A group of retired U.S. generals and admirals urged the Trump administration Tuesday to maintain the framework of the Iran nuclear deal, saying the agreement is critical to national security and has successfully blocked the Islamic Republic’s path to a nuclear weapon.
In an open letter to President Donald Trump, 38 former flag officers from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines said that the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) has achieved its aims over the two years since it was signed by the Obama administration, Iran and five world powers.
“On the two-year anniversary of the agreement, we applaud all parties to the deal for remaining in compliance. Iran dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges, gave up 98 percent of its stockpile of sensitive uranium, and poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor,” the retired officers wrote.
The letter acknowledged Iran’s support for terrorism and destabilizing influence in the Middle East, but warned that “aggressive posturing” on regime change could lead to another catastrophic war in the region.
“Without diplomatic connections, minor conflicts can easily spiral out of control,” they wrote. “Diplomacy is a vital tool for mitigating risk. Diplomacy can prevent military confrontations that would cost U.S. servicemembers their lives – without benefiting U.S. national security.”
The letter comes days ahead of a Monday deadline to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the terms of JCPOA. The Trump administration granted a 90-day recertification in April, but both Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have criticized the deal.
JCPOA was negotiated by the U.S. and the so-called P5+1 partners — Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — in 2015. The agreement restricts Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international energy and financial sanctions. Under the deal, Iran must reduce its number of centrifuges by two-thirds, cap uranium enrichment below the level needed for weapons-grade material, and submit to international inspections to confirm compliance.
While Obama hailed JCPOA as a major breakthrough in relations with Iran, leading Republicans have blasted the deal as a giveaway that does little to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon in the long term.
GOP Sens. Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio sent a letter to Tillerson Tuesday, urging him not to certify Iranian compliance and to determine that lifting sanctions on Tehran is not in the national security interests of the U.S. The quartet pointed to several alleged violations, including Iran’s denial of access to nuclear-research facilities and maintenance of heavy water stocks needed to weaponize plutonium.
“A continuation of current policy would be tantamount to rewarding Iran’s belligerence,” the senators wrote. “President Trump has described the JCPOA and its attendant sanctions relief as ‘the worst deal ever negotiated,’ one that is ‘catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.’ He is correct.”
The White House has not indicated which way Trump and Tillerson are leaning on re-certification. Top administration security officials, including National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, are widely seen as Iran hawks skeptical of Tehran’s intent to fulfill the terms of JCPOA. (RELATED: Mattis: Iran Needs Regime Change For Relations To Improve With US)
Despite reservations about Iran’s connection to terrorist groups, the retired officers argued that establishing regular diplomatic talks with Tehran could help help reduce that suspicion and prevent war.
“Opening a communications channel would be a no-cost, high-reward step that will demonstrate U.S. global leadership, save lives and bolster our security at a time of regional and global instability,” they wrote.
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