Experts Agree: Let Diplomacy Work with Iran!

Last Updated on January 22, 2015.

Fmr. Secretary of State Madeline Albright- “If these negotiations fail or if Iran does not honor its commitments, then the United States should and I believe will impose additional costs on Tehran with strong support internationally. But I believe it would be a mistake to do so before the negotiations run their course.” [1/29/15]
Baltimore Sun Editorial Board- “It’s essential that Congress continue to give President Obama room to continue negotiations and avoid making demands that would foreclose the possibility of an agreement. The risks of continued negotiations are minimal, but the potential benefits — both in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and opening the door for cooperation on other issues — are tremendous.” [7/17/14]
Scott Bates, Center for National Policy- “In the long term, a deal with Iran that avoids both proliferation and armed conflict shows that international cooperation is in the best interest of all parties involved.The price tag of the last war fought in the name of nonproliferation is passing the $800 billion mark; the U.S. cannot afford another such costly mistake, and it undoubtedly would spell the end of efforts to increase our presence anywhere else in the world.” [7/16/14]
Bloomberg News Editorial Board- “The world has been better off since the temporary agreement was reached. Critics should acknowledge that not even harsher sanctions or airstrikes could guarantee that Iran never gets the bomb. Talks that freeze Iran’s enrichment program for now, and that could in the long term minimize the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, are surely worth a few more months.” [7/15/14]
Michael Breen, Truman National Security Project- “Today’s announcement is a win for American security. Iran’s nuclear program has been frozen for six months and today’s extension keeps us on the path to a deal that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and prevents another war in the Middle East. The only good outcome will be won at the negotiating table. If we learned anything from Iraq, it’s the cost and consequence of war in the Middle East. This time we’re using diplomacy and it’s working. Congress helped make this happen with strong sanctions that the president enforced; they were part of the solution. This is how American leadership should work.” [7/18/14]
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Fmr. National Security Advisor – “I have a similar perspective [to Scowcroft against sanctions]. Iran is beginning to evolve. Don’t forget that we’re not the only negotiators on Iran.” [1/21/15]
Nicholas Burns, Harvard University- “Diplomacy in war and peace negotiations requires strategy and patience, not an illusory quick fix. Diplomacy is messy, but it is also how the vast majority of international crises are actually resolved — through negotiation rather than through the barrel of a gun. That’s not bad advice for how we should think about Iran. Diplomacy may or may not succeed. But, as with Shevardnadze, it promises a final lesson that is the most important of all. Diplomacy, at the very least, gives us a chance for peace. [7/17/14]
UK Prime Minister David Cameron “It’s the opinion of the United Kingdom that further sanctions, or further threat of sanctions at this point, won’t actually help to bring the talks to a successful conclusion, and they could fracture the international unity [that has allowed the United States and other countries to present a united front in dealing with Iran].” [1/16/15]
Angela Canterbury, The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation- “There is broad support among the American public for a negotiated agreement, and that’s what we’re working towards now. Diplomacy takes time. The most important thing to remember is that this extension limits the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon or another intractable war. We have a clear choice. Do we want inspectors on the ground, or boots on the ground?” [7/18/14]
Joseph Cirincione, Ploughshares Fund- Failing to get a deal would leave in place an Iranian program with no inspectors, no constraints. The sanctions regime would likely collapse. Military strikes could be launched, but they cannot destroy the Iranian nuclear program. That requires a ground invasion. [7/19/14]
Hillary Clinton, Fmr. Secretary of State “If the U.S. Congress imposes sanctions before we even know the answers to the questions we are asking, I think it is highly likely that Russia and China [would walk out and end the United Nations Security Council-backed effort to curb the Iranian program]. That would be, in my view, a very serious strategic error. Why would we want to be the catalyst for the collapse of negotiations before we really know whether there is something we can get out of them?” [1/21/15]
David Cohen, Treasury Department, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence– “We believe that new sanctions are not needed at this time. To the contrary, new sanctions at this time, even with a delayed trigger, are more likely to undermine, rather than enhance, the chances of achieving a comprehensive agreement.” [1/21/15]
Fmr. Ambassadors Ryan Crocker, Frank G. Wisner, William Luers, and Thomas Pickering “We urge all parties to make every effort to reach an acceptable agreement as soon as possible. To this end, we also urge that Congress not take actions now that could cause the collapse of these negotiations such as imposition of new sanctions in violation of the Joint Plan of Action. We are encouraged by the sense of optimism implicit in the agreement to continue these talks. Success would represent a victory of America’s 35-year bipartisan policy toward Iran, be a triumph of America’s commitment to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and eliminate one of most serious potential threats to the security of our friends in the region.” [7/19/14]
Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association- “It is important at this critical stage in the process for policymakers in Washington to support the administration’s ongoing efforts at reaching a diplomatic solution. While a deal is within reach, congressional letters like the one written by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that set unrealistic expectations for the deal, are unhelpful and send the wrong message to Iran. Failure to reach a good agreement is not an option. A good deal is better than no deal, and a good deal is, with more time, still within reach. So Congress needs to do its part to help bridge those gaps — namely by supporting negotiations and an extension, not jeopardizing the prospects for a good deal with unreasonable demands.” [7/18/14]
French Foreign Minster Laurent Fabius, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Federica Mogherini “Maintaining pressure on Iran through our existing sanctions is essential. But introducing new hurdles at this critical stage of the negotiations, including through additional nuclear-related sanctions legislation on Iran, would jeopardize our efforts at a critical juncture. While many Iranians know how much they stand to gain by overcoming isolation and engaging with the world, there are also those in Tehran who oppose any nuclear deal. We should not give them new arguments. New sanctions at this moment might also fracture the international coalition that has made sanctions so effective so far. Rather than strengthening our negotiating position, new sanctions legislation at this point would set us back.” [1/21/15]
Josh Fattal, Former Iran hostage-“A resolution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear capacity will finally lead us down a different path. Sanctions are a weapon to wage a cold war, and as they fail to reach their objectives, they create the conditions to make a hot war more likely — which is something the American people do not want.” [7/16/14]
Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard (USA, Ret.), and Laicie Heeley, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation- “Iran’s nuclear capacity must be restrained — that’s the point of the negotiations — but agreement on a final deal shouldn’t be hampered by maximalist demands on either side. While Iran should not expect to leave the table without compromising on the size of its nuclear program, the P5+1 should also not focus so myopically on one element of Iran’s nuclear program to the extent that it might cloud the possibility of obtaining a solid deal.The measure of whether a final comprehensive deal is a good one is clear: Does it advance U.S. security? A deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program and establishes an intrusive inspections regime would certainly protect United States security. And that is the only metric that matters.” [7/24/14]
Fmr. Sen. Gary Hart,Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, (USAF, ret.), Brig. Gen. John Adams, (USA,ret.) , Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, (USMC, ret.)“The P5+1 negotiations with Iran have made significant progress. We support extending the talks. Extending the talks is the best way to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons as well as keeping the international coalition together.  Congress should do its part to support an extension of talks. This process is our best chance to end the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  We should make every effort to make sure it is successful for the sake of our national security.” [7/21/14]
Matthew Hoh, Center for International Policy and Iraq War veteran- “Senators Graham (R-SC) and Menendez’s (D-NJ) latest letter, occurring as our professional diplomats negotiating with Iran are reaching an important point, signal (a) willingness for war and rejection of any sane or intelligent attempts at peace. You do not need to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq to know those wars were worthless, and to say so, nor do you need to possess any special title or degree to know a war with Iran would be ruinous.” [7/18/14]
Robert E. Hunter, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies- “Too much is at stake for these talks to fail. Success in the nuclear negotiations with Iran would open up possibilities – though not certainties — of renewed cooperation over the future of Afghanistan. Some cooperation might also become possible in Iraq, where both countries are worried about anarchy, though this is a more complex question.” [7/11/14]
Brig. Gen. John H. Johns (USA, ret.) “Those who pushed us into war in Iraq are calling for military engagement with Iran. After more than a decade of war and so many lives lost – all without truly advancing our national security – this call to abandon diplomacy and a rush to war again are truly implausible. We’ve been down that path before. If there’s one thing we have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that military conflicts have unexpected consequences. In the case of Iran, U.S. military action could very likely force Iran’s nuclear program underground and unite Iran’s leaders and people in a dash for the bomb. The nuclear talks represent a critical opportunity to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, protect U.S. security, and prevent another war.” [7/19/14]
Brig. Gen. John H. Johns (USA, ret.)“We must prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The best chance at doing so is to support the president’s challenging, but necessary, diplomatic talks that continue to make steady progress and yield verifiable results.” [1/22/15]
Secretary of State John Kerry  “Israeli intelligence has told the U.S. that rolling out new sanctions against Iran would amount to ‘throwing a grenade’ into the negotiations process.” [CBS News, 1/21/15]
Los Angeles Times Editorial Board– “Negotiating with Iran on a permanent agreement to ensure that it doesn’t develop nuclear weapons is challenging enough. But the Obama administration simultaneously must deal with members of Congress who are determined to impose new economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic that could jeopardize not only the final agreement but also the interim deal reached in Geneva last month, in which Iran agreed to suspend progress on its nuclear program..” [12/13/14]

New York Times Editorial Board- “The whole point of this exercise is to ensure that Iran cannot produce a nuclear weapon. That goal is within reach, and it would be irresponsible not to make the maximum effort to bridge the final gaps. Some in Congress are demanding conditions that would tie President Obama’s hands and make it impossible to lift sanctions on Iran, essential to any agreement. [7/17/14]
New York Times Editorial Board “The power to permanently lift most sanctions lies with Congress, where many members deeply mistrust Tehran, and Republican leaders have said that new and stronger sanctions are near the top of their to-do list in the new Congress. Such a move might be justified down the road if negotiations collapse, or if Iran cheats on its commitments. But at this stage it could easily undermine the talks, split the major powers and propel Iran to speed its nuclear development.” [1/10/15]
President Barack Obama“There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.” [1/20/15]
Paul Pillar, Brookings Institution- “Diplomacy remains the surest way to preclude an Iranian nuclear weapon. The extension does not change this reality. With a negotiated agreement, Iran’s nuclear activities would be subject to the most extensive international inspection arrangements ever implemented. Without an agreement, there would be far less comprehensive inspections, much less of an Iranian stake in keeping its program peaceful, and a political swing in Tehran away from those most determined to keep it peaceful.” [7/21/14]
USA Today Editorial Board- “Any agreement in which Iran abandons nuclear weapons would be an astounding achievement, one that could lead to a reassessment of the caustic U.S.-Iran relationship. It would avoid a nearly certain nuclear arms race in the Middle East, not to mention an equally likely U.S. war with Iran prompted by an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.” [7/20/14]
Issa Saharkhiz, Iranian Journalist- “If there is a successful nuclear negotiation, then the Iranian state will find itself in a position where it will be forced to be accountable to criticisms of its human rights and civil liberties policies. [Similarly], when Western concerns on the nuclear issue decrease, they will be more focused on such issues as human rights. This process will lead to improvement of democratic processes and human rights and liberties in Iran.” [7/15/14]
Brent Scowcroft, Fmr. National Security Advisor- “[New Iran sanctions] will break the talks. I think we should see them out and not take steps which would destroy the negotiations. I think we’re on the homestretch. I think to change our strategy now might work, but I wouldn’t do it at this stage.” [1/21/15]
Jon Soltz- Co-Founder of, Iraq War Veteran- “As an Iraq war veteran who served two tours, I can tell you that I understand the alternatives. They scare the living hell out of me. So, Congress has the responsibility to do everything it can before putting American troops in harms way — as a last resort. Right now, that means letting diplomacy work and not undermining our negotiators. Senators like Robert Menendez and Lindsey Graham played a big role in bringing Iran to the table by creating a strong sanctions regime. But now they need to work with our negotiators to ensure that the U.S. secures an effective deal. Publicly undercutting negotiators with political posturing does the exact opposite.” [7/16/14]
Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian Human Rights Lawyer- “It is obvious that we welcome peaceful relations with all countries and as such support the negotiations.” [7/15/14]
Admiral Jim Stavridis (USA, Ret.) “With the world seemingly exploding around us, it may be time to consider our relationship with Iran. As Henry Kissinger said once, to solve the biggest problems, sometimes it is necessary to expand them. We should seriously explore ways in which our deeply problematic relationship with Iran can be improved through finding small zones of cooperation — including perhaps in Iraq today, which presents an opening of somewhat aligned interest in defeating the emerging danger of the ultra-violent extremist organization the Islamic State…Clearly there are many challenges and roadblocks to all of this. Yet all is not lost in terms of the long-term possibilities of eventually having a more productive relationship with Iran. [7/28/14]
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson- “What we’re doing now is exactly what we should have done instead of invading Iraq. There are only two ways to definitively control Iran’s nuclear program… The choice at hand is inspectors on the ground or boots on the ground. Some in Congress are working to move the goal posts and add new sanctions on Iran or push for concessions that they know perfectly well Iran will never agree to. This is a bad idea. It will not benefit America’s national security interest if we make every outcome other than war impossible.” [7/23/14]

January 22, 2015