The U.S. Congress is voting this week on whether to support the agreement that our countries, along with the United States, Russia and China, reached with Iran to curb its nuclear program. This is an important moment. It is a crucial opportunity at a time of heightened global uncertainty to show what diplomacy can achieve.
Iran’s nuclear program has been a source of concern for more than a decade. Iran claimed that its ambitions were purely civil: All countries have the right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But as recently as two years ago, we faced an alarming expansion in Iran’s program: a growing stockpile of uranium, some of it enriched up to 20 percent; an increase in the number of centrifuges, including more powerful new-generation machines; a deeply bunkered enrichment facility at Fordow; and the near completion of a research reactor at Arak capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. And, of course, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had limited visibility of some aspects of Iran’s program.
This posed a serious threat — not only to the security of Iran’s neighbors and for Israel, but also to our countries. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East would have added a disastrous new element to an already unstable region.
We had a shared responsibility to deal with this threat. The long history of fruitless nuclear talks with Iran did not give strong grounds for optimism. Nevertheless, two years of tough, detailed negotiation have produced an agreement that closes off all possible routes to an Iranian nuclear weapon in return for phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions.
In return, Iran will get phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions — but only as it meets its own commitments in concrete ways, verified by the IAEA. And we have all agreed on provisions for the return of sanctions if Iran were to substantially breach the agreement.
This is not an agreement based on trust or on any assumption about how Iran may look in 10 or 15 years. It is based on detailed, tightly written controls that are verifiable and long-lasting. Iran will have strong incentives not to cheat: The near certainty of getting caught and the consequences that would follow would make this a losing option.
We condemn in no uncertain terms that Iran does not recognize the existence of the state of Israel and the unacceptable language that Iran’s leaders use about Israel. Israel’s security matters are, and will remain, our key interests, too. We would not have reached the nuclear deal with Iran if we did not think that it removed a threat to the region and the non-proliferation regime as a whole.
We did not reach the nuclear deal in the expectation that Iran’s external policy would change any time soon. But it does address the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and may open the way to recognition by Iran that collaboration with its neighbors is better than confrontation: Although we may not have the same interests as Iran, we do face some common challenges, including the threat from ISIL.
We are confident that the agreement provides the foundation for resolving the conflict on Iran’s nuclear program permanently. This is why we now want to embark on the full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, once all national procedures are complete.
David Cameron, François Hollande and Angela Merkel are, respectively, the prime minister of Britain, the president of France and the chancellor of Germany.