Corker Has Vital Role in Supporting Talks with Iran

This post originally appeared in The Commercial Appeal

Memphis and the state of Tennessee have often been at the crossroads on issues of importance to our nation and the world. In 1920, it all came down to one vote in the Tennessee House to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Today, we have the opportunity to influence history once again by advocating policies to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and another war in the Middle East through our U.S. senator, Bob Corker. As the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker has a key role in determining whether Congress supports ongoing negotiations to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran. Last month, my son and I met with Corker's staff and a dozen other Tennesseans attending the Friends Committee on National Legislation's Lobby Day in Washington. More than 440 people from 43 states urged members of Congress to support these historic nuclear negotiations.

With all of the problems in this country, why should we care about nuclear negotiations with Iran? Because the alternative is undoubtedly full-scale military action similar to what we experienced in Iraq. I met Col. Larry Wilkerson, a former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell during the George W. Bush administration, and he estimates that a war with Iran would involve 500,000 troops over a 10-year period at a cost of $2 trillion. A major war in the Middle East would drain resources, create higher trade deficits, fewer jobs, and most important, the tragic loss of life and trauma for many of our soldiers.

This goal -- to avoid war with Iran and find a way to peace in the Middle East -- is shared by the majority of U.S. citizens and millions of people around the world. The danger now is that political actors in Iran or in the United States might derail these talks. Some members of Congress are threatening to scuttle the negotiations before they are finished by promoting more sanctions against Iran.

Unfortunately, Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., have outlined just such a set of new sanctions that could undermine the progress our diplomats have made. In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Corker expressed caution on rushing to impose new sanctions on Iran during this sensitive period for negotiations. However, he remains a co-sponsor of the Menendez/Kirk legislation.  I think this is a mistake. Nuclear experts have cautioned against new sanctions and refuted proponents' claims that new sanctions would further the negotiations process. As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering and other national security heavyweights have pointed out, "it is difficult to argue that a new sanctions bill is intended to support the negotiations when all the countries doing the negotiating oppose it."

The International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran continues to uphold the first-step nuclear deal. There are inspectors who have daily access to Iran's enrichment facilities. Certainly we can all agree that inspectors on the ground are preferable to boots on the ground.

With our senator at the helm of some of the most important matters of war and peace of our time, Tennesseans have a particular opportunity to influence history through Corker's leadership. One hopes that all Americans will reflect on the real opportunity at hand to achieve peace and goodwill around the world by asking Corker to let diplomacy work.

_________________ Gayle S. Rose is CEO of EVS Corporation and chairwoman of the Rose Family Foundations..