Now for the hard part

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The broad outlines of a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, reached by international negotiators last week, offers both hope and concern about whether Tehran’s ambitions can be constrained in exchange for ending crippling sanctions and instituting a robust inspection regime by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But if ever the devil was in the details, this is it. With the parameters agreed upon, negotiators from Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany must still build the machinery of the agreement, a task they have given themselves until June 30 to do. Only then will we know if this is a good deal or a bad deal.

Still to be spelled out: How and under what conditions will Iran get sanctions relief? How will Iranian compliance be verified? And what will be the response if Iran fails to meet its commitments?

The answers to these and other questions deserve close scrutiny and debate. We welcome President Barack Obama’s expressed interest in engaging Congress as the negotiations continue. That will undoubtedly be an important component, as review by the legislature will potentially give a ‘”good deal” some necessary momentum or lead to a rethinking of components of a “bad deal.” Either way, congressional discussion of the terms of the deal is a good idea.

There are views on all sides of the issue. We have been barraged with almost nonstop critiques and analyses since the president’s announcement (and Teheran’s counter-announcement) last Thursday afternoon.

What is needed now is a civil, reasoned debate toward what all agree on: alleviating the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. If that result is assured and verifiable, then let’s make a deal. If not, we need the courage and conviction to say “no.”

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