After a decade of diplomatic effort, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany reached an accord with Iran earlier this year. These nations (known as the P5+1 or the E3+3), engaged in negotiations with the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. A deal was signed on July 14, 2015, that would limit Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Under the Iran Nuclear Deal Review Act of 2015, Congress had 60 days to review the details of the final agreement. During the review period, which ended on September 18, Congress was unable to pass any legislation approving or disapproving the Iran deal. In announcing the agreement in July, President Obama placed the agreement in its broader foreign policy context. Acknowledging the “difficult history” between the US and Iran, the president urged us to seize the possibility for change and reject “the path of violence and rigid ideology” and a foreign policy based on threats. He called for “a different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict” that could lead to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.”

The Iran deal is one of the six focus issues that the next chapter is following during the presidential campaign.

On the Iran Nuclear Deal:

Do you support the nuclear agreement with Iran?

TNC’s take: The P5+1 nuclear development deal with Iran is a significant diplomatic overture that history may judge to be a major turning point for the better in the Middle East. If it is implemented in good faith by the parties, it may enable Iran to defer, or even abandon, development of a nuclear weapon. More importantly, the nuclear deal may provide a bridge of common ground that will make further diplomatic achievements in the region possible.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has never served in government, much less in any elected position, is now the front-runner in Iowa for the Republican nomination to be president of the United States. Demonstrating his unique grasp of foreign policy, he told Fox News in August that the Iran nuclear deal proves that President Obama is “anti-Semitic.”

Donald Trump, the other leader of the Republican pack, told a rally of the Tea Party faithful in September that “we are led by stupid, stupid people—very, very stupid people.” Trump praised his own ability to make “wonderful deals, great deals” and added: “Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction as incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran.”

Marco Rubio, who may yet emerge as the Republicans’ compromise Latino candidate, condemned the Iran deal in July, warning “the Iranian regime and the world” that “a majority of members in this Congress do not support this deal and that the deal could go away on the day President Obama leaves office.” He has said if he is elected, he would rescind the deal and re-impose sanctions on Iran. In a speech to the Foreign Policy Initiative in August, Rubio linked the nuclear deal in Iran and normalized relations with Cuba, declaring that they “represent the convergence of nearly every flawed strategic, moral, and economic notion that has driven President Obama’s foreign policy.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, supports the Iran deal. In a speech at the Brookings Institution in September, Clinton said: “Diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection — it is the balancing of risk.” She said that the deal “blocks every pathway for Iran to get a bomb,” and she commented that it was unrealistic to believe that a better deal with Iran was possible. Clinton is “deeply concerned about Iranian aggression,” and, playing on the old Russian proverb often used by Ronald Reagan, she said that her approach to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program would be “distrust, but verify.”

Bernie Sanders, solidly in second place in the Democratic nomination race, supports the Iran deal. He has called it “a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling.” Sanders, quoting the Beatles, suggested that we should “give peace a chance.” He said that “we have to negotiate with Iran,” because “the alternative of not reaching an agreement…is war.” In a statement on his Senate website, Sanders criticized opponents of the deal: “Those who have spoken out against this agreement, including many in this chamber, and those who have made every effort to thwart the diplomatic process, are many of the same people who spoke out forcefully and irresponsibly about the need to go to war with Iraq – one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the modern history of our country.”

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