Back Obama on Iran nuclear pact

In this April 2, 2015, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, about the breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear talks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

BY ERNEST F. HOLLINGS

In 1971, when Bernie Kline and I visited the Founding Father of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, I remember two things he told us at his apartment in Tel Aviv. First was that “the United States ought to recognize China” and secondly, “Egypt didn’t want to destroy Israel.” Menachem Begin, Golda Meir and other leaders in Israel were whining that “Egypt wanted to destroy Israel.” But Prime Minister Ben-Gurion thought Israel could make peace with Egypt. Today, we are hearing the same thing about Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu whines “that Iran wants to destroy Israel,” but I think that President Obama is on the right course with Iran. It’s reported that Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in two years and this framework gives us verifiable notice in one year or longer that Iran has set aside much of its enriched uranium and stops going for a nuclear weapon.

This framework is not built on trust. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working tirelessly to make sure we have all the inspections necessary to verify the framework and final agreement. Russia and China have agreed to the framework and we’ve given President Putin of Russia every reason to not continue with the sanctions. Increase or continue with the sanctions and abandon the framework as many in Congress suggest and Russia and China could lift sanctions and the United States would be all alone. We ought to be thanking Secretary of State Kerry for his persistent work.

What if Russia delivers a nuclear weapon to Iran? We’ve given Putin every reason to do so. We started the trouble in Ukraine. The U.S. went thousands of miles to the Russian border, to a Russian country, Ukraine, to inject 55 units of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to “spread democracy” in Ukraine. First, we thought it best for Ukraine to join the European Union. Russia countered to have Ukraine join the Russian Eurasian Union. This contest between the United States and Russia continued for months but when Putin offered Ukraine $15 billion in economic assistance, Ukraine opted for Russia. This caused the overthrow of Ukraine’s president, which I’m sure NED and the CIA supported.

The Russian Navy is stationed in Crimea and Crimea voted to join Russia. Civil war broke out in Ukraine between the Russian adherents in Ukraine and Kiev. If Russia had traveled thousands of miles for Mexico and Canada to abandon NAFTA, and join the Russian Eurasian Union, we would be all over President Obama to protect the United States’ interest. But when Putin moves to protect Russia’s interest in Ukraine, we object to Putin’s aggression. We have given Putin every reason to abandon sanctions against Iran and to deliver a nuclear weapon to Iran.

Members of Congress who are opposing this framework with Iran are thinking only about contributions for their reelection and not the United States policy to secure Israel.

The important thing is to realize that the sanctions have worked. The advent of the nuclear weapon has checkmated our military in foreign policy. Today, economics, like sanctions, and our Good Neighbor Policy have taken over foreign policy. China learned this in 1989 after Tiananmen Square. The U.S. had obtained a resolution in the United Nations to investigate human rights in China. China went to its economic friends in Africa and the Pacific and there has never been a hearing on the resolution. Members in Congress who oppose this framework or want more sanctions ought to realize that the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China have all gone along with the sanctions and framework. Now, if we dump the framework, as Prime Minister Netanyahu and many in Congress want us to do, and go back to sanctions, this doesn’t stop Iran’s research for a nuclear weapon, and it doesn’t stop Iran’s production of enough uranium for a nuclear weapon.

It doesn’t continue Russia and China’s agreeing to the framework and their joining in the sanctions. I would suspect that Russia and China, who already have nuclear weapons, would discontinue the sanctions.

Let’s give President Obama a chance to reduce the framework into a formal agreement with Iran.

Ernest F. Hollings, a Democrat, served from 1959-63 as S.C. governor and from 1966-2005 in the U.S. Senate.