By Congresswoman Julia Brownley

Originally published in the Ventura County Star

Iran has long worked to develop a nuclear weapon, and the international community has long struggled with the best way to stop them. There have been sanctions, negotiations and considerations of military strikes.

As the world has struggled with the most effective approach, Iran went from possessing 200 centrifuges to almost 20,000. These centrifuges are being used to enrich uranium, and highly enriched uranium is needed to make a nuclear bomb. By most estimates, Iran is currently only months away from being able to build a bomb.

Iran is ruled by a repressive regime that has taken every opportunity to declare its intent to destroy Israel and to harm the United States. Iran is also a chief sponsor of terrorism in the world. A nuclear-armed Iran would not only threaten the very existence of Israel, but it could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which would destabilize the entire world.

The bottom line is that we simply cannot allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In response to Iran’s nuclear activities, the United Nations Security Council imposed unprecedented new international sanctions against Iran to pressure the regime into giving up their nuclear weapons program.

Those sanctions were successful in bringing Iran to the negotiating table, which resulted in an agreement that would relieve some sanctions in exchange for Iran giving up their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. To verify Iran’s compliance, the agreement would allow inspectors on the ground, reduce Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile by 98 percent and lock up most of their centrifuges.

Nuclear weapons experts, with whom I have spoken, believe the agreement is strong, but few believe it is perfect. While the agreement does not rely on trust, it does rely on the inspections regime, and our intelligence agencies, to be able to uncover violations.

Some have argued that we should reject this deal in the hopes that China, Russia and our European allies will stay united in pressuring Iran to agree to better terms. Given the herculean effort it took to bring these countries together to apply the sanctions in the first place, that most of these countries want access to Iran’s markets, and that all of these countries support the agreement, such a notion seems unrealistic.

Others have argued for military strikes. A military strike in Iran would almost certainly have unintended consequences, and there is no guarantee that strikes would be effective. But there is a real possibility that military strikes would lead to significant civilian and military casualties.

In the end, if we walk away from this agreement, there is little certainty the conditions will exist to get a better deal, and the risks to our national security are less with this deal, than with no deal. I also simply cannot ask our brave men and women in service to risk their lives while a diplomatic option is on the table.

For these reasons, I intend to support the agreement.

Going forward, we must not only work to improve the likelihood that this diplomatic approach will succeed, but our foreign policy posture must not be limited to this issue alone. In addition to strict enforcement of the agreement, we need to increase deterrence in the region, we need to be clear to Iran that we will use all means necessary to stop them from acquiring a nuclear weapon should this process fail, and we need to ratchet up our efforts to end Iran’s support of terrorism.

I have heard from many residents of Ventura County, and I have been deeply moved by your passionate and respectful arguments on both sides. I have also been moved by your deep support for Israel, which I share. I cannot predict how the agreement will proceed in Congress, but I can guarantee that the conversations I have had with so many of you have not ended, they are just beginning.

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