Thursday's announcement of an agreed upon political framework for Iran's nuclear program is a historic victory to be celebrated. Though it took a few days beyond the parties' self-imposed deadline, it was worth the wait. Iran and the P5+1 world powers have achieved an agreement that will allow greater inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a commitment by Iran to use their nuclear power for civilian purposes, and an immediate lifting of financial sanctions on Iran by the United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union. This is a positive sign that diplomats from these six countries — the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China — are in reach of achieving a sustainable nuclear deal with Iran by June 30th.
One need only recall President Nixon's historic re-opening of relations with China to understand that such monumental matters cannot be rushed. Even before taking office in 1969, Nixon had expressed interest in normalizing decades of hostile relations with China for a variety of economic and security reasons, including the containment of a nuclear threat. It was not until 1979, over a decade later, that full diplomatic relations were established. In comparison, the current Iran nuclear negotiations did not begin in a direct, sustained way until just a couple of years ago. There is good reason that the P5+1, who otherwise disagree on many issues, have remained united on this one. Diplomacy is a marathon, not a sprint.
A majority of Americans support direct nuclear negotiations with Iran because they are the single most promising guarantee that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon — a goal that all sides can agree is imperative to maintaining international peace and security. The technical details are still being worked out, but we know now that a deal will include decreasing Iran's centrifuges by two-thirds over the next 10 years. The only enrichment facility Iran will have will be at Natanz, and its enrichment level will be capped so that it does not approach that needed for a weapon. Iran's heavy water reactor in Arak will be redesigned and rebuilt. There will be no sunset on inspection provisions that put Iran's nuclear deal under lock, key and camera. In return for Iran's cooperation, there will be a gradual phasing out of sanctions that have cost Iran billions of dollars and negatively affected its civilians for years.
Despite the broad support, some members of Congress showed impatience by introducing legislation in an effort to precipitously weigh in on the deal. These include the Kirk-Menendez bill, which would impose additional sanctions, and the Corker bill, which gives Congress veto power over any agreement reached with Iran. Such short-sighted behavior is unwarranted, as Congress will later be able to weigh in by lifting sanctions in accordance with Iranian compliance. Worse, it also risks completely derailing the talks. Concerned constituents who fear such a dismal scenario should continue to raise their voices for peace and express their opposition to such dangerous bills. As Secretary of State John Kerry said during the press conference following the announcement, "Now is the time to give space for a deal."
While there is overwhelming support in the U.S. and around the world for a deal, the campaign against diplomacy with Iran has gotten a lot of press recently. However, we know what happens when diplomacy ends. Thirteen years after invading Iraq, which Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others claimed would create "enormous positive reverberations on the region," the U.S. remains entrenched in a war there with no end in sight. The last thing we want is an endless war with Iran.
Negotiators from all sides must drown out the noise and continue the hard work that has led to the progress we've so painstakingly achieved thus far. The preliminary agreement certainly does not mark the end of possibilities for U.S.-Iran diplomacy, but rather it is only the beginning.
Wardah Khalid is a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow, working on Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation Education in Washington D.C. Her email is Wardah@fcnl.org; Twitter: @YAmericanMuslim.