, Mankato Free Press - The candidates for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District sharply disagree on whether the Iranian nuclear deal will prevent that nation from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Rep. Tim Walz said the deal uses an international coalition to “bring Iran back into the fold of nations.”
At the same time, he said, it allows for vigorous monitoring of Iran’s nuclear sites and doesn’t prevent the United States from re-imposing sanctions or using military force.
His Republican opponent, Jim Hagedorn, called it a “very weak deal” that makes Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon almost a “foregone conclusion.”
“We should negotiate a better deal,” he said, and keep the pressure on Iran in the meantime.
Republicans and a limited number of Democrats have pledged to support a bill invalidating the deal. President Barack Obama would veto it, setting up an over-ride vote requiring a two-thirds majority in both houses.
Hagedorn and Walz agree the only good solution keeps the atom bomb out of the Islamic Republic of Iran's hands. One of them believes tough diplomacy can work, while the other says the money and legitimacy such a deal would bring would only prop up the Iranian government.
Between 1984 and 1991, Hagedorn worked for former Rep. Arlan Stangeland, including on foreign affairs. Hagedorn said he adopted a Reagan-like foreign policy perspective with a reliance on military strength and support of allies paired with a reluctance to send American troops into combat.
For example, Reagan supported guerrillas to fight Marxist powers in Angola and Afghanistan.
Applied here, that would mean trying to weaken Iran through the continued use of sanctions while supporting American allies in the region, notably Israel.
The deal, though, would serve to strengthen Iran, which would be able to reclaim billions of its own previously locked-up cash, Hagedorn said. The administration pegs that figure at about $50 billion, though critics have said the unfrozen money would total something closer to $150 billion.
“This agreement makes it difficult to ever enable the people of Iran to take back their country and that’s a sad thing,” Hagedorn said.
But could Iran be kept from acquiring a nuclear weapon without such a deal? Hagedorn said yes, “if we have proper leadership in the presidency and people in Congress who support forward thinking as it applies to Iran.”
Such pressure eventually toppled the Soviet Union, he said, and it can work here.
‘Don’t trust, but verify’
Reagan’s approach to Iran resulted in scandal, Walz said, during the arms-for-hostages scheme known as the Iran-Contra affair.
“We ended up with indictments and a threshold nuclear nation,” he said. “That simply did not work.”
Hagedorn’s alternative — to tear up the deal and start over — is unrealistic, Walz said. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States spent 20 months negotiating this one.
“This is the best-case scenario in a very challenging and very difficult world,” Walz said.
When it comes to policing the deal, Walz borrowed a Reaganism of his own: “Trust but verify.”
“In this case, it’s ‘Don’t trust, but verify,’” Walz said.
While he believes Iran will “toe the line” on the deal, he said the Iranian government needs this deal, too.
“They are choosing to go down this path,” he said.
And military force or a resumption of sanctions remain an option.
“We reserve the right to do what’s necessary to defend the nation and defend our allies in the region,” he said.