Photo: Carnegie Endowment For International Peace

by Harry C.  Blaney III

The Secretary of State recently made one of the most important speeches thus far on the challenges of the conflicts in the Middle East with a strong defense of our polices. His speech also included a summary and insight to the changes that are being made in the United States’ stance in these fast evolving conflicts in the region, and what key role diplomacy, as well as military, can play to achieve those goals. This speech was a plea for support from our allies and our not so allies, and it laid out, as few statements have so far, the U.S. strategy for dealing with the Islamic State, or ISIS, and called for the critical cooperation between the Shia and Sunni peoples, and also nations in ridding the region of the brutalities of ISIS. He reaffirmed that the defeat of ISIS was a key objective but also the importance of making Assad stand aside if peace is to be achieved.

Secretary Kerry’s Remarks 

Thank you very much. Thank you all very, very much. Bill, thanks so much for welcoming me to your new home, but thank you for remarkably generous comments. I’m very, really touched to hear them from somebody of Bill’s caliber, because as all of you know, he really was the State Department’s premier career diplomat par excellence to everybody’s standard. And now that you’ve been away almost a year, Bill, I know you’re missing all the travel, the early morning meetings, the late night calls, and you’re just dying to return, right? (Laughter.) But all kidding aside, ladies and gentlemen, the door to the State Department for Bill Burns is always open. And from President Obama through the entire security team to me to every former secretary of state, there’s no better diplomat and there’s nobody you could be better led by here at the Carnegie Foundation for Peace than by Bill Burns. So Bill – please join me, everybody, in saying thank you for a remarkable career to this man – a remarkable career. (Applause.)

Now, if I behave myself, which is never for certain, I’m going to try and restrain my voice, not be as passionate as I want to be about every word that I’m uttering today, but I’m trying to save a little case of laryngitis and make sure that I don’t exacerbate it, because I leave tonight for Vienna for two days of important meetings and I want to make sure that I can actually talk during those meetings.

I appreciate the chance to speak today to you, an audience of experts and students who are on their way to being experts, but all of you who spend an awful lot of time thinking about some very serious issues. And the truth is that, for generations, Carnegie has been training the foreign policy leaders of the future and generating at the same time real-time solutions for those of us who are practicing at that time.

It’s an understatement to say today that we’re facing a very different world, a world of remarkable complexity. All of you have probably read Henry Kissinger and Diplomacy or countless other books as I have. And Henry would be the first to tell you – I had the privilege of having lunch with him in New York during the United Nations meetings – that he never had it coming at him with the numbers of different places and crises and in a world that is as multipolar as now. I mean, a bipolar Cold War with the former Soviet Union, the United States and West was pretty clear about what the choices were in many ways. It didn’t mean they weren’t tense and they weren’t difficult and that there weren’t some proxy wars, as we saw in Vietnam and elsewhere, but it truly was not seeing what we see today, which is a world of violence where it’s not state on state, with a few exceptions. It’s non-state actors who are confounding states and the global order, and that presents a very different challenge.

So I can tell you that despite the complexity, and I am certain of this, the United States of America is more deeply engaged today in more places on more important issues with impact than at any time before in our history. And I could document – I’m not going to run around the whole world, but I mean, I could start with TPP and I could go to North Korea and I could start talking about South China Sea, and then I could roll into Afghanistan and Pakistan and India and roll around the world. I’m not going to do that. I want to focus on one particular – and particularly important – area of the globe today, and that’s the Middle East. And I’m not even going to go into all of the aspects of it.

But 20 years ago next week, after attending a peace rally, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by an extremist who claimed to be doing God’s will.

At the funeral, King Hussein of Jordan, Rabin’s one-time enemy turned partner in peace, declared, I quote: “Let us not keep silent. Let our voices rise high enough to speak of our commitment to peace for all times. And let us tell those who live in darkness, who are the enemies of life and true faith, this is where we stand. This is our camp.”

At the same ceremony, Rabin’s granddaughter Noa, a teenager, said that, quote, “Others greater than I have already eulogized you. But they never had the pleasure to feel the caresses of your warm, soft hands, to merit your warm embrace, to see your half smile that always told me so much, that same smile which is no longer frozen in the grave with you.”

Now, these quotations remind us that beyond all the cold statistics, beyond the headlines of the daily newspapers, beyond the clapping talking heads on one show or another and eternally perpetual talk show circuits, the impact of violence in the Middle East, there is humanity. There is a humanity of people just like us who yearn simply to help one another and to share affection from one generation to the next. And beyond all the complexities in the region, there is also something fairly basic going on – a struggle between people who are intent on opening wounds, or leaving them open, and those who want to close them and who want to heal and build a future.

It is this struggle between destroyers and builders that informs every aspect of American policy in the Middle East. Now, this is the glue that holds the components of our strategy together – and we do have a strategy – whether we’re backing an electoral process in Tunisia, mobilizing a coalition against terrorists, trying to halt the sudden outbreak of violence as I was last weekend with respect to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, or striving to put in place new foundations for prosperity and stability. Our goal is to help ensure that builders and healers throughout the region have the chance that they need to accomplish their tasks.

Now, I’ve heard some Americans wonder aloud, “Why should we care about the Middle East? After all, we’re on the verge of energy independence, so why don’t we just walk away?”

And the answer is that it would be directly and profoundly contrary to our nation’s interests to try and do that. We have to remember that the Middle East is home to some of America’s oldest friends, including our ally Israel, but also our many Arab partners in this now more complicated world. We also learned from 9/11 that regional threats become global very quickly. And we have seen that ideas transmitted by terrorists in Raqqa and Mosul can reach impressionable minds in Minneapolis and Mississippi. We are aware as well that events in the Middle East can affect perceptions on every single continent because people on every continent are influenced by the spiritual and ethical traditions that have their roots in those ancient lands.

I hear about this everywhere I go. People are amazed. It’s good to see the former prime minister here. I am amazed – he knows what I’m talking about. All over the world – foreign ministers, prime ministers, finance ministers, presidents say to me when I visit, no matter where I am, “You’ve got to do something about the Middle East. You have to change this because it affects us.”

Now, it is true, of course, that we rely less on Middle East oil than we used to, but it’s also true that the energy market is global. And any serious disruption of Gulf oil supplies could quickly harm our financial systems, lower exports, cost millions of jobs. That’s an interest.

So the Middle East matters, and it matters way beyond oil, my friends. It matters a lot in the context of this world where we are trying to bring people together to seize a future. That’s why it is so appropriate that Carnegie is launching this ambitious project this week called Arab World Horizons to examine trends that will shape the Middle East for decades to come. And I encourage you to begin this project with a healthy degree of optimism. And before you conclude that I’ve had too much caffeine – (laughter) – let me emphasize I mean what I just said, I mean it.

A couple of years ago, we asked the McKinsey Company to study the economic prospects of Jordan, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and the West Bank. And a good starting place for all of you is to go back to the Arab report – study report on economic growth of a number of years which was stark in its appraisal of what had not happened that should have happened in many of the Arab countries in the region. But interestingly, my good friend, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed, recently also commissioned a separate study which similarly showed what we looked at through McKinsey Company where we looked at every sector from farming to tourism.

My friends, the potential for growth is simply extraordinary. The potential of this region to be a driving financial center, harnessing the incredible technology and capacity of peoples in many of the countries is simply extraordinary. Just imagine a future where people from the Nile to the Jordan to the Euphrates are free to live and work and travel as they choose; where every boy and girl has access to a quality education; where visitors are able to flock without fear to the world’s greatest tourist attractions. I mean, think of that – the world’s greatest tourist attractions. I’ve driven by them. I haven’t even had time to stop at some of them. The place where John the Baptist christened so many people including Jesus, the temple near it, a Muslim mosque, which is one of the oldest in the region and most important, the extraordinary history of the generations of struggle that have taken place in the Middle East. There is something there for everybody – even a atheist who is a budding architect would have trouble not having an interesting time. And where you have – neighboring countries are actually eager to trade. I hear this from the ministers in each of the surrounding countries – how much they wish things could just change so they could begin to engage in the normal commerce of the region and ready to cooperate on projects that actually link their economies together.

Now, sadly, we have become so accustomed to dwelling on the problems of the Middle East that we sometimes forget that, staring us in the face, are some incredible opportunities – and we all ought to be doing more to focus on those opportunities, because the people in all the countries are beginning to simply lose belief in any of their leaders. Palestinians don’t have belief, Israelis don’t have belief, and people in the surrounding Arab countries don’t have belief. And what it takes is real leadership and real decisions and real events on the ground to begin to change those hopes.

So we ought to be doing more, all of us – and here I specifically include governments in the region – need to take advantage of these huge opportunities that exist today.

Now, let’s be honest with each other. Apart from petroleum, Middle Eastern countries right now simply don’t produce enough of what the rest of the world wants; they don’t trade efficiently even among themselves; and they aren’t making wise use of their human capital. Only about one woman in four participates in the economy and youth unemployment is at 25 percent or higher. This leaves millions of unhappy young people who – because of the pervasiveness of social media – are completely aware of what everybody else in the world has and they don’t. Everybody’s connected 24/7. You can be impoverished and they still have a smartphone and they can still Google and they can still Facebook and they can still figure out what the other person has, and they can talk to those people and they do in very simple, declarative sentences.

So what happens to all that energy and ambition?

In the United States, the average age is 35. In the Middle East and North Africa, it’s under 25. And many of those countries have populations where it’s 60, 65 percent under the age of 30, 35. So the region’s future really depends on the choices that these young men and women are going to get to make. But who are they going to listen to? You need to talk about that as you have this conference. What ideas will command their loyalty? What might excite their imagination? Individually, each one of these young people is a story that will end either in frustration or in opportunity. And collectively, they present a profound challenge, because the outcome of that race between frustration and opportunity will do everything to define tomorrow’s Middle East.

So to be clear, there’s no single way, there’s no just one way to win this race.

Governments in the region have to look both inward at their own policies and they have to look outward in order to compete in the global economy. And boy, do they have to start making a lot tougher decisions than they seem to have been willing to make. You can’t fake it. You just can’t drift along and pretend somehow it’s going to resolve itself.

Business people have to help bridge the gap between what graduates actually know when they leave school and the skills that they need to have in order to get a good job. And by the way, that’s the same right here in the United States of America and every other modern country today.

Women and girls have to be given an equal chance to compete in the classroom and in the workplace.

And civil society has to have the right to voice new ideas, advocate for reform, and hold leaders accountable.

Now, the United States believes deeply in the future of the region. That’s why we remain so engaged. And that is why we have invested in a variety of worthwhile programs, everything from the rule of law initiatives in Jordan to public-private partnerships in the Palestinian Authority, which Salam Fayyad worked so hard, and I had the pleasure of working with him, to try to implement. But we also know that the pace of progress will depend, in part, on improved security – and that is a major goal of U.S. policy in the Middle East. And we don’t just mean security for one country or another. Israelis have to be secure; Palestinians have to be secure; the people in Gaza have to be secure; everybody has to be secure. And it’s our common enterprise now to fight for that security.

So here I go back to the struggle that I mentioned earlier about the destroyers and the builders. If the builders are going to succeed, they’re going to have to be protected from the dangers that are posed by terrorists, by strife, by violence, by weapons of mass destruction; and America’s security strategy in the Middle East is precisely designed to try to aid in each of these areas.

That’s why President Obama placed such importance on achieving a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear program. As all of you know, this man over here, Bill Burns, played a critical role in helping to get those talks with Iran off the ground and in helping to forge the interim plan that set the stage for the final agreement that we’ve reached, and that is an agreement that is imposing dramatic constraints on all aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Ten days ago, the deal became official and the implementation began. And that implementation will require the mothballing of two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges, the shipment abroad of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, the destruction of the core of its heavy water nuclear plutonium reactor.

The whole process will be monitored by the IAEA and no sanctions will be lifted until that Agency verifies that Iran has done exactly what it promised to do. Now this gives Iran every incentive to live up to its commitments, just as it did, by the way, during the 18 months leading up to the final agreement. People don’t realize this, that almost – I think more than two years now – just about two years exactly of Iran’s compliance with the interim agreement has now taken place. And you haven’t heard of major breaches or anything because it’s been adhered to.

So I hope now that everyone who was for the agreement and everyone who was against it will come together to support its full and verifiable implementation. That’s the goal. And I promise you, I am absolutely convinced that the United States will be safer, our allies will be safer, and the world will be safer if Iran doesn’t have and isn’t anywhere close to getting a nuclear weapon. And we believe, as our Energy Department, our intelligence community, and our military know, that because of the verification measures and transparency of this agreement, we will know whether or not they are.

Now, as you recall, when negotiations were going on, there was speculation about what an agreement might mean for relations between Washington and Tehran. Was it possible that a breakthrough on the nuclear issue would be able to open the door to broader cooperation? Some welcomed that prospect and some, to be truthful, were alarmed by that prospect.

So I want to be clear that we meant exactly what we said: the Iran deal was considered on its own terms. Not, “What is it going to do here?” It was just nuclear – nuclear terms. It was the right thing to do whether or not it leads to other areas of cooperation. Now, we’re not making any assumptions about Iran’s future policies because we base our approach on observable facts. And what we see, obviously, is that Iran continues to engage in playing to sectarian divisions in the region and it continues to detain several American citizens, in our estimation, without justification. And Tehran’s policies are one reason that we are working so closely and so supportively with our partners in the region including the Gulf states and Israel.

In fact, we have established an unprecedented level of cooperation with Israel on military and intelligence issues; and we are coordinating in enforcing sanctions and in trying to stop terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah from getting the financing and the weapons that they seek.

We also support Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens, and we do that in many ways. We also support all of the GCC countries in the work we did at Camp David and in Doha and that we will continue to do, and that I even reaffirmed when I was out in the region just a couple of days ago. Within the past week, I have met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, with King Abdullah, with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, others. And we all agreed on the importance of ending the violence in Israel, Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank, and of and making it clear that the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif will not be changed.

Now, I want to be clear that the kind of violence that we have been seeing in recent weeks hurts everyone: the innocent victims and their families; the Jewish and Arab residents of Israel; the Palestinians who yearn to have their aspirations realized – hurts everyone. And this is yet another indication of the folly of believing that efforts at permanent peace and reconciliation are somehow not worth pursuing. I can’t imagine the notion of just throwing up your hands and walking away and saying good luck. The current situation is simply not sustainable. President Obama has said that publicly many times. I’ve said it publicly.

And it is absolutely vital for Israel to take steps that empower Palestinian leaders to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life for their people on a day-to-day basis. And it is equally important – equally important – for Palestinian leaders to cease the incitement of violence and to offer something more than rhetoric; instead, propose solutions that will contribute in a real way to the improvement of life, to the reduction of violence, and to the safety and security of Israel’s – of Israelis. Firm and creative leadership on both sides is absolutely essential. A two-state solution with strong security protections remains the only viable alternative. And for anybody who thinks otherwise, you can measure what unitary looks like by just looking at what’s been going on in the last weeks. The United States absolutely remains prepared to do what we can to make that two-state – two peoples living side by side in peace and security – to make it possible.

Now, another core element of our security strategy in the Middle East is centered on the coalition that we have mobilized to counter and defeat the group known as ISIL, or Daesh. The list of crimes for which Daesh is responsible is truly mind-boggling. It’s as disturbing as anything that I have ever contemplated in my life. Daesh are smugglers, they’re kidnappers. They butcher teachers and burn books, destroy history. They execute journalists for doing their jobs, trying to report on the truth. They execute people just for their religious beliefs. They execute them for who they are by birth – nothing said, nothing done – just because they’re different. In Iraq, Daesh has been auctioning off women and girls, teaching – teaching people that the rape of underage non-Muslim females is a form of prayer.

According to Daesh’s online propaganda, their militants supposedly live in virtual paradise, but we’re beginning to see how different the reality really is. There are multiple reports of Daesh executing fighters who signed up and then had second thoughts and were trying to get out. Consider the case of a teenage boy who had been recruited in Syria and sent to Iraq. One morning, he approached a Shiite mosque in Baghdad; he unbuttoned his jacket, opened it up, told the guards, “I’m wearing a suicide vest, but I don’t want to blow myself up.” And the boy said later that he had volunteered to wear the vest because it was the only way that he could think of to escape. He had joined Daesh to serve his religion and fight Assad. But when he witnessed the execution of a young person very much like himself, he decided to reverse course and get out.

This past summer, the terrorists picked up sledge hammers and smashed half a dozen statues in the ancient city of Palmyra. They destroyed the Roman arch, as you know. They blew up historic tombs and destroyed a 2,000-year-old temple. Then they seized the city’s director of antiquities, the man who was trying to protect history, and they made him kneel in a public square, and they cut off his head. The man was 83 years old and spent a lifetime saving history. He’d been in charge of preserving Palmyra’s cultural heritage for more than 50 years.

My friends, between this Saturday night and Sunday morning, we’re all going to be turning our clocks back one hour. Daesh and groups like it want to turn the clock of civilization back a millennium or more. We simply cannot allow this to continue.

And that is why President Obama is ratcheting up what we are doing. Under President Obama’s leadership, we have led a 65-member coalition to take on Daesh. For more than a year, we’ve been doing that. And we have saved communities – Kobani and (inaudible) and Tikrit – Tikrit has seen 100,000 Sunni be able to return to their homes. And we’ve said from the beginning that this would be a multiyear effort, but I think we’ve already accomplished a lot. We’ve launched more than 7,300 airstrikes. We’ve forced Daesh to change how it conducts military operations. We’ve impeded its command and control. From the critical border town of Kobani all the way to Tikrit, we have liberated communities and made a difference in the nature of this battlefield.

I spoke earlier about the impact of our policies on ordinary lives. Last week – just to underscore to you the degree to which we are ready to take this fight, and the degree to which we are raising our capacity – a U.S. special forces operation carried out a rescue directed against a Daesh prison in northern Iraq. Our troops freed 69 hostages who were about to be executed one by one, with a mass grave that had already been dug.

Now, I have spoken to our people in our embassy. I talked actually with our special envoy, who is in Baghdad even as I speak to you right now. I talked to him last night. He told me he went and visited these people who had been released. He said you could not imagine the emotion – their expression of gratitude to President Obama and to the American people. And they told us of the enormous debt they feel to the family of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler who gave his life in that operation. I think that’s a debt that we all owe, and I will say to you what I have said many, many times throughout my life: that we are deeply privileged to be represented and protected by the quality and caliber of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States. And we express our gratitude to them.

Meanwhile, the – (applause). Meanwhile, I want you to know that the combination of coalition airpower and the Iraqi ground forces is being felt. We’re supplying Iraq with armored bulldozers and mine-clearing equipment that’s making it much harder for Daesh to resupply its fighters in Ramadi. An Iraqi force just retook the Baiji oil refinery, strategically located on the road that links Baghdad and Mosul. In northern Syria, the coalition and its partners have pushed Daesh out of more than 17,000 square kilometers of territory, and we have secured the Turkish-Syrian border east of the Euphrates River. That’s about 85 percent of the Turkish border, and the President is authorizing further activities to secure the rest.

Now looking ahead, we know that some of our key allies – including the British, the French, and the Turks – are stepping up even more with their help. And President Obama recently gave a green light to send more ammunition and other aid to our allies on the ground. The President has made clear that we are determined to degrade Daesh more rapidly.

Now, I want to underscore as well that military operations are but one of the many components of what the coalition is doing. We’re working hard to counter Daesh’s propaganda and to deter potential foreign fighters from joining it. In partnership with the UAE, we have established a center in Abu Dhabi that is offering positive messages across the region on the internet and all through social media, talking about politics, religion, and the responsibilities of faith. And we’re striving to cut off Daesh’s funding so that it becomes bankrupt politically, just as it is morally.

But ultimately, to defeat Daesh, we have to end the war in Syria. And that is America’s goal. In thinking about how to do this, you have to think about how the conflict began. Early in 2011, toward the start of the Arab spring, a popular uprising challenged the Assad regime, which father and son had ruled for more than four decades – 40 years, folks. Assad sent thugs to beat up the young people who were protesting in the streets and looking for jobs, looking for a future. That’s all they wanted. But the thugs went out and beat them up. And when the parents got angry at the fact that their kids were met with thugs, they went out and they were met with bullets and bombs. That’s how this started.

So having made peaceful change impossible, Assad made war inevitable and he soon turned to Hizballah for help, and Iran, and Russia. And this exacerbated tensions between Sunni and Shia communities, and it paved the way for Daesh to emerge. The result has been four and a half years of nonstop horror. This is a human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes in the 21st century. You all know the numbers; we have a fundamental responsibility to try to do something about it. One Syrian in twenty has been killed or wounded. One in five is a refugee. One in two has been displaced. The average life expectancy in Syria has dropped by 20 years.

My friends, the challenge that we face in Syria today is nothing less than to chart a course out of hell. And to do that, we have to employ a two-pronged approach, intensifying our counter-Daesh campaign and, on the other side, our diplomatic efforts to try to bring the conflict to a close. These steps are actually mutually reinforcing. And that is why we are stepping up the fight against Daesh by resupplying the moderate opposition fighters in northern Syria to help them consolidate the gains that they have made across broad swaths of territory and to begin to pressure the chief city of ISIL, which is Al Raqqa. We’re also enhancing our air campaign in order to help drive Daesh, which once dominated the Syria-Turkey border, out of the last 70-mile stretch that it controls. But at the end of the day, nothing would do more to bolster the fight against Daesh than a political transition that sidelines Assad so that we can unite more of the country against extremism.

We have to eliminate the mindset – which was encouraged from the beginning by both Assad and Daesh – that the only choice Syrians have is between the two of them; you either have terrorists or you have Assad. No, no, that’s not the choice. This is the mindset that drives those who fear the terrorists to side with the dictator and those who fear the dictator to side with the terrorists. And this is the mindset that has transformed Syria into a killing field.

We have a different vision. I just returned from meetings in Vienna that included a remarkable session, that broke some new ground, where we had the quartet of Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. And I will head back to Vienna tonight to take the next step in our discussions with representatives from an ever broadening group of nations, including Iran, which will join one of these multilateral gatherings for the first time. And while finding a way forward on Syria will not be easy – it’s not going to be automatic – it is the most promising opportunity for a political opening where recognizing what is happening – that Syria is being destroyed; that Europe is being deeply impacted; that Jordan is being greatly put under enormous pressure, Lebanon, Turkey, the region; and so many millions of Syrians are displaced within Syria itself, most compelling of all, the tragedy that Syrians are living every single day – the best opportunity we have is to try to come to the table and recognize there has to be the political solution that everybody has talked about.

As part of this diplomacy, I’ve had many conversations with my Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. And as everyone here knows, Russian airstrikes in Syria began about four weeks ago. So there’s a fundamental choice here. Is Russia there just to shore up Assad or is Russia there to actually help bring about a solution? We’ll know. We’ll put that to the test. And contrary to the claims of officials in Moscow, it has to be underscored that most of the strikes thus far have been directed not against Daesh, but against the opponents of the Assad regime. So that is not, in our view, the way to try to bring the war to a close. But that will be part of the discussion that we have in the course of our Vienna meetings. The likely results of that strategy, by the way, will be to further radicalize the population, prolong the fighting, and perhaps even strengthen the illusion on Assad’s part that he can just indefinitely maintain his hold on power. And if that’s what he thinks, I got news: there’s no way that a number of the other countries involved in this coalition are going to let up or stop. It won’t happen.

There’s another thing that’s critical, though. Russia, the United States, and others share an amazing amount of common ground on this. We actually all agree that the status quo is untenable. We all agree that we need to find a way to have a political solution. We all agree that a victory by Daesh or any other terrorist group absolutely has to be prevented. We all agree that it’s imperative to save the state of Syria and the institutions on which it is built and preserve a united and secular Syria. We all agree that we have to create the conditions for the return of displaced persons and the refugees. We agree on the right of the Syrian people to choose their leadership through transparent, free, and fair elections with a new constitution and protections for all minorities in the country. We agree on all that. Surely we can find a place where one man does not stand in the way of the possibilities of peace. So we agree that all of these steps can only be achieved – and Syria can only be saved – through a political settlement.

So my message to Foreign Minister Lavrov, to President Putin, to all concerned governments is that we each have a responsibility here to contribute to an early end to this Syrian disaster through a transition already agreed upon in the context of the Geneva communique that will unite the country and enable this beleaguered country to rehabilitate itself, bring back its citizens, and live in peace. That is the purpose of the inclusive diplomatic process that we’re continuing to pursue beginning with this trip back across the Atlantic this evening.

And before closing, I just want to make two additional points quickly.

First, to skeptics who say that democracy can’t make it in the Middle East and North Africa, I reply with one word: Tunisia. (Applause.)

Here, where the Arab Spring was born, we’re not finding a paradise. But we’re finding a place where leaders from opposing factions have been willing to put the interests of their nation above personal ambitions; where civil society played a vital role in spurring political dialogue; where power was transferred peacefully from one leader to the next in accordance with the rule of law; and where diverse perspectives, including both secular and religion, are not being repressed, but they’re actually being encouraged and taken into account. What is happening in Tunisia is important for the people there, obviously, but guess what? It is instructive for the entire region. Tunisia is showing what it means to be builders in the Middle East.

My second point is more of a plea: Please do not accept the view of some that the Middle East must inevitably be divided along sectarian lines, especially between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Nothing fuels the propaganda of Daesh and other terrorist organizations more than this myth. This simplistic and cynical view is not only not true historically, it’s not true today.

After all, the coalition to defeat Daesh includes virtually every Sunni majority nation in the Middle East, and Daesh, as we know, is made up of Sunni. And last June, when Daesh suicide bombers attacked and killed 27 Shiite Muslims while they were praying in Kuwait right at the start of Ramadan – and 27 were killed – what happened? The emir and the speaker of the parliament – both Sunni – immediately rushed to the site of the tragedy. Thirteen hundred people volunteered to give blood on the first day. Sunni religious leaders urged their followers to show solidarity by praying at Shia mosques. The government flew the bodies of the victims to Najaf for burial in accordance with family wishes. And back in Kuwait, 35,000 people of every single tribe came together and attended a funeral for others who were killed. The emir stood up and up and said the mosque will be rebuilt. And a Sunni businessman volunteered to do the job for nothing. Daesh will rise or fall on its ability to drive good people apart, and that is precisely why I say it will fail.

On that horrible evening 20 years ago, when Yitzhak Rabin descended the city hall steps in Tel Aviv and he walked towards his car and towards his killer, there was a sheet of paper in his pocket that would soon be stained with blood. And on the paper were the words to Shir LaShalom, the “Song of Peace” – words that warn of the permanence of death and hence the imperative of replacing hate with something better.

The Middle East today, my friends, is still marred by the sounds and spectacle of violence, but it need not be, because the region is also pulsating with life. It is the home of populations that are energetic, youthful, forward-looking, and far more interested in plugging into the world economy than slugging it out with historic foes. It is in them that we place our faith. It is for them and for their horizons that we dedicate our collective efforts. And it is with them that the United States of America is determined to turn back the destroyers and build a future that is characterized by prosperity, by peace, and by dignity for all people. That is a worthy fight.

Thank you all very, very much.

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the Future of U.S. Policy in the Middle East, October 28, 2015

We welcome your comments on this speech and the strategy outlined.


Picture: Department of State

By Harry C. Blaney III

As one alternative to the passing of the Iran Nuclear Deal was military intervention, President Obama reminds the public that military intervention should not be so easily assumed. The chance to address world issues with diplomacy before the use of military should always be considered, especially when the alternative calls on our brave men and women to risk their lives for their country. Below you will find excerpts of President Obama’s remarks on the Iran Nuclear Deal at a veterans round table where he sat and spoke with Secretary Kerry, to veterans who have served the United States in different services, and with two Gold Star Mothers.

“There are times where, in a debate like this, we hear a lot of loose talk, casual threats of military force, false promises that military actions will be easy or simple or relatively costless.  These veterans and their families remind us that that is not the case.  They know the consequences when we rush into war.  They understand what it means when we act without broad international support and when we fail to consider unintended consequences.”

“And I want to repeat, none of them are under any illusions. They understand that this is a dangerous world.  And it is precisely for that reason that they want to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.  And what I indicated to them is that even as this debate winds down, I am hopeful that their voices continue to be heard on a wide range of foreign policy debates.  Because we live in a complicated world and we live in a world where terrible things happen, and American leadership is going to be vital in addressing those issues.”

“But the one principle that I want us to remember every time we make a decision is that American power is not restricted just to our military actions, that we have a lot of tools in the toolkit, and that we have to try to solve problems without resort to military force, understanding that at the end of the day, there may be times where we have to act militarily, but we don’t do so as a first resort and we certainly don’t do so on the basis of political considerations.  Because the sacrifices are too significant, and the stakes are too high.  And I think these veterans and Gold Star family members, they can remind us of that each and every day.”

Find full text here:

President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President at Veterans Roundtable on the Iran Nuclear Deal, September 10, 2015

After a victorious win for the Obama Administration, Secretary of State John Kerry, and most importantly, diplomacy, the resolution of disapproval for the Iran Nuclear Deal never reached a final vote, as it was blocked by Senate 58 to 42 on September 11, 2015. Although there is a great chance the GOP will do everything in its power to complicate this deal and reimpose sanctions, those in favor of the Iran Nuclear Deal can celebrate a major win and step in the right direction in ensuring that Iran will never attain a nuclear weapon. Below we have Secretary Kerry’s statement on this monumental win and the commitment of the Administration and State Department that everything outlined in the deal will be implemented, and that Iran lives up to the entirety of this deal .


“[The] vote by the U.S. Senate is an important step forward toward the United States and its international partners implementing the agreement reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This agreement, when implemented, will make the United States, our friends and allies in the Middle East, and the entire world safer.”

“I am grateful to the Members of the Senate who carefully reviewed the agreement and deliberated on its provisions. I know that for many of my former colleagues, this decision was extremely difficult, but I am convinced that the benefits of the agreement far outweigh any potential drawbacks. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action includes the most extensive verification and transparency provisions ever negotiated; it mandates strict cutbacks and enduring limits on Iran’s nuclear activities; and it prohibits Iran from developing a nuclear weapon forever.”

“Going forward, the State Department and the entire Administration will be fully committed to implementing and verifying this agreement to ensure that Iran lives up to the commitments it has made. We will also continue to work closely with our partners and allies in the region to deepen our security cooperation, and to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its support for terrorism.”

John Kerry, U.S. Department of State, September 11, 2015


“And I learned in war the price that is paid when diplomacy fails.” – Secretary of State John Kerry

Photo: CNN

by: Harry C. Blaney III

Below are a wide selection of quotes both pro and con to the Iran nuclear agreement. In my opinion, they show the disparity of intellectual, factual, and realist thought between those who oppose the deal and their generally vitriolic and highly partisan positions, and the other side’s views that have conviction and also deep analysis of the realities of this issue and the Middle East. The latter is also based on a long-term analysis of U.S. security issues and that of our allies including Israel.

What the largely Republican responses to these serious issues of the Iran nuclear deal have shown is that the entire batch of the now 17 major candidates do not understand the provisions of the agreement.  They can’t see the obvious advantages to our security or of our allies, and they have likely not read personally the text or even the White House summary fact sheet. Many of the opposition quoted are the same that led us into the Iraq war and now want to do the same again with Iran.

What is also depressing is none, and I do mean none, of the Republican candidates have even a small inkling of any of the issues, the risks, the strategic context, or what this deal means for Middle East nuclear non-proliferation and its changing in our favor the strategic landscape of this region.

On the pro side we do see analysis by the most respected experts and professionals, including over 100 U.S. Ambassadors and former Republican officials in favor of this deal and giving substantive reasons for their positions. We will continue to watch this debate and provide updates on its trajectory with new quotes and alerts while following the Congressional process. For global security and the future of non-proliferation this agreement is key to a strategy of building a more peaceful and less dangerous world.


Retired Generals and Admirals

“On July 14, 2015, after two years of intense international negotiations, an agreement was announced by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia to contain Iran’s nuclear program. We, the undersigned retired military officers, support the agreement as the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The international deal blocks the potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, provides for intrusive verification, and strengthens American national security. America and our allies, in the Middle East and around the world, will be safer when this agreement is fully implemented. It is not based on trust; the deal requires verification and tough sanctions for failure to comply.

There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented. If the Iranians cheat, our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it, and U.S. military options remain on the table. And if the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year. The choice is that stark.

We agree with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who said on July 29, 2015, “[r]elieving the risk of a nuclear conflict with Iran diplomatically is superior than trying to do that militarily.” If at some point it becomes necessary to consider military action against Iran, gathering sufficient international support for such an effort would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance. We must exhaust diplomatic options before moving to military ones. For these reasons, for the security of our Nation, we call upon Congress and the American people to support this agreement.”

29 Leading Scientists

“As scientists and engineers with understanding of the physics and technology of nuclear power and of nuclear weapons, we congratulate you and your team on the successful completion of the negotiations in Vienna. We consider that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) the United States and its partners negotiated with Iran will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future non-­‐proliferation agreements.

This is an innovative agreement, with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated non-­‐proliferation framework. It limits the level of enrichment of the uranium that Iran can produce, the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile, and the number and kinds of centrifuges it can develop and operate. The agreement bans reconversion and reprocessing of reactor fuel, it requires Iran to redesign its Arak research reactor to produce far less plutonium than the original design, and specifies that spent fuel must be shipped out of the country without the plutonium being separated and before any significant quantity can be accumulated.

A key result of these restrictions is that it would take Iran many months to enrich uranium for a weapon. We contrast this with the situation before the interim agreement was negotiated in Lausanne: at that time Iran had accumulated enough 20 percent enriched uranium that the required additional enrichment time for weapons use was only a few weeks.

The JCPOA also provides for innovative approaches to verification, including monitoring of uranium mining, milling, and conversion to hexafluoride. Centrifuge manufacturing and R&D will be monitored as well. For 15 years the Natanz facility will be the only location where uranium enrichment is allowed to take place and it will be outfitted with real-­‐time monitoring to assure rapid notice of any violation. The authority is provided for real-­‐time monitoring of spent fuel as well.

Concerns about clandestine activities in Iran are greatly mitigated by the dispute resolution mechanism built into the agreement. The 24-­‐day cap on any delay to access is unprecedented, and will allow effective challenge inspection for the suspected activities of greatest concern: clandestine enrichment, construction of reprocessing or reconversion facilities, and implosion tests using uranium. The approach to resolving “Possible Military Dimensions” is innovative as well: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must be satisfied that it is fully

informed about any previous activities, in order to guide its future verification plans, but Iran need not be publicly shamed. This agreement, also for the first time, explicitly bans nuclear weapons R&D, rather than only their manufacture as specified in the text of the Non-­‐Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Some have expressed concern that the deal will free Iran to develop nuclear weapons without constraint after ten years. In contrast we find that the deal includes important long-­‐term verification procedures that last until 2040, and others that last indefinitely under the NPT and its Additional Protocol. On the other hand, we do believe that it would be valuable to strengthen these durable international institutions. We recommend that your team work with the IAEA to gain agreement to implement some of the key innovations included in the JCPOA into existing safeguards agreements. This will reduce the proliferation risks associated with national fuel cycle facilities worldwide. Thus in the future, when Iran is treated the same as all non-­‐nuclear weapons states with nuclear energy programs, all such programs will be more stringently constrained and verified.

As you have stated, this deal does not take any options off the table for you or any future president. Indeed it will make it much easier for you or a future president to know if and when Iran heads for a bomb, and the detection of a significant violation of this agreement will provide strong, internationally supported justification for intervention.

In conclusion, we congratulate you and your team on negotiating a technically sound, stringent and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, and provides a basis for further initiatives to raise the barriers to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the globe.”

New York Times Editorial Board

” The exaggerations and half-truths that some Republicans are using to derail President Obama‘s important and necessary nuclear deal with Iran are beyond ugly. Invoking the Holocaust, Mike Huckabee, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has accused Mr. Obama of marching Israelis “to the door of the oven.” Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas, has compared Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped negotiate the deal, to Pontius Pilate.

What should be a thoughtful debate has been turned into a vicious battle against Mr. Obama, involving not just the Republicans but Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The unseemly spectacle of lawmakers siding with a foreign leader against their own commander in chief has widened an already dangerous breach between two old allies.

Policy considerations aside, what is most striking about the demagoguery is how ahistorical, if not downright hypocritical, it is. Negotiating with adversaries to advance a more stable world has long been a necessity, and Republican presidents have been among its most eager practitioners.

Critics complain that the nuclear deal fails to eradicate all of Iran’s nuclear program, even for peaceful energy production, and provides sanctions relief, including access to $50 billion in Iranian assets frozen in foreign banks.

But what these critics do not mention is that the basic bargain Mr. Obama agreed to — benefits in exchange for nuclear limits — was endorsed by President George W. Bush and the other major powers in 2006. Though Mr. Bush was certainly opposed to allowing Iran to build a nuclear weapon, the proposal did not demand that Iran totally dismantle its nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities (as critics now do); it instead offered assurances that Iran would have fuel for its civilian energy program and be integrated into the international economy. Two years later, the proposal was further enhanced, but talks with Tehran never went anywhere.

Negotiating with enemies is an essential component of statecraft and can be a crucial alternative to war. Even when America was at the height of its powers, its leaders — including Republicans — knew that any successful deal would involve some compromise with the other side, not complete capitulation. Yet that is exactly what the Republicans are demanding of Iran today as they lay plans to repudiate Mr. Obama’s hard-won accord in pursuit of some mythical “better” deal.

The accord has shortcomings, as all do, and there are risks in any decision. But a preponderance of responsible opinion — the five major powers, the United Nations Security Council, most American nuclear experts and scores of leading American diplomats — have endorsed the pact as the best way to ensure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

America is stronger when important national security decisions have bipartisan consensus. None of that seems to matter to the accord’s opponents, many of whom never intended to vote for the deal and made clear during congressional hearings last week that facts will not change their minds.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi “A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States, unacceptable to Israel, and unacceptable to the world. Aggressive restrictions and inspections offer the best long-term plan to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Congress will closely review the details of this agreement.” “I’ve closely examined this document, and it will have my strong support. [It’s] a good product. Not only better than the status quo, not only the best possible option, but a strong, effective proposal for keeping the peace and stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” The deal is “a diplomatic masterpiece.”

Sen. Dick Durbin “The United States, working with our allies, has reached a historic agreement with Iran that, according to President Obama and Secretary Kerry, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I commend our negotiators for this critical effort. Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place.” “We know the cost of war. We know it in human lives. We know it in the casualties that return. We know it in the cost to the American people. Given a choice between the invasion of Iran or working in a diplomatic fashion toward a negotiation so that we can lessen this threat to the world, I think President Obama made the right choice. I support this Administration’s decision to go forward with this agreement. I’ll be adding my vote to many in the Senate in the hope that we can see a new day dawning. In the hope, too, that like President Nixon, like President Reagan, and like other presidents before us who have sat down to negotiate with our enemies, at the end of the day we’ll be a safer and stronger nation because of it.” “There’s no alternative to this agreement. If for some reason it does not go through, and Iran closes the doors on their development of a nuclear weapon, how could Israel or any nation feel any safer? Absent an agreement, we believe Iran will set out to develop a nuclear weapon. We can’t just let Republicans just criticize the agreement without at least suggesting what the alternative would be.” “#IranDeal provides safeguards & inspections to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons now or in the future.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein “The agreement announced today between the world’s major powers and Iran is historic. It offers a verifiable, diplomatic resolution to one of our most pressing national security challenges. This is a strong agreement that meets our national security needs and I believe will stand the test of time. I stand behind the U.S. negotiating team and will support this agreement in the Senate.” “I support the #IranDeal because Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb are blocked through the agreement.”

Sen. Chris Murphy “The best way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is through diplomacy, not war. At a time when the Middle East is awash in crippling violence, we have an opportunity to address one of the most dangerous threats to the United States and the region through a negotiation, and I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and their team for the agreement that was reached today.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders  “I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the leaders of other major nations for producing a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling and could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East. I look forward to learning more about the complex details of this agreement to make sure that it is effective and strong.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Diplomacy is our best hope of ending the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, far better than the alternative of escalating tensions & war.”

Arms Control Association “The agreement will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran’s sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities… If Congress somehow blocks implementation of this hard-won, balanced and effective multilateral deal, the United States will have broken from its European allies, the necessary international support for Iran-related sanctions would melt away, Iran would be able to rapidly and significantly expand its capacity to produce bomb-grade material; we would lose out on securing enhanced inspections needed to detect a clandestine weapons effort. The risk of a nuclear-armed Iran would thereby increase.”

Atlantic Council “The Iran Task Force of the Atlantic Council supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) announced in Vienna this week and applauds the bold intent and intense efforts of President Barack Obama and his team of diplomats and scientists who worked so hard to bring it to fruition. At the same time we support the JCPOA, we believe it is necessary to view the agreement with a clear-eyed, realistic perspective, wishing for the best outcome but also being prepared for less-favorable scenarios given past Iranian conduct. We hope that our colleagues in Congress will share this objective with a non-partisan appraisal of the agreement. This agreement is better than the alternatives if the JCPOA is rejected.”

Center for American Progress “The agreement between the P5+1 and Iran that constrains Iran’s nuclear program is a historic achievement for the United States and its partners. Iran’s nuclear program will now fall under unprecedented international scrutiny to ensure that Tehran cannot pursue nuclear weapons. It represents the strongest possible outcome for the United States and its partners, avoiding both the passive appeasement of Iran and the dangers of military action. It is the best way to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Center for American Progress “The nuclear agreement gives the United States and its allies their best shot at reining in Iran’s nuclear program. It offers a longer delay than any military option and places restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities that would be absent without an agreement.”

Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation “Americans support a good deal, and Congress must do the same. The announced deal: Increases the time Iran might ‘break out’ of the deal and obtain a nuclear weapon from two months to more than one year, provides the U.S. and the international community with ample time and capability to detect any potential violations of Iran’s commitments, stipulates an IAEA report by the end of the year on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s prior nuclear program, allows inspectors access to military facilities if they inspect suspicious nuclear activity, [and] places Iran’s nuclear program under lock, key, and camera, including its centrifuge factories and uranium supply chains.”

Council on Peace and Security “Although the agreement signed in Vienna between the world powers and Iran is not optimal, it should remove the immediate threat of an Iranian break-out leading to a nuclear military capability within a few months, as the situation without the agreement and prior to the interim agreement was evaluated. The agreement is expected to lengthen the break-out time to 12 months for at least 10 years.”

Just Foreign Policy “This is a good deal for America that makes the world safer by blocking potential Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon, thereby removing any excuse for another disastrous war of choice. As Congress reviews the deal over the next two months, we will defend the deal and challenge Democrats and war-skeptic Republicans to defend it as well.”

National Iranian American Council “With a nuclear deal in hand, we who urged that the U.S. and Iran must give diplomacy a chance have been proven right. Peace was possible, provided that the right policies were adopted and backed with sufficient political will. Make no mistake: if Congress rejects this good deal with Iran, there will be no better deal forthcoming and Congress will be left owning an unnecessary war.”

Truman National Security Project “Many of us witnessed firsthand the damage done by an unnecessary war fought in the Middle East in the name of nuclear non-proliferation. This time, through tough American-led diplomacy, we have closed off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon without risking American lives.”

100 Former Ambassadors, including Amb. Thomas Pickering (ret.), Fmr. Amb. to Israel; Amb. Daniel Kurtzer (ret.), Fmr. Amb. to Israel; Amb. Nicholas Burns (ret.), Fmr. Amb. to NATO; and Amb. Ryan Crocker (ret.), Fmr. Amb. to Afghanistan and Iraq “The JCPOA deserves Congressional support. We firmly believe that the most effective way to protect U.S. national security, and that of our allies and friends is to ensure that tough-minded diplomacy has a chance to succeed before considering other more costly alternatives. We are satisfied that the JCPOA will put in place a set of constraints and inspections that can assure that Iran’s nuclear program… will remain only for peaceful purposes and that no part of Iran is exempt from inspection.”

60 National Security Leaders, including Madeleine Albright, Fmr. Secretary of State; Samuel Berger, Fmr. National Security Advisor; William Perry; Fmr. Secretary of Defense; Admiral Eric Olson (ret.), Fmr. Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; Amb. Edward J. Walker, Jr. (ret.), Amb. to Israel, Egypt, and UAE “We applaud the announcement that a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program. We congratulate President Obama and all the negotiators for a landmark agreement unprecedented in its importance for preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran. Though primarily a nonproliferation agreement, the JCPOA has significant implications for some of America’s most important national objectives:regional stability in the Middle East, Israel’s security, dealing with an untrustworthy and hostile nation, and U.S. leadership on major global challenges.”

70 members of the European Leadership Network, including Des Browne, Chair of ELN; George Robertson, Fmr. Secretary General of NATO; Michel Rocard, Fmr. Prime Minister of France; Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Fmr. Secretary General of NATO; Volker Ruhe, Fmr. German Defense Minister “We urge all the parties to implement it in good faith and call on all European states and the wider international community to support it. We believe that this agreement provides a sound framework for ending the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program and a foundation for re-integrating Iran into the international community. At the same time, the adoption of the document is just a first step in a process which must increase the level of the security of all countries in the Middle East, Europe and beyond.”

7 Former Under Secretaries of State and Former American Ambassadors to Israel “We are persuaded that this agreement will put in place a set of constraints and monitoring measures that will arrest Iran’s nuclear program for at least fifteen years and assure that this agreement will leave Iran no legitimate avenue to produce a nuclear weapon during the next ten to fifteen years. This landmark agreement removes the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the region and to Israel specifically. No agreement between multiple parties can be perfect or without risks. We believe that without this agreement, however, the risks will be much higher for the United States and Israel.  We see no fatal flaws that should call for the rejection of this agreement and have not heard any  viable alternatives from those who oppose the implementation of the JCPOA. The rejection of this agreement could lead to the U.S. having to use military force  without the support of other allies and without the understanding of the international community.”

Madeleine Albright, Fmr. Secretary of State “When the next president is elected, I hope that she will be in a position to make sure the deal is carried out. This agreement offers the opportunity to look at other parts of a bilateral relationship.”

Yossi Alpher, Fmr. senior official of Mossad “The Iran nuclear deal makes the Middle East a safer place in one extremely important dimension and for a reasonable period of time. If Netanyahu were wise, he would exploit the deal to Israel’s strategic advantage. Meanwhile, in the short term security is liable to deteriorate in other regional dimensions.”

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA “I am confident in our ability to do this important work. The IAEA stands ready to undertake the necessary monitoring and verification activities when requested.”

Steve Andreasen, National Security Council “The most likely alternative to this agreement is not some other agreement; rather, it is the unraveling of the international coalition in support of sanctions against Iran, less transparency into Iran’s activities, and a potential war between the United States and Iran. If Congress votes to kill this deal, the United States will be widely perceived as scuttling an accord negotiated over many years and supported by Europe, Russia, China, and much of the rest of the world. A verifiable agreement that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful would provide a foundation for strategic patience and at least delay if not obviate such a fateful course. The technical details of this agreement matter. However, what matters at least equally is what is not written down on paper: Iran’s capacity to produce a nuclear weapon cannot be erased by any agreement; an agreement with Iran can buy valuable time; and war with Iran is perhaps the most likely alternative to this deal.”

Kofi Annan, Fmr. Secretary-General of the United Nations “The countries of the world can be grateful for the… hope that this agreement has brought. It is vital that tangible and early progress is now made on implementation, in particular on watertight verification mechanisms and the lifting of sanctions on Iran.”

Ami Ayalon, Fmr. Director of Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service) “Reaching the agreement wasn’t a mistake. It is the best of the available options, even though it strengthens Iran as a troublemaker.”

Avishay Ben Sasson-Gordis, Molad “Thanks to the talks, Iran’s nuclear program has been scaled back for the first time in over a decade. There is no better option. Netanyahu claims that the agreement places Iran on the nuclear threshold in ten years – but without the deal, it would be there by now.”

Barry Blechman, Stimson “This is an historic agreement which stops Iran’s nuclear program in its tracks for at least ten years, and probably for many more. It includes all necessary technical measures to ensure that Iran is complying with its commitments, provides sanctions relief only as those commitments are demonstrated, and will make the U.S. and its friends in the region far more secure than they would be in any other scenario.”

Hans Blix, Fmr. Head of the IAEA “I think it is a remarkably far-reaching and detailed agreement. And I think it has a potential for stabilizing and improving the situation in the region as it gradually gets implemented. The alternative mind you, as Obama says, the alternative really is toward war.”

Butch Bracknell and Adam Tiffen, Truman National Security Project “Serving in the U.S. armed forces during a time of conflict was a real honor. It also gave us front-row seats to one of the most significant foreign policy blunders in American history: Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tough U.S.-led diplomacy to reach an enforceable, verifiable agreement preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is essential to ensuring more of our fellow service members and frontline civilians are not placed in harm’s way in yet another ill-defined Middle East conflict.”

Michael Breen, Truman National Security Project “Keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is of central importance to American security. This agreement demonstrates the power of tough, principled diplomacy — and will make America and our allies safer and stronger if properly implemented and enforced. American leadership made this agreement possible. Through tough American-led diplomacy, we have charted a better, smarter course.”

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom “The international community has delivered a historic deal with Iran. A deal which secures our fundamental aim – to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon – and that will help to make our world a safer place.” “I think that if there wasn’t a deal, I think we would face Iran with a nuclear weapon.  And that would’ve given a terrible choice to the West of either enabling that, allowing that to happen, or a very difficult decision to take military action. So, this the better outcome. It keeps Iran away from a nuclear weapon. It’s a successful negotiation for the allies. And I think we should be proud of a good deal done.”

Hillary Clinton, Fmr. Secretary of State “This is an important step in putting a lid on Iran’s nuclear program. In the agreement we have the access for inspections and the transparency that was absolutely necessary. As president [I would] be absolutely devoted to ensure that the agreement is followed.”

Avner Cohen, Israeli expert on nuclear issues “It’s good because it contains the potential to drastically change the Israeli agenda and the Israeli condition. The removal of the ‘Iranian threat’ can provide a huge positive impact on Israeli politics and on the entire public agenda and quality of life in the country. That perhaps is the real reason why Netanyahu has been whimpering that the accord is a bad one. If the pact works, it could change all of our priorities and force us to deal with Israel’s real pressing issues.”

Roger Cohen, The New York Times “If implemented, the agreement constitutes the most remarkable American diplomatic achievement since the Dayton Accords put an end to the Bosnian war two decades ago. It increases the distance between Iran and a bomb as it reduces the distance between Iran and the world. It makes the Middle East less dangerous by forestalling proliferation.”

Matthew Duss, Foundation for Middle East Peace “The historic nuclear deal announced Tuesday in Vienna between the U.S. and its P5+1 partners and Iran demonstrates an alternative vision of the use of American power. It shows that our security and the security of our partners can be effectively advanced through multilateral diplomacy, and proves once again the importance of U.S. global leadership in addressing shared problems. The Vienna agreement is a victory for a better vision of foreign policy.”

Oded Eran, Institute for National Security Studies “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) reached on July 14, 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 and the EU High Representative may ultimately prove to be one of President Obama’s greatest achievements.”

Chuck Freilich, Fmr. deputy national security adviser in Israel “[The deal] is a compromise agreement that postpones an existential threat to Israel, opens the possibility for a strategic change in the Middle East and strengthens Israel’s security.

Thomas Friedman, New York Times “The diplomatic option structured by the Obama team — if properly implemented and augmented by muscular diplomacy — serves core American interests better than any options I hear coming from the deal’s critics. I believe America’s interests are best served now by focusing on how to get the best out of this deal and cushion the worst, rather than scuttling it.”

Leslie H. Gelb, Council on Foreign Relations “As for the heart of the nuclear agreement— for certain it is not perfect, but it does represent clear steps forward in holding Tehran to account on its nuclear efforts. All provisions regarding developing uranium or plutonium hold Iran way below where it is at present and where it’s been headed.”

Fawaz Gerges, London School of Economics “It’s a good day for diplomacy, it’s a good day for compromise, it’s a good day for a new beginning between Iran — a pivotal state in the Middle East — and the United States”

Philip Gordon, Council on Foreign Relations “A bipartisan group of experts and distinguished former U.S. officials, including some of my former colleagues from the administration’s Iran team, put forward a similar list. It will be interesting to see whether the signatories of the Washington Institute letter conclude the outcome in Vienna meets the necessary bar. On balance I think it does.”

Efraim Halevy, Fmr. head of the Mossad “Without an agreement, Iran will be free to do as it pleases, while the sanctions regime will anyway crumble, as many of the world’s countries will rush to Tehran to sign profitable contracts. Iran made concessions in a series of critical matters. A moment before we storm Capitol Hill, led by the Israeli ambassador to Washington, it’s important to hold a profound debate in Israel on whether no agreement is preferable to an agreement which includes components that are crucial for Israel’s security. There will be no other agreement and no other negotiations. What is better, a signed agreement or no agreement?” “I think the United States scored a great success in creating this international coalition to face down the nuclear threat. This is not a perfect agreement, but when you negotiate, you win some and you lose some.”

Philip Hammond, U.K. Foreign Secretary “After more than a decade of tough negotiations we have reached an historic agreement that will impose strict limits and inspections on Iran’s nuclear programme. Having reached this important agreement, our focus will now be on its swift and full implementation to make sure that a nuclear weapon remains beyond Iran’s reach. We hope, and expect, that this agreement will herald a step-change in Iran’s relations with its neighbours and with the international community.” “We wouldn’t have agreed to the deal unless we were sure that it had robust measures in place to deliver effective oversight on Iran’s nuclear program. This is the best and maybe to only way to build the trust that will allow a dialogue on the many other issues we have in Iran” 

William Hartung, Center for International Policy “The historic Iran nuclear deal is a positive development in its own right. This is a huge step away from the ill-considered calls for military action against Iran that have emanated from U.S. neoconservatives. It’s good for America, good for Iran, and good for the region.”

Nader Hashemi, Center for Middle East Studies “The agreement is good for the Iranian people. The easing of sanctions will benefit the Iranian middle class and civil society, which comprises the core support base for Iran’s pro-democracy movement. a more nuanced perspective is needed. And that means realizing that this nuclear deal represents a historic defeat for Iranian foreign policy — and that it potentially opens the door for the revival of Iran’s pro-democracy movement. A more nuanced perspective is needed. And that means realizing that this nuclear deal represents a historic defeat for Iranian foreign policy — and that it potentially opens the door for the revival of Iran’s pro-democracy movement.” 

Laicie Heeley, Stimson “The U.S. and its international partners have delivered a strong deal. Under this deal, the American people and the populations of our closest allies will be safer and more secure, since Iran’s nuclear program will remain verifiably constrained. Congress should look favorably upon this agreement, which has achieved the aims it set out to obtain, and more.” 

Francois Hollande, President of France “It’s a very important deal that was signed overnight, the world is making headway.”

Meir Javedanfar, Israeli expert on Iran “If Iran really wants a weapon, with Obama’s agreement we will have a one year waiting period for Iran to actually make one, if it decides to make one.  OK – with this deal, it will be one year breakout period.  With what Netanyahu is suggesting, which is the continuation of the current tensions with Iran until Iran completely capitulates…Iran would only need two months to make a nuclear weapon. So, what do we want to choose? A two-months warning period for Iran to make a weapon or one year?  We want one year. And this is the situation.  Nobody is trusting Iran, the Iranian regime. It’s not about trust – it’s about mistrust and verify.” 

Adel al-Jubeir, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia “We are currently in talks with the American government regarding these details, but it (the deal) generally seems to have achieved these objectives.” 

John Kerry, Secretary of State “The fact is that the agreement we’ve reached, fully implemented, will bring insight and accountability to Iran’s nuclear program – not for a small number of years but for the lifetime of that program. This is the good deal that we have sought. I will tell you, sanctioning Iran until it capitulates makes for a powerful talking point and a pretty good political speech, but it’s not achievable outside a world of fantasy. The true measure of this agreement is not whether it meets all of the desires of one side at the expense of the other; the test is whether or not it will leave the world safer and more secure than it would be without it. There can be no question that this agreement will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, and more lasting means of limiting Iran’s nuclear program than any realistic alternative. I learned in war the price that is paid when diplomacy fails. I believe this agreement actually represents an effort to avert an inevitability of conflict that would come were we not able to reach agreement.  I think that’s what diplomacy was put in place to achieve.”

“[If Congress failed to approve the deal], the U.S. will have lost all credibility. We will not be in the hunt. And if we then decided to use military [after a deal fails], do you believe the United Nations will be with us? Do you think our European colleagues will support us? Not on your life.”  “We set out to dismantle their ability to be able to build a nuclear weapon, and we’ve achieved that. The deal we believe will make our country and our allies safer. We believe this is a good deal for the world, a good deal for America, a good deal for our allies and friends in the region, and we think it does deserve your support.” 

“I believe this agreement actually represents an effort by the United States of America and all of its colleagues in the P5+1 to come together with Iran to avert an inevitability of conflict that would come were we not able to reach agreement. I think that’s what diplomacy was put in place to achieve, and I know that war is the failure of diplomacy and the failure of leaders to make alternative decisions.”

“We have the support of Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and Germany. If we suddenly went off by ourselves and said no to this, we’re not only going to lose the support of the international community, we’re going to lose the access, lose the accountability. We would have no mechanism to verify that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. Without this deal, Iran could go do what it wants unchecked by the international community.”

“To those who are thinking about opposing the deal because of what might happen in year 15 or 16 — remember that, if we walk away, year 15 starts tomorrow — and without any of the long-term verification or transparency safeguards that we have put in place to ensure that we prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

“Remember that sanctions did not stop Iran’s nuclear program from growing steadily, to the point it had accumulated enough low enriched uranium that, if further enriched, could be used to produce about 10 nuclear bombs. The truth is that the Vienna plan will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, and more lasting means of limiting Iran’s nuclear program than any realistic alternative.” 

Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General “I warmly welcome the historic agreement in Vienna today and congratulate the P5+1 and Iran for reaching this agreement. This is testament to the value of dialogue. I hope – and indeed believe – that this agreement will lead to greater mutual understanding and cooperation on the many serious security challenges in the Middle East.  As such it could serve as a vital contribution to peace and stability both in the region and beyond. The United Nations stands ready to fully cooperate with the parties in the process of implementing this historic and important agreement.” 

Joe Klein, TIME “Yes, the Iran deal is risky. But we have been taking all sorts of bellicose risks since Sept. 11, 2001. Almost all of our military ventures have failed. So many lives have been lost. It’s time, finally, to take a risk for peace.” 

Michael Krepon, Stimson “This agreement significantly reduces Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons for ten years or more. It contains effective monitoring provisions. It is far better than any of the alternatives before us. A divide over this agreement, mostly along partisan lines, and repeated attempts to block its implementation will diminish U.S. leadership, destabilize the Middle East, place even greater burdens on U.S. military forces and weaken the U.S. Treasury. Friends and allies of the United States in Europe and the Pacific need to know that they can trust in U.S. executive agreements. Friends in the Middle East need a bipartisan plan to address their concerns about Iran. Congress voted to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Will it now vote against an agreement that verifiably limits Iran’s all-too-real nuclear capabilities?” 

Ellen Laipson, President and CEO of Stimson “Diplomacy – the long and hard slog of it – is one of the victors here. A negotiated agreement to change Iran’s policy and practice on issues with great regional security consequence could set a precedent for problem solving in a region where the resort to force is the default position. To make this agreement a truly lasting contribution to regional peace, all parties will need to support its implementation and Iran in particular could signal to its neighbors that it is willing to address other causes of tension and insecurity.” 

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister “[The deal] without a doubt will play an important role in ensuring non-proliferation in general and make the situation in the Middle East healthier.” 

Hon. Mel Levine, Former Member of Congress, AIPAC Board Member “The accord is the one path that provides a peaceful means of resolving the major threat of Iran’s achieving a nuclear weapon and will enhance the security of Israel and the world. Without this deal, the risk of war in the Middle East dramatically increases as well as the real risk of nuclear proliferation. I believe my friends in AIPAC and some of my friends in Israel have made a regrettable rush to judgment in immediately opposing the Iran agreement.” 

Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary  Iran will not receive any new relief until it fulfills all of the key nuclear-related commitments specified in the deal. Should Iran fully comply with the terms of the JCPOA, and should the IAEA verify this compliance, phased sanctions relief will come into effect”

“Should Iran fulfill all of the necessary conditions, we will have reached what it is known as “Implementation Day,” and phased relief will begin. At that time, the United States will suspend nuclear-related secondary sanctions. These are the sanctions that primarily target third-country parties conducting business with Iran — including in the oil, banking, and shipping sectors.”

“While our focus is on successfully implementing this deal, we must guard against the possibility that Iran does not uphold its side of the deal. That is why, should Iran violate its commitments once we have suspended sanctions, we have the mechanisms ready to snap them back into place. For U.S. sanctions, this can be done in a matter of days. Multilateral sanctions at the UN also can be re-imposed quickly, through a mechanism that does not allow any one country or any group of countries to prevent the reinstitution of the current UN Security Council sanctions if Iran violates the deal.”

Jeffrey Lewis, Center for Nonproliferation Studies “This deal might not be ideal, or as good as the one we could have achieved a decade ago, but compared with the invasion of Iraq, a nuclear-armed Iran, or even a deal we might be able to negotiate a few years down the road, it is incredibly strong.” 

Aaron David Miller, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars “There’s no question the Obama administration got what it wanted out of this deal: a slower, smaller Iranian nuclear program more easily monitored and constrained for at least a decade. No chance now of a pre-emptive Israeli strike, and no need for an American one. For now, a putative nuclear crisis has been defused and kicked down the road.”

Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative and Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister “What we are announcing today is not only a deal but a good deal. And a good deal for all sides – and the wider international community. We call on the world community to support the implementation of this historic effort.” 

Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative “We agreed on a deal that is not based on trust, but on precise commitments, on transparency and verification. It is a deal made to withstand the challenge of time; a good deal, with no space for interpretations or doubts. A deal that, while implemented, will allow us to build trust and lay the foundations for a new relationship. The whole Middle East is in turmoil. We need to restart political processes to end wars.” 

Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy “We are better off forever in terms of Iranian nuclear activity under this agreement than we would be without it. What we have done is we have dramatically limited and constrained the program. We are very confident in our ability to detect the vestiges of any nuclear work beyond 24 days.” 

“The JCPOA prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, provides strong verification measures that give us ample time to respond if Iran chose to violate its terms, and takes none of our options off the table. This deal is based on science and analysis. I am confident that this is a good deal for America, for our allies, and for our global security.” “The deal provides an agreement between the great powers and Iran that Iran will never develop or acquire a nuclear weapon, in turn providing a basis for an overwhelming response should it ever attempt to do so. The unity of purpose by the signatories — China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States — is unprecedented. Most important, we got the science right. I spent 40 years as a nuclear physicist faculty member at MIT and much of this year negotiating with Iran’s nuclear experts. And I drew on exhaustive technical analysis by our leading nuclear experts at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories and nuclear sites. This deal moves them back from that threshold for a considerable period and raises our verification capabilities forever.” 

“The Arak reactor, which according to its original design would have been a source of plutonium for at least one nuclear weapon per year, will be transformed to produce far less plutonium than before and of a much lower quality.” 

“Iran already has an R&D program for a number of advanced centrifuges (IR-2m, IR4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-8). The pace of the program will be slowed substantially and will be carried out only at the Natanz site for 15 years, under close International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring. Iran will not pursue other approaches to uranium enrichment.”

This deal is not based on trust. It is based on unprecedented monitoring and verification. And the duration of the agreement is indefinite. Some provisions will be in place for 10 years, others for 15, and still others for 20 or 25. But transparency requirements and Iran’s most fundamental obligation — to forego a nuclear weapons program — are permanent.”

“Much has been made about a possible 24-day delay before inspectors could gain access to suspected undeclared nuclear sites. The IAEA can request access to any suspicious location with 24 hours’ notice. This this deal also creates a new mechanism to ensure that the IAEA gets the required access and sets a firm time limit to resolve access issues within 24 days. We have very high confidence that nuclear material used for advancing a nuclear program will detected in this time frame.”

Richard Nephew, Brookings “The deal negotiated by the P5+1 will create a one year or longer breakout timeline for Iran’s declared nuclear program for the first ten years of the implementation phase of the deal. We are far better off with the deal than without it.” 

President Barack Obama “This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change. Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems. Hard-nosed diplomacy. Leadership that has united the world’s major powers, offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.”  “You should have some alternative to present. And I haven’t heard that. And the reason is because there really are only two alternatives here. Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force, through war. Those are the options. Now you’ll hear some critics say, ‘We could have negotiated a better deal.’ Well Ok, what does that mean?”  “It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure this deal holds.  Because without this deal, there would be no limits on Iran’s nuclear program. There would be no monitoring, no inspections. The sanctions we rallied the world to impose would unravel.  Iran could move closer to a nuclear weapon. Other countries in the region might race to do the same.  And we’d risk another war in the most volatile region in the world. That’s what would happen without this deal.”  “”In the debate over this deal, we’re hearing the echoes of some of the same policies and mindset that failed us in the past. Some of the same politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq, and said it would take a few months. And we know the consequences of that choice and what it cost us in blood and treasure. I believe there’s a smarter, more responsible way. We’ve done the hard and patient work [of diplomacy] instead of chest-beating which rejects the idea of even talking to our adversaries.”

Dr. Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council “No other option comes even close to this deal when it comes to closing off all of Iran’s paths to a bomb. Military action in particular is far inferior — and far more risky. The deal will prevent a war with Iran.” 

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. “[The deal gives Iran] an opportunity to prove to the world that it intends to pursue a nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes. If Iran seizes that opportunity … then it will find the international community and the United States willing to provide a path out of isolation and toward greater engagement.” 

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia “We are satisfied that the solution found is based on the principle of phasing and mutuality, which our country has been consistently supporting at every stage of these complicated negotiations.” 

Susan Rice, National Security Advisor “We have complete ability on our own to go into the Security Council with evidence of a violation after a process and snap those sanctions back into place. [The verification time] is more than an adequate time and we shouldn’t be worried.”

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran “Negotiators have reached a good agreement and I announce to our people that our prayers have come true.”

Jacqueline Shire, Fmr. member of the U.N. Panel of Experts on Iran “This deal keeps Iran’s nuclear program confined, monitored from every angle, with narrow maneuvering room. It also provides a path for Iran to engage constructively with the world, more necessary now than ever before.” 

Javier Solana, Fmr. Secretary General of NATO “The successful outcome of the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program provides a splendid validation for those who put their faith in diplomacy. The agreement – concluded after more than a decade of talks – highlights the value of persistence in addressing impasses that seem insurmountable, and provides hope for the many other initiatives that will be needed to bring lasting peace to the Middle East. The historic agreement with Iran is just one of many that will be required to bring peace and stability to the Middle East. The first hurdle has been overcome. We must now run the rest of the race.” 

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO “This agreement represents a historic breakthrough which, once fully implemented, will strengthen international security.” 

Greg Thielmann, Arms Control Association “The United States and its five negotiating partners have just extracted from Tehran what many thought was impossible — a comprehensive and verifiable deal that effectively closes off Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons for many years. It is now time for the U.S. Congress to make sure the deal can be implemented. To prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons and to protect the security of the United States and of our allies in the region, Iowa’s senators and representatives in Congress should embrace the chance to vote ‘yes.’” 

John Tirman, Center for International Studies at MIT “The Iran nuclear accord has three legacies. The first is limiting Iran’s enrichment capacity. The second is bolstering moderates in Iran. The third is changing Iran’s relationship with the United States. The most immediate beneficiaries are none of the powers at the table in Vienna, but the brutalized peoples of the Middle East.” 

Alex Vatanka, Middle East Institute “The Iranian public is very optimistic and hopeful that the painful economic sanctions will soon begin to be rolled back. The United States, for its part, has succeeded in finding a diplomatic path forward.” 

Fareed Zakaria, The Washington Post “Obama’s critics say he is gambling that Iran will comply with the accord. In fact, the administration is making a calculated bet that Iran will be constrained by international pressure, intrusive inspections, verification mechanisms and the prospect of snapback sanctions. The deal’s opponents have conjured up a fantasy scenario.”


Rep. John Boehner “No deal is better than a bad deal. And from everything that’s leaked from these negotiations, the administration’s backed away from almost all of the guidelines that they set up for themselves. And so if, in fact, there’s no agreement, the sanctions are going to go back in place. And at some point, the Iranian regime, they’re going to have to change their behavior. Abandon their efforts to get a nuclear weapon, and stop being the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. [If the talks fail and Iran continues its nuclear ambitions], then we’ll have a standoff. But that’s a lot better than legitimizing this rogue regime.” “Iran, by all accounts, still isn’t serious about abandoning its nuclear weapons program.  When will the president and his negotiators stand strong?  We cannot accept a deal that hands Iran billions of sanctions relief while allowing it to retain the capability to build a bomb almost immediately. Iran is a global menace, Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. And I think it’s a pipe dream to think that the regime will ever be a responsible partner. I think it’s time for the administration to come back to earth.” “The president has abandoned his own goals.  His ‘deal’ will hand Iran billions in sanctions relief while giving it time and space to reach a break-out threshold to produce a nuclear bomb – all without cheating. Instead of making the world less dangerous, this ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran. I won’t support any agreement that jeopardizes the safety of the American people and all who value freedom and security.  This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats.  It’s about right and wrong.  And we will fight a bad deal that is wrong for our national security and wrong for our country.” “The deal that we have out there, in my view, from what I know of it thus far, is unacceptable. It’s going to hand a dangerous regime billions of dollars in sanctions relief while paving the way for a nuclear Iran. If in fact it’s as bad a deal as I think it is at this moment, we’ll do everything we can to stop it.” “This is a bad deal.  It paves the way for a nuclear Iran. President Obama says it’s this deal or war.  Well, that’s a false choice.  The sanctions were working, and bringing Iran to its knees.  We’re going to continue to review this, but we’re going to fight a bad deal that’s wrong for our national security and wrong for our country.”

Sen. Bob Corker “Knowing that the administration appears to be continuing to cross red lines that they previously have set, we want to point that out and hopefully stiffen their spines so the deal doesn’t erode further. I do feel it moving in a nonpositive direction, and I feel like one of my responsibilities is to share publicly those concerns, and privately.”  “We have gone from dismantling their program to managing proliferation. That’s the biggest concern. There are numbers of issues. It’s been going on a negative trend for some time. As was mentioned, they’re going to have their sanctions relief. So, you’re going to have a country whose economy is growing rapidly that’s going to have all kinds of — over $100 billion of money to help create further terrorism in the region. And so they’re going to be growing. They’re going to be getting more established. And then, after 10 years, there’s something called the Iranian nuclear development program that’s been agreed to. And at that point, they’re basically going to be able to industrialize their program.”  “We know they were building a bomb, we just don’t know how far along they were. I actually think the deadline was working in Iran’s favor. Iran will cheat by inches.”  “I want to read the agreement in detail and fully understand it, but I begin from a place of deep skepticism that the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”  “I think every responsible person here in Congress should begin with a skeptical outlook. We’re dealing with a country that is not trustworthy, a country that has killed thousands of Americans in Iraq. These people are not our friends today, and so the fact is we need to go through this and look at it in great detail.” “We started several months ago with Iran as a rogue nation and a boot on its neck. Our goal was to dismantle its program. We’ve ended up with a deal that codifies the industrialization of its nuclear program. Everyone here knows that there is no practical need for the program they are building. It’s very easy to cover up nuclear weapons. I believe you have crossed a new threshold in U.S. foreign policy where it is now our policy to enable a sponsor of terror to gain a sophisticated nuclear program.”

“Throughout the negotiations, the Administration routinely asserted that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ and threatened to walk away if necessary, so clearly there was always another option for the White House — and it wasn’t war.”

Sen. Ted Cruz “I think this deal that is being negotiated by the Obama administration is  profoundly dangerous both to the security of our friend and ally Israel, but also to American national security.”

“Today, the international community led by the United States has agreed to not only legitimize and perpetuate the Iranian nuclear program, but also to further arm and enrich the brutal theocratic regime that has oppressed the Iranian people for more than thirty years. Despite these facts, it seems President Obama would concede almost anything to get any deal – even a terrible deal. I urge all my fellow citizens to speak out and let their elected leaders know that even if President Obama won’t see it, we know the leaders of the Islamic Republic who lead crowds in chants of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ are not our partners in peace, and must not be put on the path to a nuclear bomb.” 

“You know one entity, one person with whom there is no ambiguity in terms of whether Iran wants a nuclear weapon is the Ayatollah Khamenei. Is President Rouhani. Both of whom explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it.” 

“President Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton couldn’t even be bothered to say before we even begin a conversation, release four hostages currently languishing in a hell hole. Those four hostages have been abandoned by the federal government. The projections are that one nuclear head in the atmosphere over the Eastern seaboard could result in tens of millions of Americans dying. That’s what is at risk… that millions of Americans will be murdered by radical theocratic zealots.” 

“If this deal goes through, the Obama administration, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, will become the leading global financiers of radical Islamic terrorism.”

“The Iranian nuclear deal is catastrophic — the single greatest national security threat facing America. To allow a country led by a theocratic zealot who chants ‘death to America’ to have a weapon that could in the flash of an eye murder millions of Americans. We have to stop this deal.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham “We’re so far away from where we started from in these negotiations. We’re trying to make sure that the deal that’s being cut is a deal that’s worth a damn.”  “I would love to end the nuclear ambition of the Iranians without firing a shot, but you have to know who you’re talking to and what they actually want. This is North Korea in the making.”  “I don’t want a war but if that’s what you want, you’re gonna lose it. We’re gonna sink your navy and we’re gonna shoot your air force down”  “I really think there’s a better than 50/50 chance that we’ll get enough ‘no’ votes. If the Arabs come out and say this is a bad deal, if AIPAC says this is a bad deal, if public opinion says we don’t trust this deal, then our Democratic colleagues will hopefully come forward to say, ‘We can do better.’”  “My initial impression is that this deal is far worse than I ever dreamed it could be and will be a nightmare for the region, our national security and eventually the world at large. If the initial reports regarding the details of this deal hold true, there’s no way as president of the United States I would honor this deal. It’s incredibly dangerous for our national security, and it’s akin to declaring war on Sunni Arabs and Israel by the P5+1 because it ensures their primary antagonist Iran will become a nuclear power and allows them to rearm conventionally.” “This is a bad deal, the worst possible outcome. You’ve created a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. You put Israel at risk and you put us at risk”  “I would keep the interim deal in place. The interim deal has worked better than I thought it would, so hats off to John Kerry.”  “This interim deal gives the Iranians $7 billion in cash and leaves in place one of the most sophisticated enrichment programs around.”

  Sen. John McCain “The most concerning concessions – on sanctions, sunset, inspections and verification, research and development, and Iran’s enrichment capability, among others – were made long ago. To those concessions, it now appears that the Administration has made still more, especially the repeal of the international arms embargo on Iran. The result, I fear, is that this agreement will strengthen Iran’s ability to acquire conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, while retaining an industrial scale nuclear program, without any basic change to its malign activities in the Middle East.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell “I hope the Obama Administration will make the right decision now and press pause before heading further toward a bad deal with Iran. [The interim agreement] was bad enough, but apparently it was the high point—nearly every day since seems to bring news of a further weakening of an already-weakened Obama Administration position, encouraging hardliners in Tehran to insist upon additional concessions. We plan to pursue the policies and the programs that will be required to rebuild our military”  “It’s going to be a very hard sell. We already know that it’s going to leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state. We could have ratcheted up the sanctions even further because that’s what brought to the table in the first place.”  “The Senate must now weigh why a nuclear agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. We’ll hold hearings and examine the agreement, including several aspects that are particularly integral to understanding what concessions the Iranians were able to secure from the Obama Administration.”

Sen. Robert Menendez “If Iran insists on these red lines in negotiations, then I strongly urge you to suspend negotiations rather than accept a bad deal with Iran.” “Well, I think we started off with the wrong premise. And the problem here is that we have gone from preventing Iran having a nuclear ability to managing it. And at the end of the day, I hope that notwithstanding a deal, that the president makes a very clear statement to Iran that as it relates to the future, we cannot accept Iran having a nuclear weapon, period. But we have to make very clear that there is a deterrence in the longer term because, if not, in 12, 13 years, we will be exactly back to where we are today. Except that Iran will have $100 billion to $150 billion in its pocket and is promoting its terrorism throughout the Middle East.”  “I’m concerned that the deal ultimately legitimizes Iran as a threshold-nuclear state. I’m concerned the redlines we drew have turned into green-lights; that Iran will be required only to limit rather than eliminate its nuclear program, while the international community will be required to lift the sanctions, and that it doesn’t provide for anytime-any-place inspections of suspected sites. The bottom line is: The deal doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear program – it preserves it.”

Sen. Marco Rubio “We already know that this deal is not in the interests of the United States. It will not keep Americans safer. It will only embolden the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism as it expands its influence and sows instability across the Middle East. If the President were serious about negotiating a deal that advances our security and protects our allies, such as Israel, he would walk away from the table and impose new sanctions on Iran until the regime comes to the table ready to negotiate seriously. If he instead chooses to conclude a deal that ensures that Iran will be a nuclear threshold state, I am confident that a majority of both houses of Congress will join me in opposing it, which will lay the foundation for our next President to undo this disaster.” “The Obama Administration’s decision to extend nuclear talks with Iran for the second time in one week is just another sign that it is time for President Obama to walk away from the table. The stakes are too high for this diplomatic charade to continue. Iranian leaders continue to walk back previous commitments, even as they actively sponsor terrorism, pursue regional domination and hold American citizens hostage. It is time for the president to level with the American people and the world and admit that Iran’s government is not negotiating in good faith. Continued negotiations at this point will only lead to further U.S. concessions and a better deal for Iran that funds and emboldens this terrorist-sponsoring regime. It is now clearer than ever that only increased pressure on Iran will ensure a deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”  “This deal violates promises the president made to the American people on multiple fronts. It is not an anytime, anywhere inspection process.”  “I can tell you that there is not much hope of this deal surviving the next presidency, and I hope the next president will reject the deal and reimpose sanctions because this deal is fundamentally and irreparably flawed. I believe it weakens our national security, and it makes the deal a more dangerous place. The world should know that this is this administration’s deal, and the next president is under no moral or legal obligation to live up to it. The world should know that the majority of Congress do not support this deal and that it can be undone the day that President Obama leaves office. I don’t fault you for pursuing diplomacy. I do fault the President for striking a terrible with Iran.” 

AIPAC “This proposed agreement fails to halt Iran’s nuclear quest. Instead, it would facilitate rather than prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror. We strongly believe that the alternative to this bad deal is a better deal. Congress should reject this agreement. Congress should insist on a better deal.” 

Republican Jewish Coalition “This deal meets zero of the criteria for a good deal – it is not enforceable, verifiable, or in America’s national security interest.  Unless Congress stops it, the world will be less safe as the United States will remove sanctions on Iran, and in return, Iran will still pursue nuclear weapons.  The Republican Jewish Coalition calls on all members of Congress to reject this deal.” 

Elliot Abrams, Middle Eastern Studies “Given Iran’s weak bargaining position, what is has achieved is remarkable. The structure of sanctions it took decades to build has been destroyed, but there is no end to the Iranian nuclear program. That program will continue, and eventually grow very large. Meanwhile, the arms embargo on Iran will be lifted after five years–the blink of an eye in international politics–and without requiring any change in Iran’s support for terror or its military actions in the region.” 

David Adesnik, Foreign Policy Initiative “If no deal is better than a bad deal, then rejecting a bad deal remains a viable option when Congress begins its deliberations. By threatening preemptively to veto any resolution of disapproval, President Obama has made it clear that he will not respect congressional determinations of whether this is a good deal or a bad one. In reality, the deal that has been reached may fuel Iran’s appetite for terrorism and conflict in the Middle East.” 

Jeb Bush, Fmr. Governor of Florida “Repeated concessions and desperate accommodation suggest the Obama Administration will do anything to secure a deal. I fear it will be a bad deal for the United States, Israel, and all who desire a stable Middle East. Iran foments instability and sectarian tension throughout the region. It is a delusion to believe, as the President does, that the current regime in Tehran can be a force for stability in the Middle East. The Obama-Clinton-Kerry Iran policy has failed not only because its weak negotiating strategy will not stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability, but also because it has, from the beginning, ignored the comprehensive nature of the threat posed by Iran. The nuclear program is but one symptom of an underlying disease, and the Obama Administration has treated only this one symptom, and ineffectively at that. All of these challenges will, of course, be exponentially more difficult to address if, by consummating a bad nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama Administration squanders the international consensus and sanctions currently pressuring Iran’s leaders without securing a more fundamental shift in Iran’s behavior. “The Obama Administration’s negotiating strategy with Iran is called appeasement. We should walk away.” “The nuclear agreement announced by the Obama Administration today is a dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted deal. The people of Iran, the region, Israel, America, and the world deserve better than a deal that consolidates the grip on power of the violent revolutionary clerics who rule Tehran with an iron fist.”

Dick Cheney, Fmr. Vice President “I think [this deal] put us closer to use — actual use — of nuclear weapons than we’ve been at any time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.”

Michael Doran, Hudson Institute, and Matthew Kroenig, The Atlantic Council “Some pundits have supported Bush’s caution and disparaged Walker’s statement as ‘lacking nuance’ but in reality, Walker’s position is correct. The Iran deal does not protect U.S. interests and one does not need access to classified intelligence briefings to understand this basic fact.”

Mark Dubowitz, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies “We think this deal is fundamentally flawed in its very design because it essentially is a deal, because of the sunsets and snapbacks, that gives Iran an expanding nuclear program over time”  If you vote yes for a deal that ends up failing in all of the ways the critics have been suggesting, then it’s your name on a deal that ends up being a national security disaster” 

Carly Fiorina, GOP Presidential Candidate “I would have walked away because if you can’t walk away from the negotiating table, the other side just keeps negotiating. We have caved on every major goal that President Obama set.” 

Mike Huckabee “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped.” 

“You don’t negotiate with people, especially a pyromaniac who’s standing there with a can of gasoline and a book of matches in his hand, and expect him not to start a fire.”

“This president thinks he was anointed king. I don’t know where his crown is, but this is frustrating, because Chuck Schumer is an honorable guy when it comes to issues in the Middle East, nobody is a more staunch supporter of Israel. I — and I know this was painful for Schumer because he would like to be a good party guy and go along, but what Chuck Schumer did was significant, because it’s an act of statesmanship, not an act of blind partisanship, and God knows we need some more of that in Washington right now.”

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic “I worry that Obama’s negotiators might have given away too much to the Iranians. The dirty little secret of this whole story is that it is very difficult to stop a large nation that possesses both natural resources and human talent, and a deep desire for power, from getting the bomb.” 

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel “[The agreement is] bad mistake of historic proportions. Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons. When willing to make an agreement at any cost, this is the result.”  “The deal agreed to in Vienna, I regret to say, paves this terrorist regime’s path to the bomb. Unfortunately, the current deal allows Iran to avoid making that choice between a path to the bomb and sanctions relief. That’s not a triumph for diplomacy, but a failure of diplomacy.”  “This deal paves Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. I feel it’s my obligation as the prime minister of Israel to speak out against something that endangers the survival of my country, the security of the region, the security of the world. I think the right thing to do is not to do this bad deal.” 

“The nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb — it actually paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

“Worse, it gives Iran two paths to a bomb: Iran can get to a bomb by keeping the deal or Iran can get to the deal by violating the deal.”

“Don’t let the world’s foremost terrorist regime get its hands on the worst most dangerous weapons. Oppose this bad deal.”

“That’s utterly false. We in Israel don’t want war — we want peace.”

“The alternative to this bad deal is still no deal or a better deal. … I don’t oppose this deal because I want war. I oppose this deal because I want to prevent war.”

“And this deal will bring war that will spark a nuclear arms race in the region and it will feed Iran’s terrorism and aggression that would make war, perhaps the most horrific war of all, far more likely.”

Mitt Romney, Fmr. Governor of Massachusetts “The generational calamity that will result from President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran will last a very long time indeed. Iran is led by suicidal, apocalypse-seeking, America-hating, Israel-denying theocratic fanatics. If these ayatollahs have nuclear weapons, they will use them, someday, somewhere. The Obama deal prescribes a pathway for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Iran will be a nuclear monster.” [7/2]

Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post “With the concessions Iran obtained this year, it can now resume enrichment after eight years. This is only one reason the deal must be thwarted before it begins. In sum, the deal would radically and quickly shift leverage to Iran, would infuse the Middle East with Iranian weapons and money and thereby severely diminish the non-military options for thwarting Iran. It is essential to stop the deal before these complicating factors are set in motion.”  “Unless and until Congress receives all the information (whether from the administration or the IAEA) and can determine whether the Swiss cheese inspections system is acceptable, it must block the deal from proceeding.” 

Dr. Max Singer, Hudson Institute “The P5+1 agreement with Iran is almost certainly a mistake and bad for Israel.” 

Donald Trump “I think it’s an outrage, I think it’s done by people of gross incompetence, I think it’s a tremendous win for Iran and many of our enemies and I think it’s something that shouldn’t be allowed.” “It’s outrageous that a deal like this is going forward and can be allowed to go forward. With proper negotiators we could have had a great deal.” “We have people that have no concern about the views of our country. It’s incredible. Only very stupid people are in favor of it. It’s incredible the way this thing was just rammed through and how they gave up so many points at the end. Did you see the last day? They just gave up so many points at the end. It’s a very, very incredible situation and frankly our representatives should be ashamed of themselves. It looks like they’re not going to be able to stop it because the veto is not going to get overridden based on everything I see and hear. That’s a real bad mark on our politicians including the Republicans that can’t get the votes.”

“Iran is taking over Iraq 100%, just like I predicted years ago. I say this, I didn’t want to go there in the first place. Now we take the oil.”

“We should have kept the oil. Now we go in, we knock the hell out of them, take the oil, we thereby take their wealth. They have so much money.”

“They have better internet connections than we do in the United States. They’re training our kids through the internet. We have to knock out their wealth.”

Gov. Scott Walker “It’s a bad deal for us, it’s a bad deal for Israel, it’s a bad deal for the world. It will accelerate the nuclear arms race, and it is empowering Iran to do what they’re going to do.” 

Ted Deutch “After a decade in public life working to stop Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons, I cannot support a deal giving Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief — in return for letting it maintain an advanced nuclear program and the infrastructure of a threshold nuclear state.”

Chuck Schumer 

“Every several years or so a legislator is called upon to cast a momentous vote in which the stakes are high and both sides of the issue are vociferous in their views.

Over the years, I have learned that the best way to treat such decisions is to study the issue carefully, hear the full, unfiltered explanation of those for and against, and then, without regard to pressure, politics or party, make a decision solely based on the merits.

I have spent the last three weeks doing just that: carefully studying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, reading and re-reading the agreement and its annexes, questioning dozens of proponents and opponents, and seeking answers to questions that go beyond the text of the agreement but will have real consequences that must be considered.

Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed. This has made evaluating the agreement a difficult and deliberate endeavor, and after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval.

While we have come to different conclusions, I give tremendous credit to President Obama for his work on this issue. The President, Secretary Kerry and their team have spent painstaking months and years pushing Iran to come to an agreement. Iran would not have come to the table without the President’s persistent efforts to convince the Europeans, the Russians, and the Chinese to join in the sanctions. In addition, it was the President’s far-sighted focus that led our nation to accelerate development of the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), the best military deterrent and antidote to a nuclear Iran. So whichever side one comes down on in this agreement, all fair-minded Americans should acknowledge the President’s strong achievements in combatting and containing Iran.

In making my decision, I examined this deal in three parts: nuclear restrictions on Iran in the first ten years, nuclear restrictions on Iran after ten years, and non-nuclear components and consequences of a deal. In each case I have asked: are we better off with the agreement or without it?

In the first ten years of the deal, there are serious weaknesses in the agreement. First, inspections are not “anywhere, anytime”; the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling. While inspectors would likely be able to detect radioactive isotopes at a site after 24 days, that delay would enable Iran to escape detection of any illicit building and improving of possible military dimensions (PMD) — the tools that go into building a bomb but don’t emit radioactivity.

Furthermore, even when we detect radioactivity at a site where Iran is illicitly advancing its bomb-making capability, the 24-day delay would hinder our ability to determine precisely what was being done at that site.

Even more troubling is the fact that the U.S. cannot demand inspections unilaterally. By requiring the majority of the 8-member Joint Commission, and assuming that China, Russia, and Iran will not cooperate, inspections would require the votes of all three European members of the P5+1 as well as the EU representative. It is reasonable to fear that, once the Europeans become entangled in lucrative economic relations with Iran, they may well be inclined not to rock the boat by voting to allow inspections.

Additionally, the “snapback” provisions in the agreement seem cumbersome and difficult to use. While the U.S. could unilaterally cause snapback of allsanctions, there will be instances where it would be more appropriate to snapback some but not all of the sanctions, because the violation is significant but not severe. A partial snapback of multilateral sanctions could be difficult to obtain, because the U.S. would require the cooperation of other nations. If the U.S. insists on snapback of all the provisions, which it can do unilaterally, and the Europeans, Russians, or Chinese feel that is too severe a punishment, they may not comply.

Those who argue for the agreement say it is better to have an imperfect deal than to have nothing; that without the agreement, there would be no inspections, no snapback. When you consider only this portion of the deal — nuclear restrictions for the first ten years — that line of thinking is plausible, but even for this part of the agreement, the weaknesses mentioned above make this argument less compelling.

Second, we must evaluate how this deal would restrict Iran’s nuclear development after ten years.

Supporters argue that after ten years, a future President would be in no weaker a position than we are today to prevent Iran from racing to the bomb. That argument discounts the current sanctions regime. After fifteen years of relief from sanctions, Iran would be stronger financially and better able to advance a robust nuclear program. Even more importantly, the agreement would allow Iran, after ten to fifteen years, to be a nuclear threshold state with the blessing of the world community. Iran would have a green light to be as close, if not closer to possessing a nuclear weapon than it is today. And the ability to thwart Iran if it is intent on becoming a nuclear power would have less moral and economic force.

If Iran’s true intent is to get a nuclear weapon, under this agreement, it must simply exercise patience. After ten years, it can be very close to achieving that goal, and, unlike its current unsanctioned pursuit of a nuclear weapon, Iran’s nuclear program will be codified in an agreement signed by the United States and other nations. To me, after ten years, if Iran is the same nation as it is today, we will be worse off with this agreement than without it.

In addition, we must consider the non-nuclear elements of the agreement. This aspect of the deal gives me the most pause. For years, Iran has used military force and terrorism to expand its influence in the Middle East, actively supporting military or terrorist actions in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Gaza. That is why the U.S. has labeled Iran as one of only three nations in the world who are “state sponsors of terrorism.” Under this agreement, Iran would receive at least $50 billion dollars in the near future and would undoubtedly use some of that money to redouble its efforts to create even more trouble in the Middle East, and, perhaps, beyond.

To reduce the pain of sanctions, the Supreme Leader had to lean left and bend to the moderates in his country. It seems logical that to counterbalance, he will lean right and give the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and the hardliners resources so that they can pursue their number one goal: strengthening Iran’s armed forces and pursuing even more harmful military and terrorist actions.

Finally, the hardliners can use the freed-up funds to build an ICBM on their own as soon as sanctions are lifted (and then augment their ICBM capabilities in 8 years after the ban on importing ballistic weaponry is lifted), threatening the United States. Restrictions should have been put in place limiting how Iran could use its new resources.

When it comes to the non-nuclear aspects of the deal, I think there is a strong case that we are better off without an agreement than with one.

Using the proponents’ overall standard — which is not whether the agreement is ideal, but whether we are better with or without it — it seems to me, when it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it.

Ultimately, in my view, whether one supports or opposes the resolution of disapproval depends on how one thinks Iran will behave under this agreement.

If one thinks Iran will moderate, that contact with the West and a decrease in economic and political isolation will soften Iran’s hardline positions, one should approve the agreement. After all, a moderate Iran is less likely to exploit holes in the inspection and sanctions regime, is less likely to seek to become a threshold nuclear power after ten years, and is more likely to use its newfound resources for domestic growth, not international adventurism.

But if one feels that Iranian leaders will not moderate and their unstated but very real goal is to get relief from the onerous sanctions, while still retaining their nuclear ambitions and their ability to increase belligerent activities in the Middle East and elsewhere, then one should conclude that it would be better not to approve this agreement.

Admittedly, no one can tell with certainty which way Iran will go. It is true that Iran has a large number of people who want their government to decrease its isolation from the world and focus on economic advancement at home. But it is also true that this desire has been evident in Iran for thirty-five years, yet the Iranian leaders have held a tight and undiminished grip on Iran, successfully maintaining their brutal, theocratic dictatorship with little threat. Who’s to say this dictatorship will not prevail for another ten, twenty, or thirty years?

To me, the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great.

Therefore, I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power. Better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.

For all of these reasons, I believe the vote to disapprove is the right one.”


 After intensive negotiations, the P5+1 group and Iran have reached a first-step agreement on Iran's nuclear program. (
After intensive negotiations, the P5+1 group and Iran have reached a first-step agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. (

By: Harry C. Blaney III

Below is the summary “fact sheet” from the White House outlining the recent framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.  While there are some issues that still need added agreement and clarification, and lots of very technical elements that need to be spelled out, the outline makes it clear that the critical elements in the framework achieve the needed bottom line that Iran would need at least one year before being able to build a bomb, also that key avenues to build a bomb have been blocked for some 10-25 years, that inspections are all that we truly need along with key “full scope” IAEA inspections, all facilities would be inspected by IAEA including the secret Fordow facility, in short a high level of guaranteed transparency,. Further, key nuclear weapons technology will be either be “mothballed” or dismantled like the Arak heavy water reactor and rebuilt in a way that would not produce weapons-grade plutonium, further, its 10,00 kilograms of low-enriched uranium would be reduced to 300 kilograms, and centrifuges would be reduced to just 6,104 from 19,000. See below for more details.

The end produces an agreement that, subject to any changes, provides truly the safeguards against an unknown “breakout” by Iran and also provides for phased sanctions relief which still need to be agreed as to its phasing and extent.  This can and must be a “Win-Win” outcome for both sides since this balanced document can only be the basis for a viable international agreement.

This is a significant agreement and a positive step away from war. Our more detained analysis and assessment will follow.

Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program

Below are the key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and June 30, and reflect the significant progress that has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Important implementation details are still subject to negotiation, and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We will work to conclude the JCPOA based on these parameters over the coming months.


  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.
  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
  • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.
  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
  • Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.

Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
  •  Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.
  • Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.

Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges for ten years.

  • Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.
  • Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.
  • Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.
  • For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections and Transparency

  • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.
  • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
  • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.
  • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.
  • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
  • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.
  • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Reactors and Reprocessing

  • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
  • The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.
  • Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.
  • Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.
  • Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.
  • Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.


  • Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.
  • U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
  • The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.
  • All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).
  • However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.
  • A dispute resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant, to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments.
  • If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed.
  • U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.


  • For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1.
  • For fifteen years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.
  • Important inspections and transparency measures will continue well beyond 15 years. Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations. The robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years.
  • Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.

We welcome your comments!


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

By: Harry C. Blaney III

March 26th I opened my New York Times as usual and low and behold there was an op-ed by former Ambassador John R. Bolton of Iraqi war renown with the title “To stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”, and its sub-headline “Tehran can’t be trusted on a nuclear deal. Force is the only option.” Besides being very wrong on a host of other issues like his view of the United Nations in the past, which having been sent there by a right-wing  Republican president, he straightaway aimed to undermine its authority, cut it resources, and tried in every which way to eviscerate. Now it seems he wants us to go to into a senseless and costly war again with his other neo-con crazy co-conspirators.

At the moment the fate of the nuclear negotiations are still not fully known, and least of all what will follow in the event of an agreement or a failure at this effort. But one thing is certain, and that is that preemptive war is mad and disastrous for all sides.

The only conclusion one can reach from this Bolton essay in fantasy is how crazy we have all become when we fall again into the “war hawks” dead end traps. These traps will bring such destruction to not only Iran and its many anti-regime and pro-American citizens, but to exacerbate more conflicts in the whole region and any hope for a peaceful and diplomatic region wide accommodation that has any hope to batten down the upheavals that have created the current chaos in the first place.

Bolton’s proscriptions, contrary to his flawed conclusions on the behavior of nations in the region, would create those dangerous things which he says bombing would avoid sooner and with more force. Further, most strategic experts including most of the analysis by our own government finds that such a military attack would create such horrific added conflict to an already unstable region and still not a long-term stop to a possible Iranian weapons program.

Bolton says it would do so for 3 to 5 years, but an agreement would stop Iran from just such an effort for at least 10 years and it just might mitigate the existing corrosive Shia-Sunni warfare that it at the real bottom of the existing instability.

Besides poor, almost non-existent analysis of outcomes of war actions, Bolton’s assumption is that Iran will not negotiate away its “nuclear program.”  I am not sure exactly what he means by “nuclear program.” They certainly will not be dissuaded from a civilian nuclear power and research effort that they have invested billions of dollars into, but the reality is that a nuclear weapons effort should be seen by the Iranian leadership as the worst possible outcome for their own security.  It is a course of societal and governmental suicide in the end. That does not mean that the Iranian leaders are fully rational and are acting fully in the interest of the well-being of their people, since if they were they would not be in the current situation.

Yet the likely reason for the present negotiations, contrary to Bolton’s assertion, is that they have decided that sanctions hurt, that having the bomb may be more dangerous to their security than not having it, and that they need to rebuild their failing economy and society. What they want however is clearly a best deal to keep their options open and not be seen as “giving in” to the West.

The key flaw of Bolton’s article is he did not mention the real cost and consequences of his war proposal. The reason is simply it would totally undermine his whole argument and expose its wrong assumptions about the dynamics of the actions he proposes…

Bolton and his Republican neo-con affiliates have argued in the past for (unnecessary and costly) war – in Iraq.  But he still seems to think that indeed war is the answer to anything, but does not want or can’t honestly think through his myopic ideological lenses and truly evaluate the cost of such action, deaths, and risks on all sides of the consequences of his policies.

Secretary John Kerry has been right to test diplomacy and indeed the agreed temporary accord already has inhibited any further push towards a weapon. Nothing in diplomacy in this messy world is easy. The time has come for an end of costly and unnecessary war making which ends mostly in disasters for all. Let’s all hope that in time there will be a “good” agreement since that would be a “win-win” for all sides, for the region, and the world.

We welcome your comments!


Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resume nuclear negotiations on March 15, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resume nuclear negotiations on March 15, 2015.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

It is now agreed that the Iran nuclear talks will resume on March 15th and this session will be focused on the remaining key “macro” political issues that are still outstanding. There are indications on both sides that a deal may at last come together. However, they all say “but nothing is agreed upon unless everything is agreed on,” that there are a lot of difficult issues that remain, and that there are strong opponents of any deal on both sides.

This weekend we have been seeing statements from the “P-5 plus one” (The United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom), that some progress is in the cards during the next meeting. President Barack Obama said “We have made progress in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still exist.” On the European side, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a meeting in Latvia, “I believe a good deal is at hand. I also believe that there is not going to be any deal if it is not going to be a good deal.” She added the “last mile” of the nuclear talks would involve political will more than technical negotiations.

On the Iranian side, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said we believe we are ‘very close’ to a nuclear deal during an interview with Anne Curry of NBC News on March 4th. Further, in an interview with a weekly affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting published on Saturday 7th March, Zarif said, “I believe there are more chances of success than failure,” adding “the odds of [reaching] a [final] deal is more than 50 percent.” He said, as noted earlier: “but nothing is agreed upon unless everything is agreed on.”

All of these statements are contingent on the final requirement that both sides desire a “good” agreement and are willing to pay the political price for such an agreement.  Iran especially needs to accept that a nuclear “option” is not in its fundamental interest.  The administration has said that this agreement does not require Senate ratification since it is not a treaty but an executive or political agreement between governments.  The president can wave some of the sanctions but not all of them and this issue is a sticking point.  On the Iranian side there remains opposition from hard liners, but I doubt that Zarif would be able to proceed unless he was given authority to do so from the highest authorities. Yet any “political” or “framework” agreement would still have to be sent back to the “experts” for specific drafting and review before a formal agreement was signed. This could take months, not weeks.

In Congress the Republicans seem determined to veto any agreement they do not like. It looks sadly like many Republicans will oppose even a “good and strong” agreement. They were stopped from pushing forward a GOP plan to act before the March 31st negotiating deadline by the Democrats since the fear was  that by before the negotiations ended, Congress would act on a draft anti-agreement legislation that would undercut and indeed put up a series of barriers against any realistic agreement coming into existence. The question now is whether the Democrats can hold together against such a plan should an agreement be settled.

The more recent news is the surprising and most duplicitous action by 47 Republican Senators who have interfered and intervened into on-going delicate negotiations with Iran to limit their nuclear program. This was done on the brink of the start of new high level meetings of the key powers in Geneva and is a direct affront to the President who under our constitution has responsibility for foreign affairs.

As the New York Times Tuesday March 10th front page story reporting characterized it: “The letter appeared aimed at unraveling a framework agreement even as negotiators grew close to reaching it.”  The partisan effort was criticized by President Obama, and very strongly by Vice President Biden who denounced the Senate Republicans. Click here for the Vice President’s Full Statement.

President Obama’s statement was: “It is somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. … It’s an unusual coalition.”  I was for 25 years a diplomat and have never experienced such a direct effort by one party to directly deal with undermining a major sensitive and important to our national security high level nuclear negotiations.  Click here for the full text of President Obama’s Statement in Reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech regarding Iran Nuclear Negotiations.              

The Iranians reportedly said they were not moved by the letter. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in response: “In our view, the letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. He added: “It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

From a macro strategic perspective, such an agreement could have major implications upon the possibility that limited rapprochement could ensue, and a broader set of regional issues, not least how to deal with ISIS, and a effort to reconcile the Shia-Sunni divide and even get Iraq unity back on track.  As with all such deep and historic acrimony, nothing is certain and unpredictable change is always lurking on the sidelines to reappear when it is politically expedient for one side or another. But if America and our allies are to help a process of reconciliation in the region, they need to take the long-view and work very hard at it despite any setbacks.

Below is the list of Republican Senators who signed and didn’t sign the Open Letter to Iran that was written to undermine the President’s negotiations.

Senators who did sign:
2016 Possible Presidential Candidates are highlighted                                                    

Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY

Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL

Senator John McCain, R-AZ

Senator James Inhofe, R-OK

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC

Senator John Cornyn, R-TX

Senator Richard Burr, R-NC

Senator John Thune, R-SD

Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA

Senator David Vitter, R-LA

Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY

Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS

Senator Jim Risch, R-ID

Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL

Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO

Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH

Senator John Boozman, R-AR

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA

Senator John Hoeven, R-ND

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI

Senator Rand Paul, R-KY

Senator Mike Lee, R-UT

Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH

Senator Dean Heller, R-NV

Senator Tim Scott, R-SC

Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX

Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA

Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO

Senator James Lankford, R-OK

Senator Steve Daines, R-MT

Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD

Senator David Perdue, R-GA

Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC

Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA

Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE

Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK

Senators who did NOT sign:

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME

Senator Bob Corker, R-TN

Senator Dan Coats, R-IN

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS

Senator Jeff Flake, R-AZ

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK

Comments are welcome!!! 


President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.
President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

In a world that increasingly seems bent on self-destruction, bad governance, and self-inflicted wounds, there is clearly an urgent need to, as they say, “get a grip” on things!  As President Obama has said, none of these problems are easy; they will take a long time to deal with and they can’t be done by just one nation. Nor can they be addressed by just doing nothing. The key is, as Obama again said, is “not to do stupid things”, and needless to say do intelligent things and do them well and do them with other like minded nations whenever possible. This means first of all examining with care our values and our real interest, the cost and practicality of possible options, and not least the probability of success and any unforeseen consequences; what some would call “blowback.”

The last Bush administration did none of this and this administration has learned hopefully that lessen of “not doing stupid things.” That does not mean withdrawing from the world, but it may mean forcefully responding to a crisis when necessary and practical. But what are the elements that either make good policy and strategy and what are the harsh constraints in devising good strategy and properly implementing it, and with others, in a true multilateral coalition?

First, one domestic constraint on an effective American role in addressing global challenges is our corrosive political landscape, which is too often driven by hate, ignorance, stupidity, and partisan politics and not by good values or the national interest. The right wing neo-con hawks have criticized Obama for “leading from behind”. This pejorative statement is simply partisan from those who got us into an unnecessary war at great cost to our nation, the lives of brave men and woman in the armed forces, and our embassy staff. Now they are looking at pushing a unilateral unnecessary war with Iran and seem to be fomenting a  crude “cold war” strategy and creating implacable enemies out of China and Russia. Sadly, some of this is to increase mindlessly the DOD budget on behalf of the military-industrial sector and to push narrow ideological and myopic interests.

This is not the way to make smart strategic and foreign policy decisions. It has already hurt our global role as Congress debates the coming budget and pushes restrictions on the president’s ability to conduct his foreign policies as this is written.

Second, external constraints were partly covered in our earlier post and several are looked at below and others will follow in this series. In our last look at forward strategy, we tried to take a “macro” perspective and asked: “did the institutions of our international community react, educate, and address with honesty and in comprehensive detail what these changes and trends portend for our frail planet? Does the international community know what needs to be done to safeguard the security and lives of its citizens?” Looking ahead, there are two categories of our analysis: (1) Recognizing the distinctly “macro global” trends of 2015, and (2) an attempt to understand these trends and consequences while devising possible responses to specific functional and regional problem areas.”  Another installment will be looking forward into 2015 and beyond, would be aimed specifically in key problem sectors describing the difficulties and opportunities that lay ahead for American foreign and security policy.


There are many reasons why governments and international organizations seem increasingly incapable of addressing and mitigating our global challenges and high-risk dangers. Not least, as we have noted, is the growing indifference of many nations including in the United States to the plight of the most at risk and vulnerable. The recent global recession had a deep impact on the reaction of citizens who have a growing sense of hopelessness.  Encouraged in the United States  by right-wing Republicans, their billionaire backers, and their paid for media and pundits, have long pushed for disdain of role of government and international organizations in serving the well-being of common citizens in need.  These forces drove public opinion against sufficient support for preemptive action to address major dangers to national security and global stability and humanitarian crises. This means that organizations like UNESCO, UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR, World Health Organization, World Food Program, NATO, World Bank, and the UN system as a whole including the Security Council, are under funded and restricted by member states from taking effective action to address oncoming risks and conflicts. If this trend continues, the risk to American security and to the global system’s ability to address and mitigate serious major threats will continue to deteriorate and risks and costs will grow and not diminish. We need a new look on how to make these international institutions more effective and forward looking.  


Despite all the headlines about terrorism, the far greater risk to U.S. and global security at the existential level are weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue or unstable and confrontational nations. This includes Russia under the unpredictable President Putin and Pakistan and India with nuclear weapons; nations both of which are in conflict with each other. North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is led by an unpredictable leader, and the possibility of an Iran with nuclear weapons in a region of ubiquitous conflict and instability. Each of these problematic centers will remain well into 2015  and beyond and need a much higher level of attention by all global actors than has been seen hereto through by all nations and especially among some in Congress who seem to think “war” is the answer to every issue.  I suggest to our readers to look at the post of Secretary Kerry’s Geneva press conference for an insight into this problem with a focus on Iran and beyond.


As President Obama has made clear there is no more important crisis the globe faces that climate change and its consequences.  Many members of the Republican Congress do not think it exists, or do not think that it is caused by human activities, and even encourage energy sources that are among the worst polluters. This roadblock needs to be overcome with an enlightened global leadership, and the environmental community and citizens need to act. This is what the president had done by domestic legal regulations and international agreements that do not require Senate ratification. The agreement with China, the trip to India with this as a key topic, and with efforts to at last forge a global consensus on a broad range of climate impacting actions indicates some useful progress. More is still needed.  I think 2015 and 2016 will see major moves abroad with our allies on this issue while opposition by Republicans will persist.  


There is little question that America and the rest of the world will increasingly be impacted by the larger forces we have already seen arising. Frankly, they are at a cost of our past indifference to what is happening beyond our borders. Few paid attention to these forces; many of our leaders and our citizens and especially our corrupted media are giving more space and time to what the last stupid celebrity did, diverting our people from facing serious issues and solutions.

Terrorism is just one result of indifference by governments, powerful elites, and business to a larger social responsibility.  It will not go away overnight but it can be mitigated and in part overcome. The primary action needed is to give jobs to those that live in hopelessness and despair. The other is to fight the ideology of hate and those that use terrorism to achieve their aims.  Here the answer is not just military. Often here is where diplomacy and collective political and economic action can and should mitigate the conditions that breed conflict and narrow nationalism or racial hate. 

Countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, much of the conflict-ridden Middle East and many parts of Africa need greater help than has so far been given. If we do not recognize this we will be over whelmed over time by several results: more conflict, an increased spread of diseases, greater poverty, and humanitarian and natural disasters and in the end a high risk world for all.


A lot has been written about the rise of “new” powers like China, India, and, for some, Russia.  This concept is often joined by the so-called “decline” of America and Europe. Frankly, this has both a part of truth but also a lot of nonsense.  Yes, India and China are growing but each has still deep-seated weaknesses, which will undermine their inherent potential for decades due not least to the large inequality that exists and social, racial, and ethnic divisions within each society. For Russia, despite all the aggressive and destructive actions, it is a state of concealed but deep crisis and decline that seems, under Putin, to reject modernity or even rationality and has destroyed its citizens meaningful participation in their collective decisions. This can’t last in the present equilibrium that is unstable over the long run. Putin is an historical tragedy for Russia at this time.  But the West and the rest of the world need a strategy to draw Russia over time into a community of cooperating and responsible states and we should never give up this goal. 

Some European leaders recognize this, but the silly forces on the right seem to think unneeded war with a nuclear-armed irrational nation is a bit of a lark. In 2015, Obama seems to know this and is struggling to find the right balance of restraint and prevention of aggression and the “inducement” of diplomacy, economic gain, and cooperation. We are likely to see more of this but Ukraine is the testing ground for both sides in 2015 and beyond and the only “good” solution requires Ukraine to remain a viable independent and unified state that can choose its destiny in the long run.

More on specific challenges will come in future posts and a look a creating a more effective international structure and the ability to foresee earlier coming dangers and respond.  

We welcome your comments!