July 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

It's overtime in nuclear negotiations with Iran

As the world recovers from the nail-biting conclusion to the 2014 World Cup, another high-stakes game is preparing for overtime with global implications: the international communityís nuclear deal with Iran. Unlike the World Cup, though, overtime in diplomatic negotiations ensures a win-win scenario, preventing both a nuclear-capable Iran and another war in the Middle East.

On July 18th, the initial six-month deal between the ďP5 +1Ē (the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia, and Germany) and Iran was extended by diplomats meeting in Vienna. The new final finish line has been moved to Nov. 24, approximately four months after the initial soft deadline. An extension is good news: further negotiations are, in essence, diplomatic overtime for a final deal.

Despite the great progress made with the interim deal and the national security imperative to continue negotiating towards a final resolution, some in Congress appear to be actively trying to undermine current talks. Strong sanctions were important in the beginning of the process because they brought Iran to the negotiating table and limited the resources and technology that could go to producing a nuclear weapon.

President Barack Obama succeeded in getting Iranís largest trading partners around the world to uphold these sanctions, and the interim deal has denied Iran over $30 billion of oil revenues. However, proposing stronger sanctions during negotiations risks derailing a final deal. New sanctions now would almost certainly end the negotiations, since Iran would view them as a violation of the interim agreement.

Key to the success of the dealís extension is continued and collective pressure from the international community that recognizes the implications of a nuclear-armed Iran. The interim deal keeps this pressure on; its terms have required Iran to freeze and roll back key elements of its nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief. American-led diplomacy demonstrates our ability to work with multilateral partners and leverages our power beyond military force. Our expert negotiators deserve public praise for their tough, smart, and principled diplomacy.

Critics of the deal remain caught up in the details of the process instead of the outcome: the goal of any deal is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and to keep America out of another war in the Middle East. It is key to noteóthough often ignored by hardliners in Congressóthat international inspectors have confirmed Iranís compliance thus far through ongoing inspections and 24-hour surveillance of Iranís programs, which will continue under the extended deal.

Current parameters require Iranís compliance with full-time international surveillance in order to monitor its nuclear capabilities. At present, Iranís power plants and research facilities are under a microscope of cameras and inspectors. Without a deal, the international community is blind to everything Iran does; the uncertainty of that situation will almost certainly lead to some sort of entirely avoidable armed conflict.

Extending the existing deal and enabling continued talks ensures that Iranís nuclear program remains under surveillance while putting Iran under continued pressure from the existing sanctions. Tough and cohesive diplomacy with multilateral partners ensures that the world is united in preventing a nuclear Iran. The American position in these negotiations should be firm and fair, and be supported by the likelihood of further sanctions in the future if Iran either negotiates in bad faith or reneges on its commitments.

Congress needs to remain a consistent supporter for the home team as we enter unprecedented overtime towards a global win on nuclear security.

Darya Pilram, syndicated by Inside Sources, is a member of the Truman National Security Projectís Defense Council.