Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) has come out in strong support of a political solution to the Iran crisis. She is cautiously optimistic that the next round of talks in Baghdad on May 23, "may lead to a breakthrough on Iran's nuclear program," she wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle April 30.
As a leader in the Democratic party and in the Senate on national security issues, Feinstein joins other senior Senators like John Kerry in the public support of a political solution to Iran's nuclear program. These statements signify a shift away from the bellicose rhetoric that has characterized the debate on Iran and give critical political support to the negotiations process.
Senator Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, says:
Significant challenges remain to bridge differences and overcome decades of suspicion and mistrust, but these talks deserve our full support. A few months ago, talks seemed dead and chatter about Tehran's nuclear program centered on when, not if, Israel would attack Iran.
What has changed? First, economic sanctions against Iran are affecting the country's economy. Iran's ability to import and export goods has been curtailed, its financial sector is under pressure, and its currency is significantly devalued. The full weight of sanctions, including a European Union oil embargo, will be felt this summer.
Second, Iran is more isolated than ever before. Syria is in no position to help it, and Iran's traditional U.N. Security Council defenders - Russia and China - are curbing ties.
Feinstein also credits the prospect of an Israeli military strike with increasing the pressure on Iran, but warns, "such a strike could lead to a broader regional war." This, she argues, is why all efforts must be expended to avert another war in the Middle East. But this is not a plea for a deal at any cost. Feinstein, who know more about the Iranian program than most observers, is very clear on what Iran needs to do:
The world community must see real progress and tangible results. Iran must demonstrate it is moving away from becoming a nuclear armed state. The outlines of an agreement are clear: Iran would halt enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, close its Fordow uranium enrichment plant and move its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. It would cap future enrichment at 5 percent and all nuclear activities, facilities and stored material would be accessible to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In return, the P5+1 and the international community would gradually lift sanctions and possibly provide Iran with equipment and material for a civilian nuclear power program and medical purposes. The United States could affirm that it does not seek regime change. As Iran fulfills its obligations and takes verifiable actions to answer questions about its nuclear program, we could respond in kind.
The Senator from California acknowledges the cynicism that many have on this issue. "Some argue Iran has no intention of curtailing its nuclear program and that any talks are bound to fail," she says, "but I believe circumstances finally may be right to negotiate an agreement."
A political solution may not be easy or satisfy all concerns about Iran. "But given the looming threat of an Israeli military strike and the potentially catastrophic reaction in the Middle East," she concludes, "a diplomatic solution offers the best outcome for Iran, Israel and the international community. We must support those efforts."