Nuclear talks between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known as the P5+1, resumed on Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed confidence, stating that this is now “the best chance we’ve had in a decade” to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy program.
Despite the optimism, more hawkish U.S. congressmen are less than pleased with the peaceful progress. Republican Senators Mark Kirk, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ahote released a statement calling for strengthened U.S. and international sanctions against Iran after France effectively ended the talks last week. Toughening sanctions should be entirely off the table. Not only would that plan of action throw off the precarious balance needed for the Obama administration to follow through with the talks, but it would also push human rights efforts further backwards in a country already lacking the humanitarian aid it needs.
A study published by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran came to the conclusion that the sanctions imposed on Iran have done little more than reduce the quality of life for ordinary Iranians. Access to medicine and food is becoming increasingly scarce, and employment opportunity is declining. Strengthening sanctions would undoubtedly exacerbate the crisis.
As a result of these sanctions, the economy has become the primary focus of conversation in Iran, and human rights activism has been placed on the back burner. World leaders, as well as the media, seem wary and shocked by the newly cooperative attitude coming from Iran, but President Hassan Rouhani is simply delivering on promises he made to the Iranian people to improve their quality of life.
The first priority is improving access to employment and health care, and only until the economy has bounced back can the nation’s youth and activists once again turn their attention to the lack of political freedom in the country.
In a video released by his department, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif clarified the government’s desire to cooperate. He implored the international community to treat the Iranian people with dignity and respect. Senators in Congress pushing for strengthening sanctions are doing the polar opposite.
Even with undeniable proof that sanctions hurt human rights efforts in Iran, our leaders in Washington, D.C. continue to support taking belligerent and aggressive actions that would only end the growing relationship between Tehran, Iran and the rest of the world. Congress needs to allow peace talks more time to unfold, and realize that their brash actions will not only ruin a carefully cultivated relationship, but will also scale back efforts to bring freedom and equality in Iran.
Nina Golshan is a staff columnist. Email her at [email protected]