As a vote on the Iranian nuclear deal looms, those in attendance at U.S. Rep. James Langevin’s town hall meeting at the Johnston Senior Center on Tuesday night voiced concerns over both taking the deal and walking away from it.
Langevin said the vote on the Iran deal, expected sometime in mid-September, would be one of the “most consequential” he will ever take while in Congress.
“I voted against the war in Iraq,” he said. “I got it right back then, and I am trying to get it right this time as well.”
Langevin said he has yet to make a decision and continues to listen to and weigh both sides of the argument.
The agreement, named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed in July between the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, the European Union, as well as Iran.
Global powers have been concerned for years about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and the agreement hopes to get Iran to abandon ambitions for nuclear weaponry.
The agreement would create restrictions and regulations in terms of Iran’s nuclear abilities for 15 years in return for the lifting of economic embargoes and sanctions.
If the deal were to move forward, Iran would be expected to drastically reduce its stores of uranium and would be restricted in enriching the substance for 15 years. Similarly, the country’s centrifuges would be reduced, and no new enriching or heavy water facilities would be constructed.
Should Iran follow regulations and abide by the agreement, those countries and international organizations involved would relieve some economic and nuclear-related sanctions with the right to restore them immediately should Iran break the deal.
Members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will monitor the country regularly to ensure Iran is following regulations.
The town hall meeting had plenty of speakers on both sides of the argument. Those in opposition were most concerned about Iran’s history as a financial supporter of terrorism, while supporters worried that without some form of deal soon, an unrestricted Iran will be able to progress in its nuclear programs to a dangerous degree.
Larry Rostein said although he understands the concerns people have, “the worst situation would be if we walked away from this deal.”
He said if America was to say no to the deal, the restrictions in place now would immediately be loosened and any positive relationship that could have formed would be lost.
Ron Stuart, believed some of the relationship already being formed because of the deal are the very reason to step away from it.
“There are countries foaming at the mouth to do business with Iran,” he said. “When the country does break regulations, those same countries are going to protect their business interests first, and the U.S is going to be left behind.”
Langevin explained that sanctions and embargoes on Iran are supposed to “snap back” immediately with any violations, and said even if other countries didn’t abide, America’s sanctions on their own can have a “bite to them.”
He said sanctions aren’t only between nations, but can also concern individual businesses, and if the United States were to have sanctions not only on those countries that do business but also those individual companies that work with Iran, that can cause serious economic harm.
“It does pose the question, though, at what point, if Iran cheats, does the international community come together to solve the issue,” Langevin said.
Jeffrey Gladstone felt that Iran, because of its ties to terrorist organizations, couldn’t be trusted enough for the deal as it is written. His greatest concern is that the IAEA, although monitoring Iran’s nuclear programs, would allow the country to self-test its samples.
Langevin said he believes IAEA representatives would be present, but this clause has also caused concern with the congressman; he exampled that it would be similar to someone bringing samples from him for a drug test.
David Rahni, who has family living in Iran, said those in opposition to the deal are confusing the Iranian government with the people of Iran, and should know that the people have suffered at the hands of the government.
“This deal would be a huge human rights victory for the people of Iran,” he said. “I never thought I would see a deal like this in my lifetime. Agreements are never perfect, but this one could lead to a drastic, positive change.”
Despite what those in favor of the deal said, those against continued to stress Iran’s ties with terrorism.
Jim Burns said if someone who had previously threatened him were to come asking for help or a loan, the obvious thing to do would be to refuse.
“I think anyone who votes yes on this deal will have blood on their hands eventually,” he said.
Christopher Currie argued that Iran is unfairly singled out for funding terrorist organizations when other nations in the Middle East have done so, and America continues relations with some of them.
He even noted that at one time, the U.S. even had a strong relationship with Iran. If positive business relations were re-established, he said, there could be a huge change in the dynamic of the Middle East.
“I think we can agree that you don’t bomb a country you have good business relationship with,” he said.
Currie also argued that the opposition has a problem with the 15-year stipulation in the deal, but in the next 15 years everything could change, possibly for the better.
“It’s not our job to make a decision for 15 years from now,” he said.
He believes that in 15 years the country, can once again decide what’s best for it under those future conditions.
Langevin said: “No one wants to see Iran have nuclear power, and no one wants to see us go to war. I could see how this agreement would work if everyone lived up to their responsibilities, but if Iran were to push the envelope, could we catch them?”