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Chicago Tribune: Duckworth, Foster, Quigley: Why we support an imperfect Iran nuclear deal

Sep 9, 2015

The following article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 9, 2015. A link to the article can be found here.

By U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Tammy Duckworth, and Bill Foster

While not trained arms negotiators, we three members of Congress relied upon careful consideration rather than rushed partisanship in reviewing the historic accord designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We listened to diverse views from experts on both sides, received confidential intelligence briefings and, most important, met and talked with constituents.

In addition to that input, each of us brings a unique perspective on the deal. Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq combat veteran who is a leading voice nationally on the real cost of war and just returned from a fact-finding trip to Israel; Bill Foster is the only Ph.D. physicist in Congress and an expert in the science underlying the agreement; and Mike Quigley is a member of the House Intelligence Committee who brings the perspective of the U.S. and international intelligence community.

Unlike those who condemned the accord before reviewing it, we actually read the entire document, carefully weighed the evidence and came to a shared conclusion: that despite flaws in the deal, the P5+1 accord with Iran, while not perfect, gives us the best chance of stopping that country's dangerous nuclear program and serves the national security interests of the United States and our allies, especially Israel.

As one who understands the true cost of war, Tammy Duckworth is keenly aware of the dangers of failing to exhaust the diplomatic option to achieve this goal. We owe our troops a carefully considered strategy that does not recklessly put them in harm's way. A military strike would only set Iran's nuclear weapons program back by about three years, compared to 10 to 15 years under the agreement. If Iran cheats, America is ready to respond. Approving this deal strengthens any future response by providing our military planners with international legitimacy and enhanced intelligence on military targets. That's why so many top American military leaders, active and retired, support the deal. We will also work to enhance military, intelligence and security cooperation with Israel and other regional allies to counter any increase of Iranian aggression in the region in light of the deal.

From a scientific point of view, after no fewer than 15 briefings from officials at the Department of Energy, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department, Bill Foster is confident that this agreement provides our best opportunity to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

This deal will give us the opportunity to closely monitor how the Iranian nuclear program is reducing its stockpiles of fissile material by 98 percent as well as eliminating nearly all of the Iranians' most advanced centrifuges and allows us to take action should they fail to honor the agreement. This is not a deal built on trust, this is an agreement based on science — not on what Iran might do, but on what it is able to do without detection. These technical details have been verified not just by Foster, but by dozens of our nation's best scientists, including many at Argonne National Lab, and by our secretary of energy and an accomplished physicist, Ernest Moniz.

As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Mike Quigley has consulted critical players within the U.S. and global intelligence communities, and they all agree: This deal will give the United States and our allies invaluable and unprecedented intelligence access to Iran.

Under this agreement, we have the ability to inspect any of Iran's declared nuclear facilities anytime, anywhere. The briefings received make clear that this deal puts in place a stringent and intrusive verification regime that gives the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community the tools necessary to monitor Iran's compliance with the deal. If Iran cheats, we will almost certainly know. And the detailed knowledge of the Iranian program and its ongoing activities gained through the deal's extensive inspections and access will improve not only our ability to hold Iran accountable but also the effectiveness of any military action we may need to take in the future.

The military, scientific and intelligence facets of the accord are complex and do raise legitimate concerns, but opponents of the deal have provided no credible alternatives. Continuing sanctions if the current deal collapses is virtually impossible — Iran would still receive billions of dollars in sanction relief from a divided world. The two worst options are allowing the sanctions to fall apart without concessions from Iran and war — with most of the military burden shouldered by the United States.

We live in serious times that call for serious, if imperfect, solutions. The only deal that works for the U.S. and our allies and stops Iran's nuclear program for nearly 15 years is the one before us. We urge our colleagues to join us in support of President Obama's accord with Iran.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., serves on the House Armed Services Committee and recently retired from the National Guard as a lieutenant colonel. U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in physics and was part of the team that discovered the top quark while working at Fermilab. U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and has traveled recently to survey the situation in the Middle East and Asia.