December 19, 2013

Dear Senator Schumer

Dear Senator Schumer,

I have read the text of the draft legislation that was introduced today under the title “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013.” You are prominently named as a supporter.

The bottom line of this bill as written would remove any real negotiating authority from the U.S. government by specifying in advance the terms of an impossible settlement. At the same time, the bill outsources any decision about resort to military action to the government of Israel, by committing the United States in advance to support any military action by Israel.

The bill ignores President Obama’s declared intention of insuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. Instead, it insists on the objective defined by Prime Minister Netanyahu, among others, to eliminate all capability by Iran to ever build a nuclear device. As I’m sure you know, even the most peaceful nuclear activity can be used for military purposes. It is possible to regulate how far a country is away from a nuclear weapon. It is not possible to eliminate the possibility entirely. That is the dilemma at the heart of the nuclear non-proliferation effort.

A decade ago, the United States and some allies attempted to replace a good outcome that was achievable with a perfect outcome that was not. At that time, we rejected an Iranian offer to limit enrichment to 3,000 centrifuges and insisted on zero. As a result, today Iran has some 19,000 centrifuges.

The deal on the table with Iran offers the best opportunity in more than a generation to make sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. This bill would sabotage that effort before it even begins.

In addition to imposing new sanctions, which the members of the UN Security Council agreed not to do, this bill as written commits the US government to prove a negative. Quite simply it makes it impossible to negotiate any agreement with Iran short of unconditional surrender of its national sovereignty.

In fact, the enforcement of the objectives of this bill would require a permanent US presence in the decision-making process of the Iranian government, because there is no way to insure that someone in Iran is not plotting to build a nuclear weapon except to be omnipresent.

That is what we tried to do in Iraq. It is called occupation, and it is achieved not by negotiation but by war.

I urge you to withdraw your support from this dangerous bill.

Gary Sick
Columbia University

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