My Op-Ed in Support of Iran Negotiations Published by The Oklahoman

The following guest editorial by Peace House Director Nathaniel Batchelder was published in The Oklahoman on Saturday, April 11.

Will Congress support negotiations for peace?

BY NATHANIEL BATCHELDER

A preliminary agreement on Iran’s nuclear program has built hope that a final agreement can be reached. For everyone praying that global conflicts can be resolved through diplomacy, this announcement, after decades of tensions and years of effort, is monumental.

Negotiators have until June 30 to finalize an agreement. Technical details remain, but a broad framework is in place that would benefit all sides. A final agreement will preclude military action and war, and will empower Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the forces for reform in Iran who elected him.

Anti-American extremists in Iran have opposed these negotiations from the start. Some members of Congress remain critical. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the negotiations. These critics simply cannot see the hope for a new day in Iran reflected by the election of Rouhani two years ago.

Before these negotiations began, Iran agreed to extensive preconditions curbing its nuclear enrichment program and doubling the numbers of U.N. inspectors in Iran. Now Iran has agreed to tighter restrictions on its nuclear program that close off any pathway to a nuclear weapon for so long as the agreement is in effect, or is extended. Iran has agreed to continued intrusive inspections by the U.N. to verify compliance. In exchange, major world powers, including the United States and U.N., agree to lift certain sanctions on Iran.

Those saying Iran cannot be trusted should remember that the U.S. nuclear treaties with the Soviets and China didn’t hinge upon trust, but upon verification by technical means. Americans supporting the negotiations for peaceful coexistence with Iran should remind members of Congress of this. We don’t want Congress to pass legislation that would derail negotiations and risk war.

So much is at stake: a deal precluding development of a nuclear weapon for some time to come in Iran; improved relations between Iran and the West; greater stability for nations in the Middle East including Israel; the possibility of trade, even normalized relations, between the U.S. and Iran.

Will Congress support these efforts to peacefully limit Iran’s nuclear program? Or will it vote for policies likely to sabotage hopes for peaceful coexistence?

Should hopes for a final deal be derailed by Congress, the United States will be blamed by our allies. Worse, anti-American hardliners in Iran — those who really do want a nuclear weapon — would gain politically. And there’s the likelihood that the world might be pushed into military action against Iran that could become a regional war.

The announcement of a preliminary agreement is a victory for those working for peace. Now peace must be supported by Americans telling Congress to have patience with the negotiations process, and not to foolishly take actions that could result in another war.

Batchelder is director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City.