WASHINGTON -- The Vatican endorsed the Iran nuclear accord Monday as a positive step towards its broader goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
“We hope that the full implementation of [the nuclear deal] will ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme under the [Non-Proliferation Treaty] and will be a definitive step toward greater stability and security in the region,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, said in a statement delivered at the International Atomic Energy Association in Vienna.
“The way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation,” he said, a possible allusion to opponents of the nuclear agreement who have called for military strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites.
Pope Francis’ vote of confidence for the Iran nuclear deal comes the week before he is scheduled to visit Washington, where he will address a joint session of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
After a two-month debate, Republican lawmakers -- all of whom opposed the nuclear accord -- lost their fight last week to block the implementation of the agreement. Faced with defeat, Republicans have zeroed in on a set of confidential agreements between Iran and the IAEA, which detail the agency’s process for investigating possible past nuclear weapons development sites in the country.
House Republicans voted last week to pass a nonbinding resolution charging President Barack Obama with violating the law for failing to provide lawmakers with the text of confidential documents that only Iran and the IAEA are privy to. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is pushing to cut off funding to the IAEA until Congress gets copies of the agency’s secret agreements.
Without specifically targeting U.S. lawmakers, Gallagher noted on Monday that the success of the Iran nuclear accord depends on the international community’s willingness to implement the deal and the IAEA’s ability to hold Iran accountable to its obligations to curtail its nuclear activity.
“It is clear that the agreement requires further efforts and commitment by all the parties involved in order for it to bear fruit,” Gallagher said. “For its part, the IAEA’s indispensable role in nuclear safety and waste disposal, verification and monitoring will become ever more important as the use of peaceful nuclear energy expands and as the world moves toward nuclear disarmament."
The distance between Pope Francis and the GOP on the Iran deal is not the only issue that could make Republicans squirm during the upcoming papal address. The pope is likely to push for greater action on climate change and call on lawmakers to address the rampant economic inequality in the U.S. But the Pope’s opposition to abortion could also bolster Republicans, particularly the 28 men who have vowed to shut down the government before allowing federal funding to go to Planned Parenthood.
Lawmakers have promised to keep partisan politics under wraps during the papal address and refrain from cheering the Pope for statements that reinforce their political preferences.
In addition to expressing support for the diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program, the Vatican pushed nuclear weapons states to recognize their own responsibility to downsize their arsenal.
“The discriminatory nature of the NPT is well known. The status quo is unsustainable and undesirable,” Gallagher said, referring to the 1968 treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT allows members to maintain civil nuclear programs, but requires states that have nuclear weapons to work towards disarmament and prohibits other states from developing weapons. Iran and India have charged in the past that the treaty is inconsistently implemented, noting that the U.S. and Russia have been slow to downsize their massive nuclear arsenals.
“Just as wealthy nations have incurred an ‘ecological debt’ that demands more from them in addressing the environmental crisis, nuclear weapons states have incurred a nuclear debt,” Gallagher said. “Because of the risks their nuclear arsenals pose to the world, nuclear weapons states bear a heavy moral burden to ensure that their nuclear weapons are never used and to reduce their stocks substantially while taking the lead in negotiating a nuclear ban.”