Newspaper article International New York Times

Don't Let Up on Iran

Newspaper article International New York Times

Don't Let Up on Iran

Article excerpt

Our message to Tehran should be clear: It will not achieve its objectives unless it satisfies ours.

Like all Americans, we strongly hope that the Obama administration's diplomatic efforts lead to the peaceful dismantling of Iran's nuclear weapons program. To achieve this key national security goal, we support a policy that complements the current negotiations with a range of congressional actions that threatens greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government.

Some opponents of such a policy crudely characterize its proponents as warmongers, and fret that Tehran will walk away from the table. But the critics have it backward.

The approach we outline offers the best chance to avoid military conflict with Iran. In fact, diplomacy that is not backed by the threat of clear consequences poses the greatest threat to negotiations -- and increases prospects for war -- because it tells the Iranians they have nothing to lose by embracing an uncompromising position.

Successful negotiations between adversaries rest on the confluence of interests and goals. Iran came to the negotiating table because it sought the abrogation of sanctions; we came to the table to reach an agreement that, in the words of President Obama, would "make it impossible" for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Our message to Tehran should be clear: It will not achieve its objectives unless it satisfies ours.

Unfortunately, Iran's leaders are acting as if they have not received that message. In recent weeks, President Hassan Rouhani has declared that his government will not dismantle a single centrifuge. Tehran also went beyond words by testing long-range ballistic missiles that could reach American military bases in the Middle East, as well as our ally Israel. It has even dispatched warships to sail close to the maritime borders of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean.

We also know the Iranians have worked to deceive us in previous rounds of negotiations. In 2003, when Mr. Rouhani was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Tehran issued a declaration that it was suspending uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities. Last year, as he ran for president, Mr. Rouhani even boasted that Iran had flouted the agreement.

Offering inducements is not enough. Diplomacy must be backed by a clear choice for the Iranian government: Either it dismantles its nuclear program so that it lacks a pathway to weapons capability or it faces greater economic sanctions and international isolation. Without this clarity, no one can be surprised if Iran rejects diplomatic overtures.

The partial recovery of Iran's economy in recent weeks, thanks to the relaxation of sanctions, in tandem with its continuing advanced research and development of centrifuges, highlights our concerns. If Iran can achieve such progress without dismantling any part of its nuclear program, why should it make concessions? …

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