MCC Photo/Cheryl Zehr Walker

Prayer candles at the Saint Sarkis Cathedral of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Tehran, Iran.

In Feb. 2014, MCC U.S. staff, the U.S. Board chair and representatives from Canadian Mennonite University and Eastern Mennonite University traveled to Iran. MCC’s work in Iran aims to promote understanding, friendship and interfaith connections between the people of Iran, Canada and the U.S. The interfaith relationships have included academic dialogues and student exchanges. MCC also has provided disaster relief, along with partner the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

Frequently asked questions about the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program:

 

What exactly is the agreement?

On July 14, a historic agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program was reached between Iran, the United States and five other nations. The agreement will retire most of Iran’s centrifuges, limit how highly Iran can enrich uranium and prevent access to plutonium—effectively blocking all paths to a nuclear weapon. In return, sanctions on Iran will be lifted as international inspectors verify that Iran is meeting the terms of the agreement.

 

Does MCC support the agreement? Why?

Yes, MCC supports the agreement and urges Members of the U.S. Congress to support it as well. Mennonites have long opposed the development and use of nuclear weapons in the U.S. and around the world, including elsewhere in the Middle East. In addition, MCC, which has had programs in Iran since 1990, has long advocated for a diplomatic resolution of tensions between the United States and Iran.

 

Will inspectors have the access they need to verify that Iran is carrying out the agreement?

The agreement sets up a multi-layered system for careful monitoring and inspecting of various aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. Inspectors will have access to any site, anywhere, if there is evidence of suspicious nuclear activity. Disputes over access must be resolved within 24 days; since nuclear material remains detectable for years, it will not be possible to hide such activities if they are happening. If Iran violates the agreement, sanctions would be reinstated.

 

What about the time limits on the deal?

Various limits on Iran’s nuclear program will stay in place for 10-15 years, making the likelihood of Iran developing a nuclear weapon during that time much less likely. Continuous monitoring of particular sites will stay in place for 20-25 years. In addition, Iran will be subjected to increased inspections on a permanent basis, as part of its acceptance of the “Additional Protocol” of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 

How does the deal affect security in the Middle East, including Israel?

The agreement makes it much more difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon—a positive development for all who want to see the Middle East safer and less militarized. Many Israeli security experts have spoken out in support of the deal. In addition, new diplomatic channels created through these negotiations could provide an opening for the United States, Iran and others to address the Syria crisis and other regional security and humanitarian concerns.

 

What would happen if Congress doesn’t approve the deal?

If the U.S. were to reject the deal outright, it would not be able to uphold its obligations under the agreement, making it less likely that Iran would fully comply with its obligations. A more likely scenario is that the House and Senate will vote to “disapprove” the agreement, which would be met with a presidential veto. As of September 2, enough senators have publicly supported the agreement to ensure that a veto would be sustained. Getting enough senators to support the agreement to render a presidential veto unnecessary would be preferable, however.

Read the letter than MCC and 53 other Christian leaders signed in support of the deal.