OPINION: Militaries Don’t Fix Problems

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ADMIRAL Joe Sestak

BY JOE SESTAK
Tensions between Iran and the United States have recently reached dangerous new heights – which could result in spiraling reprisals devolving into war.

Having served in the military, I know that militaries can stop a problem, but they can’t fix a problem. This is why I supported the Iran nuclear accord, and still support it today as the best framework for maintaining peace and security for us and our allies. As tensions continue to ratchet up, we must own up to the fact that we are to blame. We broke our word.

The latest development is the recent announcement from Tehran that Iranians have begun enriching uranium above limits agreed upon in 2015. This does not mean Iran is significantly closer to developing a nuclear weapon, but it does mean they no longer comply with the agreement.

Of course, we first violated its terms by withdrawing from the agreement, in May 2018, after establishing sanctions on Iran. At the time of our withdrawal, Iran was in full compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on the ground verifying compliance every day.

The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw was a huge strategic mistake. It makes negotiating disarmament with other countries – such as North Korea – immeasurably more difficult, because those countries now have every reason to suspect we will not uphold our side of any bargain.

The Iran deal was not all-inclusive: it did not deal with Iran’s ballistic missile program, nor with Iran’s meddling in the affairs of their neighbors and support of violent extremists, and had an expiration date. But by fulfilling its fundamental purpose – preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons – it was successful.

Also, critically, it was building trust between Iran and the international community. It takes time to repair fractured relationships, especially when there are decades of animosity to overcome, and the nuclear agreement was designed to be a decade-long first step toward peace and reconciliation.

The recent high-stakes drama in the Straits of Hormuz, during which two foreign oil tankers were attacked, followed by Iran shooting down of a U.S. drone, brought us to the brink of war – a terrible prospect. During my years in the Navy and in the White House, I was involved in assessing how a war with Iran would go. In summary: It would be ugly.

Reprinted courtesy of the Des Moines Register.

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