Last month I was able to visit Iran for the first time. It is a beautiful country, with mountains and deserts. Isfahan is a particularly lovely city, with arched bridges.
At the moment there are some initial steps toward building bridges between Iran and others in the international community. This week the foreign policy chief of the European Union visited Iran, and last November Iran and the “P5+1” (United States, China, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom) agreed to a Joint Plan of Action.
Under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran will suspend most of its uranium enrichment in exchange for the loosening of some sanctions. This agreement is intended to allow time for a more comprehensive deal to be reached. These negotiations represent the best chance in years for defusing the conflict between the United States and Iran.
Unfortunately, some members of Congress seem more interested in scuttling an agreement than in supporting one. In December, despite the Joint Plan of Action, Senators Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced legislation to increase sanctions on Iran. So far 59 senators have signed on as co-sponsors but the bill appears to have stalled. An attempt to attach it as an amendment several weeks ago to legislation on veterans’ benefits failed.
In the absence of further sanctions legislation, now some Senators are trying to put in place conditions for a deal—conditions to which Iran will never agree. Senators Menendez (D-N.J.) and Graham (R-S.C.) are circulating a letter to fellow senators, which implies that Iran may not enrich any uranium, even for peaceful purposes. Such a condition would violate the terms of the Joint Plan of Action reached in November.
For more than 20 years, Mennonite Central Committee has sought to build bridges between Iranians and people from the U.S. and Canada. The learning tour that I joined last month was a way of continuing to build those bridges.
As Christians, we are to be bridge-builders and reconcilers (2 Corinthians 5:16-21), echoing God’s reconciliation of the world through Christ. Please urge your Members of Congress to oppose such efforts and to instead speak out in support of a diplomatic resolution with Iran.