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Unrealistic demands could derail Iran nuclear talks

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Here in New Mexico, we are acutely aware of the true costs of war. If it isn’t our own children we watch coming home maimed and scarred, it is the children of others whom we have come to know through their service at the military facilities that dot our state.

Because of the high human cost, we know that war should only be considered as a last resort, in instances where we are attacked or our nation’s safety is threatened.

However, determining the latter can be very difficult. As was demonstrated by the faulty intelligence regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, even our own CIA cannot accurately evaluate every threat all of the time.

Today, the United States and our allies in the Middle East face the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Considering Iran’s record of threatening Israel and sponsoring global terror groups, it is unquestionably in the best interests of the United States that Iran not develop nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, through the strict sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations, Iran has chosen to discuss significant reductions in its nuclear capabilities.

Thanks to a recently negotiated temporary agreement that took effect this month, inspectors will soon be combing Iran’s nuclear facilities with unprecedented access.

And, more importantly, this new agreement sets the stage for negotiation of a permanent reduction of Iran’s nuclear capabilities without resorting to military force.

New legislation introduced by Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk threatens to undermine these diplomatic efforts.

Their legislation would force even greater sanctions upon Iran unless nearly impossible to meet requirements are met. The White House and top Iran experts have warned that the passage of this legislation could very well cause Iran to cease negotiations and, once again, bring us to the brink of military action.

Given that the interim agreement explicitly forbids the introduction of new sanctions, the Menendez-Kirk bill would nullify all of the progress we have made in curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

By giving the impression that we are more interested in exacting punishment than making a deal, we would give Iran an excuse to leave the negotiating table and blame us for the talks’ collapse. We would also send the wrong message to our allies, who have been essential partners in enforcing existing sanctions.

Fueling the divisions within our international coalition could ultimately reduce the economic pressure on Iran in the long run.

The Menendez-Kirk bill would also constrain our negotiators with unrealistic demands as they work to reach a final agreement.

Instead of giving them space to negotiate a deal that could prevent Iran from acquiring a weapon, it demands that a deal go much further, requiring Iran to dismantle its entire program.

Instead of offering Iran compromise, it expects its total surrender. At a critical time for diplomacy, such an unrealistic condition would doom negotiations for failure.

While we can’t be sure exactly what Iran’s intentions are, for the first time, we have a chance to test them.

It is not only appropriate, but also wise to oppose this legislation and to allow the diplomatic efforts time to succeed. It is clear that the sanctions applied to date have had a dramatic effect on Iran and the vast majority of them remain in place.

Iran may yet agree to make historic concessions in order to remove the rest of them. And if we determine that Iran is indeed wasting our time, we will have more leverage to convince our partners to impose even tougher sanctions.

Let us give the president and our allies the tools they need to make a deal, and thus avoid putting our children and our neighbors’ children in harm’s way again.

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