WASHINGTON – In an open letter to President Obama published July 12, more than 75 former government officials and private sector security professionals praised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran Nuclear Deal, and urged for a strengthening of ties with Iran. The notable group of bipartisan signatories includes former Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak, Nobel Prize winners Leon Cooper and Burton Richter, and retired Sens. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Dick Lugar (R-IN).
With the one-year anniversary of the nuclear accord approaching, the letter exalts the JCPOA for providing greater security to the region and the world by blocking all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon. The authors go on to recommend that the U.S. develop policies that “increase chances of cooperation” and “minimize confrontation” with Iran.
The letter encourages the Administration to implement three institutional structures that would ensure the continuance of relations between the U.S. and Iran for the next Administration. First, a direct diplomatic channel at the deputy level between the U.S. Department of State and Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Without such continuity during the transition period, the next Administration will lack the diplomatic means to enlist or pressure Iran in the management of important and urgent issues such as ISIS, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan where the U.S. and Iran have some common but often clashing interests.”
Second, the National Security Leaders recommend setting up an emergency communication channel with Iran to avoid “misunderstandings” and prevent “escalation of incidents or accidents.” Third, a direct and bilateral channel between the U.S. Treasury and the Central Bank of Iran to ensure clarity and compliance with the ongoing sanctions relief programs that are a result of the JCPOA.
The letter, which does not specifically call for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran, states that greater diplomatic engagement with Iran is the only way to prevent a return to the “era of treating Iran as America’s principal enemy in the region” and a further deterioration of the security situation in the Middle East. “Iran’s leaders appear reluctant now to engage the U.S. beyond the implementation of the JCPOA, and Iran’s actions in the region may make engagement difficult for the U.S. But the one lesson learned from your diplomatic efforts with Iran is that persevering patiently in pursuit of careful diplomacy can lead to progress,” the authors conclude in the letter.
The letter was published by the Iran Project, an organization made up of former government officials, which seeks to support a balanced, objective, and bipartisan approach to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.