusive end we hoped for; all sides want to see the critical question of Iran's nuclear program resolved. But the simple fact remains that the world is better off now than it was a year ago.

Iran's nuclear program remains verifiably frozen, and with a robust international monitoring and verification regime in place, global partners have been able to keep close watch on Iran's facilities. For the past year, no weapons-grade fuel has been produced and dangerous material was destroyed; this progress would not have been possible without the negotiations to date.

Moreover, the stakes for walking away from the talks now are simply too high. As a post-9/11 veteran, I know all too well the sacrifice that may be required if diplomacy fails.My grandfather fearlessly stormed the beaches in Normandy on D-Day, but he and his generation knew that American national security is stronger when we use all the tools of national power, including defense, diplomacy, development, and democracy.

A rush to forsake diplomacy with Iran and charge blindly into war ignores this important lesson.

Congress helped get us where we are today with strong sanctions that the Obama Administration enforced. This was a crucial part in a comprehensive strategy to get Iran to the table and a show of how American leadership should work. However, calls by some political leaders to enact additional sanctions now are shortsighted and counterproductive. Generally speaking, sanctions are used as a tool to get a state to the negotiating table. The goal of being at the negotiating table is to strike a deal.

Additionally, the talks have not been based on a "trust but verify" strategy. Since the U.S. expects Iran to try and cheat, verification has superseded trust. This is why the U.S. has based negotiations on constant monitoring of critical elements of the nuclear program. With global powers acting together, the burden of proof remains on Iran.While the parties are still far apart on some key technical issues, both sides have incentives to come to an agreement that solves the Iran nuclear crisis through diplomacy, not war. If Iran cheats, the international community will act.

Unilateral moves by any of the negotiating parties, including the U.S., risk derailing these talks and the chance of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.Iran would likely kick out inspectors and resume the nuclear activities that have been frozen over the past year. If that happened, the U.S. could find itself back where we were last year: On the way to another war in the Middle East.

The best goal for diplomacy is an outcome that keeps America safe and nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran. We are still in the home stretch of securing a deal that could do just that, while keeping our nation safe and our men and women in uniform out of harm's way. We must do everything we can to support this effort.

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Copyright 2014 Shawn VanDiver, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Shawn VanDiver is a 12-year Navy veteran and a member of the Truman National Security Project's Defense Council. Follow VanDiver on Twitter @shawnjvandiver.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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