Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the P5+1 world powers (the United States, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, and France) came to an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. The bottom line is pretty simple: Iran gets to continue a peaceful, civilian nuclear policy while the world gets an end to its weapons grade nuclear program.
Without firing a single shot, our statesmen and women have prevented Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Those of us who have served in the Navy and Marine Corps can not-so-fondly recall the dreaded Straits of Hormuz transit. I distinctly recall hours and hours of standing outside in the heat in a 30 year old flak jacket and helmet, manning my 25mm cannon or .50 caliber machine gun mount as we made the trip from the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf. I recall hours of briefings preceding the transit and the relief that washed over us when it was over.
This same harrowing trip is also made by about 20% of the world’s petroleum (and about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea), obviously making the straits an incredibly important strategic asset. The Department of Defense, after all, is the single biggest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the United States. I remember the warnings about Iranian small boat swarm tactics and how frightening it was to wonder if our battlegroup would be the one they followed through with attacking.
We’ve known that Iran is not to be trusted for decades; the rest of the world knows that as well. Iran’s history of oppression, corruption, and terrorism is real, and this is exactly why we must prevent them from building the bomb. Many talk about regime change in Iran, but they ignore the behavior change prompted by diplomacy; these negotiations — culminating in this agreement — have been the only successful action to freeze and roll back their nuclear program.
As the agreement enters a special congressional review period (mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015), it is worth remembering that this deal is not a treaty. It is a multilateral agreement resulting from pressure put on Iran by multilateral sanctions — sanctions that brought Iran to the table, but could do no more to stop the progress of a nuclear weapons program. The notion that we should simply be “more threatening” or “tougher” to get a “better deal” is absurd. Diplomacy worked here because America led the world, and if we go it alone, we’ll be the ones on the outside rather than Iran, and what a tragic irony that would be.
The great news about this deal is that it represents, in my view, just the beginning. Although we are a long way from friendship and trust with Iran, it is my hope that this first step lays the groundwork for many more. I hope we can leverage increased engagement to get the U.S. citizens who are being held prisoner released, and lend a hand to Iranian human rights activists fighting in their country. I also hope that someday my son will be able to visit Iran and take in her rich culture and heritage.
As a veteran, I’ll be closely watching this congressional review of the Iran deal. I hope you are too. I encourage you to call your representative and senators to let them know how you feel. If you’ve experienced it as a veteran, explain to them what it feels like to go through the Strait of Hormuz. Explain to them what it feels like to fight land war after land war in Asia. And explain to them that this agreement is our greatest assurance against more of our friends dying on the battlefield.
We have a historic opportunity here. There is not another alternative to this effective and long-lasting result of tough, principled diplomacy. The world is watching for American leadership, not American machismo. This is how we will prevent another war in Middle East — let’s bring the victory home.