July 11, 2016
On the eve of the one year anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal, 75 national security experts and scientists published an open letter to President Obama applauding his administration’s “commitment to the rigorous verification of Iran’s compliance and remaining in close contact with the U.S. negotiating partners on the JCPOA implementation.” The signers called for greater diplomatic engagement to facilitate communication and, if necessary, allow Washington diplomatic means to pressure Tehran. The signers included:
- 23 former ambassadors (including 5 US ambassadors to Israel)
- 14 former members of Congress
- 7 scientists including 3 Nobel laureates
- 8 generals including two four-stars
- 6 former members of the National Security Council
- 5 former Defense Department officials, including 2 assistant secretaries
The following is the full text of the letter organized by The Iran Project, an independent non-governmental entity that supports a balanced, objective, and bipartisan approach to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
July 12, 2016
Dear Mr. President,
On the first anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, Americans should be proud of your leadership in bringing about this landmark diplomatic agreement.
As a result of the JCPOA all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon have been blocked, thereby providing greater security to our friends and partners in the region and to the world. From November 2013, when the interim nuclear agreement was reached, until today, Iran has remained in compliance with its commitments as verified by regular reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
We applaud your Administration’s commitment to the rigorous verification of Iran’s compliance and remaining in close contact with the U.S. negotiating partners on the JCPOA implementation. This will be essential to ensure their cooperation should action be required to respond to an Iranian violation. As your policies have shown, it will also be essential for the U.S. to continue to assure Israel and the Gulf states of its resolute commitment to their security as our traditional partners in the region. It will be necessary to ensure adequate long-term funding for the IAEA so that it can carry out its inspection and reporting functions as required by the JCPOA.
Future relations with Iran can improve or get worse and become dangerous for U.S. interests in the region as Iran continues to support the Assad regime and Hezbollah. The U.S. should develop policies that increase the chances of cooperation with Iran, minimize confrontation, and influence Iran’s actions in the region. We acknowledge that opportunities will be limited for testing Iran’s willingness to work directly with the U.S. due to the political uncertainties in both countries in the coming year, but engagement should be the U.S. government’s long-term goal.
Your diplomatic undertaking with Iran was to seek a safer world and stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons. To achieve those ambitious goals you engaged in prolonged and intense diplomatic negotiations that enabled you to deal directly with Iran and to test its willingness to work with the U.S. and others in some areas of common purpose. The alternative strategy would be to return to an earlier era of treating Iran as America’s principal enemy in the region, thereby: risking the unraveling of the JCPOA; drawing strong opposition from negotiating partners; returning to a period of nuclear danger; missing important opportunities for collaboration in the fight against ISIS and the search for solutions to other regional problems; and risking another armed conflict involving the U.S. in the Middle East.
We, therefore, encourage your Administration to put in place an institutional structure for conducting relations with Iran in all areas essential to U.S. interests. We suggest several channels that could be set up for your successor:
- A direct diplomatic channel at the deputy level to continue the communications currently being conducted between the Secretary of State and Iranian Foreign Minister. 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.
- An emergency communications capability with Iran’s government to avoid misunderstandings or the escalation of incidents or accidents.
- A regular and direct bilateral channel between the U.S. Treasury and Iranian Central Bank to address all U.S. and Iranian questions about the implementation of sanctions relief commitments under the JCPOA. Treasury and State will need to stay in close harmony in talks with Iran on sanctions relief.
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. A variety of channels with Iran will be needed to drive home messages and to improve mutual understanding on our positions on issues of importance to the U.S. – including regional security questions and the treatment of dual nationals – among others.
You have shown that well-conceived and tough-minded diplomacy can protect U.S. national security interests. Given the stakes, the U.S. will need more, not less, engagement with Iran.
Amb. (ret.) Morton Abramowitz, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, Ambassador to Thailand and Turkey
Graham Allison, Assistant Secretary of Defense
Les AuCoin, U.S. Representative
Amb. (ret.) Barbara K. Bodine, Ambassador to Yemen
David Bonior, U.S. Representative
BGen Stephen A. Cheney (ret.), U.S. Marine Corps
Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund
Amb. (ret.) James F. Collins, Ambassador at Large for the New Independent States and to the Russian Federation
Leon N. Cooper, Brown University, Nobel Laureate Physics
Amb. (ret.) Chester A. Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Amb. (ret.) James B. Cunningham, Ambassador to Israel, Afghanistan, and the United Nations
Tom Daschle, U.S. Senator, Senate Majority Leader
Suzanne DiMaggio, Director and Senior Fellow at New America
Amb. (ret.) James Dobbins, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Freeman Dyson, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
Major General Paul D. Eaton (ret.), U.S. Army, Managing Director Vet Voice Foundation
Robert Einhorn, Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation, the Secretary of State’s Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control
Harold A. Feiveson (ret.), Senior Research Scientist, Princeton University
Richard L. Garwin, Chair of the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board
F. Gregory Gause III, Chairman and Head of the International Affairs Department at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University
Leslie H. Gelb, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Director of Policy Planning and Arms Control at the Department of Defense
Amb. (ret.) Marc Grossman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Ambassador to Turkey
Morton H. Halperin, Director of Policy Planning Department of State, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Planning and Arms Control
Lee H. Hamilton, U.S. Representative, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Gary Hart, U.S. Senator, Special Envoy to Northern Ireland
Amb. (ret.) William C. Harrop, Ambassador to Israel, Inspector General of the State Department
Stephen B. Heintz, President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
James Hoge, Former Editor of Foreign Affairs Magazine
Amb. (ret.) Robert Hunter, National Security Council Director of Middle East Affairs and Ambassador to NATO
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Arlen D. Jameson, U.S. Air Force, Deputy Commander U.S. Strategic Command
J. Bennett Johnston, U.S. Senator
Nancy Landon Kassebaum, U.S. Senator
LTG. Frank Kearney (ret.), U.S. Army, Deputy Director for Strategic Operational Planning at the National Counter-Terrorism Center
LTG. Claudia J Kennedy (ret.), U.S. Army, Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence
Amb. (ret.) Daniel Kurtzer, Ambassador to Israel and Egypt
Ellen Laipson, Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council, President Emeritus of Stimson Center
Carl Levin, U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services
Mel Levine, U.S. Representative
Amb. (ret.) John Limbert, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran
Amb. (ret.) Winston Lord, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific; Ambassador to China, Director of Policy Planning, Department of State
Amb. (ret.) William H. Luers, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela
Richard G. Lugar, U.S. Senator, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Suzanne Maloney, Policy Planning Department of State, Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution
Jessica T. Mathews, Director of the Office of Global Issues, National Security Council
Gen. (ret.) Merrill McPeak, U.S. Air Force, Chief of Staff
Amb. (ret.) William G. Miller, Ambassador to Ukraine
Amb. (ret.) Cameron Munter, Ambassador to Pakistan and Serbia
Amb. (ret.) Richard W. Murphy, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
Vali Nasr, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Richard Nephew, Director for Iran at the National Security Council, Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the Department of State
Amb. (ret.) Ronald E. Neumann, Ambassador to Afghanistan, Algeria, and Bahrain
Gen. (ret.) Lloyd Fig Newton, U.S. Air Force, Commander, Air Education and Training Command
Joseph Nye, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council
Admiral (ret.) Eric Olson, U.S. Navy, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command
Amb. (ret.) Thomas Pickering, Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs; Ambassador to Israel, Russia, India, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan
Paul R. Pillar, National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia
Amb. (ret.) Nicholas Platt, Ambassador to Pakistan, Philippines, and Zambia
Joe R. Reeder, Deputy Secretary of the Army, Chairman of the Panama Canal Commission
Amb. (ret.) Francis J. Ricciardone, Ambassador to Egypt, Turkey, the Philippines, and Palau
Burton Richter, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University; Nobel Laureate in Physics
Barnett R. Rubin, Senior Adviser to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Gary S. Samore, White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council
Gen. Brent Scowcroft (ret.), U.S. National Security Advisor
Patricia Schroeder, U.S. Representative
Jim Slattery, U.S. Representative
Mark Udall, U.S. Senator
Amb. (ret.) Bill vanden Heuvel, Ambassador to the European Office of the United Nations, Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Frank N. von Hippel, Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Jane Wales, Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director of the National Security Council, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Amb. (ret.) Edward S. Walker, Jr., Ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates
James Walsh, Research Associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program
Frank Wilczek, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nobel Laureate in Physics
Timothy E. Wirth, U.S. Senator
Amb. (ret.) Frank Wisner, Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs; Ambassador to India, Egypt, the Philippines, and Zambia
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