By Jason Kander
As a former Army Intelligence Officer who investigated corruption in the Afghan government, I’ve seen first hand how an unpredictable country can react to internal and external political pressure. It’s one of the reasons I know that the United States cannot empower an unstable regime by allowing them to have the capability to one day produce a nuclear weapon.
I announced my opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action months ago because I feel strongly that Iran should never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. In my view, this deal merely pauses Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, rather than stopping them once and for all.
My position has upset some of my supporters, and a group that had endorsed me has taken back the endorsement solely because of this issue. While it’s disappointing, it’s not going to change my view.
In the Army, I learned to call it like I see it. In this case, I think the President and the majority of my party are wrong. It’s not as simple as saying it’s this deal or war.
I’ve had people tell me that my being against this deal is no different than if I had supported invading Iraq. Having served in Afghanistan in the Army at a time when politicians were so focused on Iraq that they completely neglected Afghanistan, I find that pretty offensive. Despite the bombastic rhetoric you might hear, I want this to be solved at the negotiating table. I know more than most people about the sacrifices of going to war, and I think using military force against Iran should be a last resort.
Those of us opposed to the deal aren’t asking for anything new. Congress has over and over again forced presidents of both parties to re-negotiate bad deals. As former Sen. Mary Landrieu and USMC General (Ret.) Charles C. Krulak wrote in The Hill last month, “Congress has insisted on improvements to over 200 agreements negotiated by the executive branch – which it then, despite dire predictions of doom, nonetheless renegotiated to achieve better deals.”
The only reason Iran came to the negotiating table to begin with is because they had no other option. This wasn’t a choice by a country looking to cooperate – the sanctions were devastating so Iran had to do something about it. And they did. If this deal moves forward, Iran will get billions of dollars in sanctions relief and a modern uranium enrichment system. We had them on the ropes, and we let the largest state sponsor of terrorism off of the hook with this weak deal.
Instead of settling for this deal, we should work with our allies to keep sanctions in place until an agreement is reached that would stabilize the Middle East and take nuclear weapons completely off the table. Unfortunately, I believe this deal moves in the opposite direction and gives Iran a perfectly legal pathway to a bomb as long as they are willing to wait for it.
Having reached that conclusion, I won’t take the easier path and simply fall in line behind my party – even if it means losing more endorsements. We need more people in Congress that have done harder things in life than running for re-election so they don’t crumble under political pressure.
There are sensible people on both sides of this issue, but making misleading arguments, such as this deal or war are our only options, are bad for our country. I don’t work for the President, my party, or the organizations that have endorsed me. I work for Missourians and I owe it to them to always do what I believe is right no matter the political cost.
Jason Kander is Missouri’s Secretary of State and a former Army Captain. He is running for United States Senate in 2016.