Wyden's support is vital
To those of us active in the nuclear disarmament movement in the '70s and '80s, Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield was Saint Mark. No one had a stronger commitment to ending the threat of human annihilation through diplomacy. Today’s Republican members of Congress make it hard to believe people like Hatfield once proudly wore their party’s label.
Current Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley entered public life by serving on Hatfield’s staff in D.C. What a credit to his mentor. Peace House is proud that he has agreed to accept our Marjorie Maybury Kellogg National Peacemaker Award at our awards dinner on Nov. 7, and will deliver the keynote address.
The latest confirmation of how richly Merkley deserves to be honored is his support for the agreement negotiated by the U.S., China, Russia, Great Britain, France and Germany to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons for at least the next 10 years. As of Sept. 3, our senior U.S. Senator, Ron Wyden, has not followed suit. Because Congress will take up the agreement this coming week, it’s of major importance that by Monday all of us will have contacted Wyden and urged his support.
A few reservations about the agreement are valid. It won’t force Iran to abandon its civilian nuclear program which, under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is legally entitled to develop. It won’t maintain the embargo on heavy arms after five years. It won’t maintain the embargo on missile technology after eight years. And it won’t prevent Iran from supporting some factions in the Middle East — Shiites opposed to the Sunni groups Saudi Arabia arms and finances, plus some, but not all, factions the U.S. supports (Iran and the U.S. back the government of Iraq against ISIS).
Having conceded the agreement will not transform Iran into a nation under our control for the indefinite future, one must protest the gross disinformation peddled by opponents. The most frequent claim is that the agreement trusts Iran to inspect its own nuclear facilities and self-report. Liar, liar, pants on fire! The inspection regime in the agreement is the stiffest any nation has ever submitted to. All Iran’s known nuclear facilities are subject to constant inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And if some unknown facility becomes suspect, Iran must allow inspectors in within 24 days or the sanctions will be reimposed.
I cannot mention every provision that impedes Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. Here are four: All the uranium Iran has enriched above 3.67 percent uranium-235 will be shipped abroad or diluted to the naturally occurring percentage (0.7 percent U-235). For 15 years Iran can stockpile no more than 300 kilograms of that material (it takes at least 500 kg of 90 percent enriched uranium to make a bomb). Of the 19,000 centrifuges Iran used to enrich, 13,000 will be decommissioned and placed under IAEA seal. The Arak heavy water reactor capable of producing plutonium (the other element that can be used in fission bombs) will be re-engineered so that it cannot.
High-level national security officials in Israel as well as in the signatory countries say this agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. There will be no better deal. If this one fails, Iran will have no incentive to refrain from matching Israel’s nuclear weapons capability. Our remaining recourse will be war, and its outcome will make the debacle of Iraq pale in comparison.
Herb Rothschild Jr. is chairman of the board of Peace House.