No more sanctions

FI-EditorialWhen U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy appeared at Greenwich Library last week to discuss the country’s current policy toward Iran, he made a lot of sense and showed both that he is committed to peace and realistic about circumstances. The rest of the Senate should follow him on this.

Mr. Murphy is hardly alone in supporting the current direction. President Barack Obama has made negotiations with Iran a priority, and the first, tentative steps resulted in a temporary deal that paves the way, it is hoped, for a more lasting arrangement where the Iranian government no longer recklessly pursues nuclear weapons and the Iranian people receive much-needed relief from the devastating economic sanctions in place against the country. And there’s bipartisan support for the policy.

But there is also bipartisan support for a foolish effort put forth by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk calling for new sanctions to be put in place against Iran. If public statements are to be believed, new sanctions would cause Iran to leave the current negotiations and could well worsen what is already a dangerous situation. President Obama has not only said he does not support these new sanctions, he repeated Tuesday night in his State of the Union address that he would veto the Menendez/Kirk bill if it came to his desk.

Mr. Murphy is wise to oppose these needless sanctions, and the rest of the Senate must abandon this effort to undo good work done by the president and his administration. The stance of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s senior senator and a Greenwich resident, is unclear. He had offered at least tentative support for Menendez/Kirk and then appeared to back away from that. He needs to clarify his position,  and soon. It is hoped that Mr. Blumenthal will see the same need to allow these negotiations to proceed that Mr. Murphy does.

There is relentless pressure, however, from lobbying groups to pursue an even more aggressive policy toward Iran. The fact that this advocacy comes from the same foreign policy “experts” who thought war with Iraq was such a great idea should fill everyone hearing them with grave doubts. But in typical Washington behavior, their opinions are still given great weight despite them being so disastrously wrong..

It is beyond belief that anyone could not want to pursue a peaceful, negotiated course toward ending Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have given every indication they are pursuing this course with their eyes wide open to the dangers and realities of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and Mr. Murphy is certainly not advocating ignorance or the dreaded “peace at any price.” These are tentative negotiations that could well fall apart, but there is no reason not to enter into them honestly and sincerely.

To add more sanctions now is reckless. The current sanctions have brought Iran to the table by crippling its economy and causing great suffering to its people. Why punish them further when they are doing the right thing? It’s impossible to know right now what the future holds for these negotiations, but adding new sanctions would be like sabotage.

Some in the audience at Mr. Murphy’s event strongly criticized his stance, urging him to remember history and summoning the specter of the Munich agreement that emboldened Hitler. But it’s even more important to remember the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The country is right to pursue this policy. Mr. Murphy is on board. But is Mr. Blumenthal?

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