Congressman Alan Lowenthal outside his Long Beach field office with supporters of the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Photo/Video: Jason Ruiz
Congressman Alan Lowenthal pledged his support for the Iranian Nuclear Deal early Wednesday morning, just hours before activists with the “No War With Iran Day of Action” group—one of about 200 groups scheduled to petition nationwide urging support from Congress—were set to rally outside the congressman’s downtown Long Beach office.
In a statement, Lowenthal said that since the start of the 60-day congressional review session, he has attended countless classified briefings, met with pro-Israel groups, spoken with the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, reviewed all the classified and unclassified documents related to the accord, read constituent emails and even met with President Barack Obama.
After “careful and deliberative review” of the materials, seemingly leaving no stone left unturned, Lowenthal said that it was his belief that the deal is was the best chance at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that it was in the best interests of the nation, Israel and the world.
“I have never studied an issue in such depth, and I have never been lobbied as hard,” Lowenthal said in the statement. “I believe that this is the most important vote that I will take while I am in Congress.”
About 20 people holding signs reading “Defend Diplomacy” and “No War With Iran” lined the sidewalk out side Lowenthal’s office as they waited for him to make an appearance regarding the Iran nuclear deal. As he exited the front doors of his downtown field office near the intersection of Pine Avenue and Broadway, the congressman was met with cheers and applause as the activists learned he had decided to support it.
“I am more than pleased; I am ecstatic about it," said Naida Tushnet, a Long Beach resident and supporter of the deal. “I know it’s a hard decision and I know that there are lots of pressures on him, and I’m pleased that he did the right thing.”
Citing Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s quotation of famed economist John Maynard Keynes, Tushnet said the short-term fixes outweighed the potential long-term threats because “in the long-run we’re all dead.” She said the life-and-death nature of supporting the deal in the short run was critical and she was confident that over the course of 15 years measures could be taken to strengthen the deal. Equally as important to Tushnet was to not let other world leaders dictate the United States’ stance on the issue.
“I think it’s important to let Netanyahu know that he does not decide our foreign policy," Tushnet said. "And I’m Jewish, that’s why I have to be care in the way that I say it, but Netanyahu does not decide our foreign policy.”
Michael Dillon, the organizer of the "No War With Iran" group said the issue really comes down to a pretty black and white choice, and that he too is glad Lowenthal made the right decision, in his opinion.
“There are only two choices,” Dillon said. “We either do the deal and hopefully avoid war or we don’t do the deal and we definitely go to war.”
After Lowenthal's appearance, Dillon turned in an estimated 3,000 signatures of a petition that had asked for the congressman to stand behind the president’s Iran Nuclear Deal.
Lowenthal said a nuclear-armed Iran was something the world could not tolerate, and that that the agreement provides the best path to accomplish that without the use of military intervention and the loss of life that could follow. He said the deal was not perfect and accepting it came with a list of pros and cons.
"Nobody in any of these deals goes home feeling like they’ve won everything," Lowenthal said. "It’s very complicated, and you know, while everyone would’ve liked if it had a deal that lasted forever and ever and ever, we knew two years ago that that wasn’t on the table."
The deal has been promoted by President Obama as a diplomatic tool that will cut Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and would limit research and enrichment capacity over the course of 15 years. It would also extend the “breakout time”—the timeline in which Iran could hypothetically create a nuclear bomb—to about one year from what is currently projected by government experts as just a few months.
If installed, the deal would severely cut back Iran’s ability to produce and enrich uranium ore, a starting point for constructing any future nuclear weapon. The number of centrifuges in the country would be halved, with an enrichment cap set at under five percent, noted as insufficient for the country to sprint for a bomb.
The concessions by Iran would be met with the lifting of international economic sanctions against the country, with provisions for “snap back” capabilities by the United States and the United Nations to reapply sanctions if they believe that Iran has failed to meet standards set forth by the accord.
To opponents of the deal, the lifting of those sanctions could lead to an Iran with a much larger and stronger economy after the 15-year mark, potentially making it immune to future economic pressures. They also contend that the lifting of production caps after 15 years, allowing for industrial-scaled production of uranium, would not prevent a nuclear-armed Iran; it would merely delay the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The increased production capabilities could potentially shrink the breakout time to weeks after the 15-year mark of the deal.
Dillon said the calculus in the region could change significantly over the next one and half decades, noting that once the youth of Iran gets a taste of what’s available to them after sanctions are lifted it could produce a new crop of Iranians with substantially different views of the West. This, coupled with the retirement and attrition of the country’s current leaders give Dillon hope that something good can happen at the end of 15 years.
“I’m hoping that in 15 years we’ll be able to have another raising of the flag at the embassy down there, just like we did in Cuba,” Dillon said.
The topic of the inspection of sites has also been a point of contention, particularly after it surfaced that in some instances the Iranians might be in control of inspections. That issue emerged after the initial criticism of the deal that allowed for a 24-day window for the Iranian government to comply with international inspections, a length of time that some feel would provide ample time for Iran to hide any violations inside nuclear sites.
All the criticism aside, Lowenthal said the deal was an alternate to a disaster. He called it good but not great. There are certain risks, including the potential for a nuclear Iran after the 15-year mark, and the country further financing terrorism with an influx of money once sanctions are lifted, but those are not reasons enough to strike down a deal that avoids war, the congressman said.
Lowenthal said the deal should be applauded, and the president behind it has earned his peacemaking stripes.
“President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize when he was elected, which he didn’t deserve,” Lowenthal said. “Now he’s not going to win it, but he deserves it for this. Now he’s earned his Nobel Peace Prize.”