Earlier in the month, President Obama announced that we had a deal. The P5+1 world powers (Germany, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America) had come to an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program.
With no loss of life, our diplomats were able to prevent Iran from building a bomb. The gravity of this win should make all sides rejoice. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be politically expedient.
A few days ago, a 60 day congressional review period began, mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. This chance at oversight enabling Congress to formally "approve" or "disapprove" of the agreement was borne of legislators' insistence to involve themselves in something not traditionally theirs: American foreign policy, typically the purview of the president.
Hearing the right's ridiculous chatter about the Iran deal, whether through their presidential candidates (like Mike Huckabee or Gov. Scott Walker), their legislators (like Sen. Mark Kirk or Speaker John Boehner), or both (the ever-present Sen Ted. Cruz) has led me to some reflection. President Obama has called some of their remarks ridiculous, but I think he's probably just being nice. I say it's stupid, dangerous, and in some cases -- like when a sitting senator goes over the executive's head to talk directly to our opponents during a negotiation -- borderline treasonous.
As a Navy veteran, having made the dreaded Straits of Hormuz transit multiple times, I remember the anxiety and the fear associated with that mission. I remember what it felt like and smelled like standing outside for hours in a 30-year-old flak jacket and helmet, manning my 25 millimeter cannon or .50 caliber machine gun mount while we made the trip from the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf. I remember the warnings of small boat swarm tactics and how frightening it was to wonder if we would be the ones they finally attacked instead of turning out at the last moment. I remember trying to keep my eyes open during the hours of briefings preceding the transit and the relief that came when we made it through alive.
It wouldn't be such a big deal if only the military made that trip; after all, it's our job to go into harm's way. Alas, the world isn't so lucky, given that 20 percent of the world's petroleum and 35 percent of petroleum traded by sea follows that same risky route. This makes the straits a pretty important strategic asset for whomever controls the passage. And here's the bad news, folks: a basic capability of the Iranian Navy is the ability to shut down the straits with mines and other methods. This could easily spell trouble for the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the United States -- the Department of Defense.
So the straits are important, and Iran, with all its potential to interfere, is therefore important too. The fact is that the looney tunes on the right are correct about one thing: Iran is not to be trusted. Luckily, this agreement doesn't mean we have to do so. All our global partners recognize that Iran has a history of oppression, corruption and terrorism, and that is precisely the reason this deal is so important. If you know that Iran furthers violence throughout the Middle East (like the region needs more of that) and you think that they could wreak havoc on the global oil trades with a handful of mines, imagine what they could do with a nuclear weapon!
Even though the deal prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon through concrete limits and the most rigorous inspections program the world has ever seen, some think we could've gotten a better deal -- like the unicorn scenario, where Iran gives up peaceful nuclear energy all together -- simply by being "tougher." The thing is that this agreement isn't just about American toughness. The deal isn't a treaty between us and the Iranians but a multilateral agreement resulting from pressure put on Iran by multilateral sanctions. The P5+1 (led by the United States) were able to bring Iran to the table with sanctions, but economic restrictions can only do so much. If Congress insists that we keep pressing forward in a unilateral manner to punish the Iranians, we will find ourselves awfully lonely and -- with Iran free to trade with the rest of the world and no inspectors watching their program -- at risk of an Iranian nuke before we know it.
Still others (looking at you, Sen. Tom Cotton) talk of regime change in Iran as the ultimate goal we should be striving for. The Iranian people (and American interests, for that matter) would certainly be better off under a different regime, but that wasn't the goal of these talks. We set out to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon, and we did it. That's diplomacy at work -- after all, the only successful action to have frozen and rolled back an Iranian nuclear program has been not heckling from rogue members of Congress but rather these tough and principled negotiations.
My favorite part about this deal is that it represents a new beginning. Although we are light years from friendship and trust with Iran, we are taking the first step. A first step that (hopefully) lays groundwork for other opportunities. Hopefully, we will be able to negotiate release of U.S. citizens being held hostage. Hopefully, we can take meaningful steps to help Iranian human rights activists fighting for freedoms in their country. And hopefully, my six-year-old son will be able to visit Iran some day and experience the rich culture and history contained therein.
All things considered, we got a damn good deal here, and I want our Congress to take the win. If you feel the same way, call your Senators and Representatives today. Tell them that you want our country to be safe, respected in the world, and willing to take steps forward rather than backward. Tell them you want to be on the right side of history. Tell them that you want them to approve the Iran agreement.