Congressional hearings are frequently long, boring, drawn-out affairs with little substance and lots of posturing. But every once in a while, a member of Congress breaks through the noise and says something noteworthy. Today, in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing full of hawkish posturing on Iran—demands of zero enrichment and a complete dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program, both likely non-starters for Iran’s negotiating team, were standard fare—Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) explained his reasoning for why the White House and P5+1 diplomacy represent the best path forward for the United States.
Meeks suggested that the sanctions regime against Iran as well as the White House’s diplomatic outreach with the P5+1 has required collaboration with US allies.
This President has proposed trying to see what we can do. Talking with Iran not only by ourselves but an unprecedented level with some of our allies.… It just seems as though that when we were successful with sanctions it was when it became multilateral and not just unilateral.
Meeks shared the concern expressed by his colleagues in the committee who question Iranian intentions but emphasized that if Iran fails to live up to its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action or future agreements, the multilateral strategy pursued by the White House will best protect US interests
We are going to need to make sure that we still have unity among ourselves so that we can make sure that those sanctions that we have to put on or implement are not sanctions that’s just done by the United States but are sanctions that are also done by the P5+1 countries, so they become very important to us.
Lest Meeks’ comments give the impression that level-headedness ruled the day in Washington, Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA) reminded the hearing that “Iran is like North Korea” and “if they get a nuclear weapon, they’ll also threaten to bomb Los Angeles.”
Of course, that comparison requires a serious misreading of the politics in Iran and North Korea. The International Atomic Energy Agency has extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities but has had no access to North Korea since 2009, and North Korea has moved forward with a series of nuclear tests between 2006 and 2013. Furthermore, North Korea has shown a determination to acquire nuclear weapons while isolating itself from the world. Iran, by contrast, has pursued negotiations with the P5+1 and sought to negotiate an end to the multilateral sanctions regime highlighted by Representative Meeks.
And as for North Korea’s threats of attacking Los Angeles? US officials don’t believe North Korea has either the capability to deliver a warhead to the continental US or a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.