In the long, frustrating history of dealings with Iran over its nuclear development program, the meetings that took place earlier this month between Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) were described as the most serious and candid to date. Those meetings have led to optimism that progress might be made in heading off an Iranian nuclear bomb.
But the process has led some to worry that all we have thus far is an illusion of progress — stemming primarily from President Hassan Rouhani’s recent charm offensive, and the new willingness of Iran to come to the negotiating table. But beyond those outward actions, critics argue that there has been no verifiable change in Iran’s continuing pursuit of a nuclear capability.
This concern has led Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to call for intensified sanctions. “I think the pressure has to be maintained on Iran, even increased on Iran, until it actually stops the nuclear program, that is, dismantles it,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s Meet the Press. And Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) has warned that “If the president were to ask for a lifting of existing sanctions, it would be extremely difficult in the House and Senate to support that.” That view echoes AIPAC’s opposition to a change in course. We agree.
There is no question that the sanctions, largely against Iran’s energy and financial sectors, are having an effect. Those sanctions should be maintained until there is some verifiable change in Iran’s nuclear pursuits.
But it should be remembered that the sanctions were imposed so they could be traded for Iranian compliance. They serve as both a stick and a carrot. Iran should be given the chance to prove it means what it has been saying about openness and transparency, and to prove with clear, verifiable evidence, that it is developing nuclear power only for peaceful purposes. If Iran can prove those claims, the whole issue of sanctions can be reconsidered.
It is properly up to Iran to establish facts that result in the easing or removal of sanctions. But there is no point in easing sanctions before those claims are proved. Why ease up on a successful effort before it achieves results?