Dear Secretary Blinken and Mr. Sullivan,
As diplomatic momentum builds and gaps narrow in multilateral negotiations in Vienna, Austria, we write to urge the Biden administration to finalize a restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
All parties in the negotiations now acknowledge that a path to returning to the deal is within reach, which presents the Biden administration with a stark choice. Finalize a restoration of the JCPOA and restore far-reaching constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, or risk being trapped in the failed maximum pressure policies the Trump administration enacted.
Many of those who cheered as Trump sabotaged the JCPOA have already made clear that the maximum pressure road ends in a full-blown war between the U.S. and Iran. A turn away from diplomacy toward a war of choice with Iran would be incredibly detrimental to U.S. national security. Such a war would likely engulf the region in chaos, involve substantial civilian and military casualties and ultimately incentivize Iran to drive firmly toward a nuclear deterrent. As the former head of Israel’s Iran military intelligence unit said, “there is no magic solution to Iran’s nuclear program, especially not through an attack.”
Likewise, those who have cautioned delay and prioritized pressure over good-faith diplomacy have been proven wrong. Trump’s coercive approach has led to a harmful stalemate and predictably triggered dramatic escalation in the Iranian nuclear program. For the people of Iran, U.S. sanctions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have exacted a harsh toll. Similarly, recent calls to break off talks prematurely were followed by continued progress toward a restoration of the deal.
Fortunately, it is clear that the Iran nuclear agreement remains overwhelmingly in the U.S. interest, and that the nonproliferation benefits of restoring the deal would be immediate and significant. The political window also remains open, as nearly every Democratic lawmaker in Congress has supported your diplomatic efforts and given your administration ample space to strike a deal. Particularly as the party that breached the deal in 2018, it is vital that the United States continue to press toward a successful conclusion of negotiations. Our collective organizations urge you to follow through on your commitment to restore the agreement.
As you seek a diplomatic breakthrough, you should consider the very real sources of Iran’s reticence over lack of clarity on how long sanctions relief can last. This reticence will not be overcome by military bluster or the already-failed approach of maximum pressure. It can only be overcome by ensuring sanctions relief is restored fully and in a durable manner. Moreover, assurances and mechanisms that deter against any future unjustified exit from the JCPOA ultimately serve U.S. interests, as it would be tremendously detrimental to American security if Iran is once again incentivized to ignore restrictions on its nuclear program. Thanks to the diplomacy of the past few months, the JCPOA may miraculously survive Trump’s exit from the agreement. There is no reason to believe, however, that the agreement could survive a second American exit.
There are many issues that the U.S. and Iran must address through diplomacy, including freedom for dual nationals unjustly detained in Iran and heightened regional tensions. The best way to address these issues is to press forward and finalize a restoration of the JCPOA, not turn away from the negotiating table and double down on a failed approach.
As supporters of the JCPOA and your administration’s efforts to restore the agreement, we stand ready to support and defend a restoration of the agreement against bad faith and partisan opponents.
Americans for Peace Now
Council for a Livable World
Demand Progress Education Fund
Foreign Policy for America
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
National Iranian American Council
Peace Corps Iran Association
Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Rethinking Foreign Policy
Truman Center for National Policy
Truman National Security Project
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)