There have been so many organizations of thoughtful, highly qualified people who have come forth in favor of the Iran nuclear deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPA) that it is hard to keep them all straight. Here is what some of the more important ones are saying about the deal.
We, the undersigned retired military officers, support the agreement as the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. . . .
There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented. If the Iranians cheat, our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it, and U.S. military options remain on the table. And if the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year. The choice is that stark.
We agree with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who said on July 29, 2015, “[r]elieving the risk of a nuclear conflict with Iran diplomatically is superior than trying to do that militarily.”
If at some point it becomes necessary to consider military action against Iran, gathering sufficient international support for such an effort would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance. We must exhaust diplomatic options before moving to military ones.
General Brent Scowcroft (ret.)
There is one more retired General who supports the deal. He is not on the list of 36 Admirals and Generals, but this retired General may be the most important of them all. He is Brent Scowcroft, a national security advisor for both Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He wrote:
Congress again faces a momentous decision regarding U.S. policy toward the Middle East. The forthcoming vote on the nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) will show the world whether the United States has the will and sense of responsibility to help stabilize the Middle East, or whether it will contribute to further turmoil, including the possible spread of nuclear weapons. Strong words perhaps, but clear language is helpful in the cacophony of today’s media.
In my view, the JCPOA meets the key objective, shared by recent administrations of both parties, that Iran limit itself to a strictly civilian nuclear program with unprecedented verification and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council. Iran has committed to never developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon; the deal ensures that this will be the case for at least 15 years and likely longer, unless Iran repudiates the inspection regime and its commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Additional Protocol. . . .
Israel’s security, an abiding U.S. concern, will be enhanced by the full implementation of the nuclear deal. Iran is fully implementing the interim agreement that has placed strict limits on its nuclear program since January 2014 while the final agreement was being negotiated. If Iran demonstrates the same resolve under the JCPOA, the world will be a much safer place. And if it does not, we will know in time to react appropriately. . . .
My generation is on the sidelines of policymaking now; this is a natural development. But decades of experience strongly suggest that there are epochal moments that should not be squandered. President Nixon realized it with China. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush realized it with the Soviet Union. And I believe we face it with Iran today. (Emphasis added)
Former Secertary of State, General Colin Powell (ret)
For Israel’s Sake, Don’t Reject the Iran Agreement by former Knesset member and retired IDF Major General Amram Mitzna
In contrast to Netanyahu and his allies, the country’s experts are focused on the specific merits of the deal, and they generally like what they see. The preeminent nuclear expert, Uzi Even—who is a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces, a physics professor, and a former senior scientist at the Dimona nuclear reactor—concluded in a detailed analysis that “the deal was written by nuclear experts and blocks every path I know to the bomb.” Meanwhile, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a former general and chair of the Israeli Space Agency and National Council for Research and Development, called the agreement “good for Israel.” Former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy describes Iran as having signed on to “an invasive and unique supervision regime like no other in the world” in an agreement that “includes components that are crucial for Israel's security.” They have been joined by other former heads of Israel’s security branches, who, in their dissent, have highlighted concerns that Netanyahu’s scare-mongering will negatively impact Israel’s standing, its deterrent posture, and its national resilience.
Even more significantly, according to a news report in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, the intelligence branch of the Israeli Defense Forces and the Mossad told senior Israeli decision makers that they believed that the nuclear deal is a “reasonable agreement, and even a good agreement in that it includes the means to make it possible to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons in the coming decade.” Perhaps not surprisingly, none of the ex-security chiefs who support the deal have been invited to testify in the Knesset or even to brief the opposition factions.
In this respect, at least, the debate inside Israel is not so different from that in the United States—opponents of the deal are scoring political hits, but failing to land punches on substance. The experts stand with Obama on the deal’s robustness and value.
This deal is good for the United States and our allies in the region, and is the best arrangement possible given current international realities. . .
If Congress ultimately rejects the deal, the consequences for the United States, Israel, the Jewish community and the world will be significant. We fear that the outcome will be the collapse of the international sanctions regime, an Iranian race for nuclear weapons and an associated arms race in the Middle East and isolation of Israel and the United States from international partners.
26 Former Elite Jewish Leaders
Tom Dine, a former Executive Director of AIPAC, was one of the former leaders who signed a letter urging Congress to support the deal. He explained
My hope is that it will give comfort to those who are in favor of the deal with Iran,” said Tom Dine, former AIPAC executive director. Dine added that a deal could serve as a way to engage with Iran and “have a more fluid relationship between Iran and it’s neighbors and between Iran and the world.” Dine also noted that many of the Jewish leaders who had joined this pro-deal initiative had served in the past on AIPAC’s executive committee.
Amongst these scientists are Richard Garwin--one of the key inventors of the hydrogen bomb, six Nobel Prize winners, and Sigfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos Weapons Laboratory-one of the nation's two top secret nuclear weapons national laboratories. They write:
This is an innovative agreement, with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated non-proliferation framework. It limits the level of enrichment of the uranium that Iran can produce, the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile, and the number and kinds of centrifuges it can develop and operate. The agreement bans reconversion and reprocessing of reactor fuel, it requires Iran to redesign its Arak research reactor to produce far less plutonium than the original design, and specifies that spent fuel must be shipped out of the country without the plutonium being separated and before any significant quantity can be accumulated.
A key result of these restrictions is that it would take Iran many months to enrich uranium for a weapon. We contrast this with the situation before the interim agreement was negotiated in Lausanne: at that time Iran had accumulated enough 20 percent enriched uranium that the required additional enrichment time for weapons use was only a few weeks.
The JCPOA also provides for innovative approaches to verification, including monitoring of uranium mining, milling, and conversion to hexafluoride. Centrifuge manufacturing and R&D will be monitored as well. For 15 years the Natanz facility will be the only location where uranium enrichment is allowed to take place and it will be outfitted with real-time monitoring to assure rapid notice of any violation. The authority is provided for real-time monitoring of spent fuel as well.
For the past 36 years, the US and Iran have been embroiled in a zero-sum geopolitical struggle. The arena for this contest has been the larger Middle East, where the two have sought to undermine each other at every given opportunity, at the expense of the stability of the region as a whole.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, US-Iran competition significantly contributed to the destabilization of these two countries. In other countries, the two have funded and backed rivaling groups, adding fuel to an already destabilizing fire.
Even at moments where both sides desired an opportunity to tame their rivalry, the absence of a dialogue between the US and Iran closed off all paths towards de-escalation.
While the JCPOA is primarily a non-proliferation agreement that successfully closes off all weaponization pathways in the Iranian nuclear program, it carries with it significant peace dividends by making diplomacy and dialogue available for conflict resolution – a necessary step to tackle all of the region’s sources of tensions, be they terrorism, sectarianism, or unilateralism.
The region suffers from a diplomacy deficit and the mere fact that the US and Iran can talk to each other again is in and of itself a stabilizing factor for the Middle East and an encouragement for regional rivals to pursue dialogue instead of proxy fights. . . .
. . . a Congressional rejection of the deal will further destabilize the region. Such a move will isolate the United States while Iran will be freed from the nuclear constraints the deal would impose on it. Beyond the proliferation risk this would entail, US-Iran tensions will increase once more and reignite Washington and Tehran’s gravitation towards a military confrontation.
These experts, including former head of the IAEA, Hans Blix and former CIA covert operations officer Valerie Plame write:
When implemented, the JCPOA will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran's enrichment facilities and research and development, including advanced centrifuge research and deployment. Taken in combination with stringent limitations on Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile, these restrictions ensure that Iran’s capability to produce enough bombgrade uranium sufficient for one weapon would be extended to approximately 12 months for a decade or more.
Moreover, the JCPOA will effectively eliminate Iran’s ability to produce and separate plutonium for a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years, including by permanently modifying the Arak reactor, Iran’s major potential source for weapons grade plutonium, committing Iran not to reprocess spent fuel, and shipping spent fuel out of the country.
The JCPOA is effectively verifiable. The agreement will put in place a multi-layered monitoring regime across Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, including centrifuge manufacturing sites (for 20 years), uranium mining and milling (for 25 years), and continuous monitoring of a larger number of nuclear and nuclear-related sites.
The JCPOA requires Iran to implement and ratify the additional protocol to Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement, which significantly enhances the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspection regime. Among other measures, this will give international inspectors timely access to any Iranian facility of proliferation concern, including military sites, which the JCPOA will ensure cannot be stalled more than 24 days without serious consequences.
Gary Samore, Former President of United Against Nuclear Iran
Gary Samore was a founder and President of United Against Nuclear Iran--an organization dedicated to ensuring that Iran would not get nuclear weapons. This organization had lobbied hard for ever tougher sanctions before the deal was reached and nearly all of its members opposed the deal after it was reached. But Gary Samore resigned from the Presidency of the group because he came to a different conclusion than his colleagues. He still had reservations about the agreement-- it left Iran with a larger enrichment program than he would have preferred and he wished the duration of the agreement had been longer. But despite those reservations, he concluded that "this agreement is the best available option to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
Nazee Moinian, a Jewish Iranian American who is a former consultant for the Council on Foreign Relations
Iran is a proud country with a young, sophisticated population that is the most pro-American in the Middle East. According to a report published in 2011 by the Rand Institute, What do Iranians Think, a “substantial” segment of the sampled population expressed support for the reestablishment of ties between the governments of Iran and the United States.
Iranians are also wary of their own status as a pariah nation and blame both their government and the west for their hardships. A continuation of sanctions can have the reverse effect of alienating the pro-American youth while empowering the regime, especially its Revolutionary Guard, which rake in billions in black market deals.
A lifting of sanctions however, pending Tehran’s adherence to the terms of this deal, can potentially pave the way for new channels of communication and cooperation between Iran and the United States. A new opening threatens the very basic tenets of the religious establishment as they have been successful in consolidating their rule in isolation. Their power had gone unchecked exactly because the west (read the United States) shut the door on them and left the regime to its own vices. Considering that Iran has managed to continue and even accelerate its nuclear programme - it now has 19,000 centrifuges - we cannot afford another missed opportunity.
We, the undersigned, have had the honor of representing Iranian people in various terms of the Majlis (Parliament) and have all been forced to temporarily live in exile due to our opposition to both foreign and domestic policies in Iran. . . .
the agreement, in addition to preventing armed conflict and paving the way for resumption of normal trade relations between Iran and Western countries, has the potential to make a significant contribution to the resolution of crises in the Persian Gulf region. . . .
The Iranian American community often describes itself as hopelessly divided. And few things have divided it as much as US policy towards Iran. For years, a small but vocal minority ran an intense defamation campaign against anyone daring to favor negotiations between the United States and Iran. Favoring talks with the government in Iran was falsely equated with support for the Iranian government and its many violations.
We are a group of Iranian civil society activists, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, university professors, religion investigators, senior members of political parties and reformists. We are writing to you at this historic moment in the relations between our two countries to make an appeal for your support of the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
We have long been committed to upholding the values of tolerance, pluralism, human rights and the peaceful relations between nations. We deeply believe that a just and reasonable solution for international disputes is through negotiation not by using the right of power and imposing unilateral views on others. We strongly believe if this nuclear agreement is approved and implemented, it holds the promise of the gradual realization of these universal values within Iran, along with the possibility of better relations between our two nations.
A Token Pro Forma Mention of the Opposition
Update 8/20/15: I just added info about 26 elite Jewish leaders who are now supporting the deal. Time permitting, I will continue to update this and other future developments as they become available.
Update 8/22/15: I added Gary Samore's name to the list. Also I changed a link from Haaretz to Forward when mentioning that Israel's Military Intelligence has been muzzled from discussing positive aspects of the deal. The story at the Forward is more complete.
Update 8/23/15: I added Brent Scowcroft's name to the list. I also added a video of an interview with former head of the Mossad, Efraim Halevy.
Update 8/27: I just added the list of 73 (and counting) prominent International Relations Scholars who support the deal.
Update 8/30: I added former Director General of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Uzi Eilam, to the list
Update 9/2: I added 52 Iranian human rights activists to the list.
Update 9/6: I added former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell's name to the list.