Editorial: Give Iran diplomacy a chance

John Lennon of Beatles fame had it right when he sang “All we are saying ... is give peace a chance” and today, that prayerful refrain includes Iran ... and its target is the U.S. Congress.

The chance here is to let the agreement reached — with great difficulty — between Iran and the U.S. and its allies over the Iranian nuclear program have a chance to succeed.

The deal creates a six-month window for Iran to suspend its nuclear development and open its doors to international inspectors, to allow them to see the facilities in exchange for a reduction in economic sanctions.

That half-year clock has just started ticking and many hope that during this time the accord will serve as a foundation for a settlement that would lead to a much longer and more significant agreement.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress seem to have their own agenda, one that could very well harm, rather than help, these diplomatic efforts.

The Senate, with support coming from both sides of the political aisle, continues to consider “The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013” — legislation that create a new set of sanctions. Supporters of the measure continue to see Iran as a rogue state on the international stage, one that has been a sponsor of terrorism around the world and a country that shouldn’t be trusted.

Although we are willing to concede that Iran and trust aren’t two words that easily go together, the accord is an opportunity that is far better than other options when it comes to ending Iran’s drive toward arming itself with nuclear weapons.

And from its beginning, it’s been built upon the kind of transparency that will allow for a “trust, but verify” system.

While it is early, Iran appears to be cooperating. As reported in the Washington Post, “The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency on Monday said Tehran has stopped enriching uranium beyond a 5 percent potency level and disabled connections between centrifuges that had been producing 20 percent-enriched uranium. Iran has also begun diluting half its stockpile of that higher-level uranium, which is considered within striking distance of bomb-quality fuel.”

That sounds like a reason to be optimistic.

Yet it could all unravel if the Senate throws its sanction-filled wrench into the works.

The new law would establish a number of new means of putting pressure on Iran with aims beyond just ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It also demands that Iran end its ballistic missile testing.

At this sensitive time, the bill sends the wrong message to Iran, and clearly signals that negotiated international accords mean very little. That could mean Tehran drops out of the deal — and that, in turn could mean that Israel feels compelled to launch some sort of military strike, possibly sparking another war in the region.

We would argue that we should be giving the agreement a chance to meet its goals.

And, if after six months there’s a need to take a different course, either reinstituting sanctions, adding new ones or other measures, then taking a hard line may be the right tactic.

But until then let’s give the international agreement — and peace — a chance.

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