The letter’s signers include some of the most renowned thinkers in the fields of International Relations, political science, and Middle East studies including Professors Richard Bulliet, Noam Chomsky, Juan Cole, John Esposito, Fawaz Gerges, Robert Jervis, Rashid Khalidi, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt and Ehsan Yarshater.
The letter was organized by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
Scientists and other non-proliferation experts have hailed the agreement’s clear non-proliferation benefits, though the potential positive regional implications of the deal have received comparatively little scrutiny.
“In addition to advancing non-proliferation goals, this agreement could be the key that unlocks solutions to some of the most intractable conflicts in the Middle East,” Trita Parsi, President of NIAC, said. “The region suffers from a diplomacy deficit and the nuclear deal paves the way for an increase in dialogue and diplomacy on a whole set of issues – which is critical for stability in the Middle East.”
In the letter, the scholars argue that an important driver of instability in the region has been the dysfunctional relationship between the U.S. and Iran. Resolving the nuclear issue is a critical step towards taming the US-Iran rivalry and reducing its negative impact on the region.
“For the past 36 years, the US and Iran have been embroiled in a zero-sum geopolitical struggle,” the letter reads. “The arena for this contest has been the larger Middle East, where the two have sought to undermine each other at every given opportunity, at the expense of the stability of the region as a whole.”
“Many of the signers of the letter publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003,” Parsi added. “History proved them right. Clearly they know a thing or two about international relations, the Middle East and Iran.”
See the letter online here.
A Plus for Regional Stability
The nuclear deal with Iran (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA) is a strong and positive step towards stabilizing the Middle East, beyond its undeniable non-proliferation benefits.
The Middle East is in turmoil. It is suffering from a broad range of problems that all, one way or another, contribute to the instability plaguing the region. Increasingly, the instability is not in the form of inter-state violence, but rather intra-state bloodshed with the eventual collapse of the states themselves.
While the region’s problems have many sources, one critical driver of instability has been the dysfunctional relationship between the West and Iran in general, and US-Iran tensions in particular.
For the past 36 years, the US and Iran have been embroiled in a zero-sum geopolitical struggle. The arena for this contest has been the larger Middle East, where the two have sought to undermine each other at every given opportunity, at the expense of the stability of the region as a whole.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, US-Iran competition significantly contributed to the destabilization of these two countries. In other countries, the two have funded and backed rivaling groups, adding fuel to an already destabilizing fire.
Even at moments where both sides desired an opportunity to tame their rivalry, the absence of a dialogue between the US and Iran closed off all paths towards de-escalation.
While the JCPOA is primarily a non-proliferation agreement that successfully closes off all weaponization pathways in the Iranian nuclear program, it carries with it significant peace dividends by making diplomacy and dialogue available for conflict resolution – a necessary step to tackle all of the region’s sources of tensions, be they terrorism, sectarianism, or unilateralism.
The region suffers from a diplomacy deficit and the mere fact that the US and Iran can talk to each other again is in and of itself a stabilizing factor for the Middle East and an encouragement for regional rivals to pursue dialogue instead of proxy fights.
Indeed, the carnage in Syria can not be ended in the absence of US-Iran diplomacy. Nor can the threat of the ISIS be neutralized without US-Iran dialogue and possibly cooperation. The plague of sectarianism will not be halted unless the US has the ability to engage with all sides of that divide. The deal can prod constructive diplomacy in ever wider circles across the region in part by providing a successful example of patient, win-win negotiations.
Clearly, the nuclear deal will not automatically or immediately bring stability to the region. But reactivating diplomatic channels between the United States and Iran is a necessary first step. Ultimately, a Middle East, where diplomacy is the norm rather than the exception, will enhance US national security and interests.
Conversely, a Congressional rejection of the deal will further destabilize the region. Such a move will isolate the United States while Iran will be freed from the nuclear constraints the deal would impose on it. Beyond the proliferation risk this would entail, US-Iran tensions will increase once more and reignite Washington and Tehran’s gravitation towards a military confrontation.
As such, we urge the members of the US Congress, as well as the leaders of the P5+1 states and Iran, to swiftly endorse the JCPOA and fully implement it. The historic agreement will prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and can prove that through creative diplomacy, the most complex conflicts can be resolved peacefully
1. Prof. Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
2. Prof. Gordon Adams, Emeritus, American University
3. Prof. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, University of London
4. Prof. Robert Art, Brandeis University
5. Prof. Reza Aslan, University of California Riverside
6. Prof Guitty Azarpay, University of California Berkeley
7. Prof. Kathryn Babayan, University of Michigan
8. Prof. Shiva Balaghi, Brown University
9. Dr. Bahman Baktiari, Executive Director, International Foundation for Civil Society
10. Prof. Ali Banuazizi, Boston College
11. Prof. Asef Bayat, University of Illinois
12. Prof. William O. Beeman, University of Minnesota
13. Prof. Peter Beinart, City University of New York
14. Prof. Seyla Benhabib, Yale University
15. Prof. Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University
16. Prof. Richard Bulliet, Columbia University
17. Prof. Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver
18. Prof. Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
19. Prof. Juan Cole, University of Michigan
20. Prof. Dale Copeland, University of Virginia
21. Prof. Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University
22. Prof. Dick Davis, Ohio State University
23. Prof. Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame
24. Prof. Carl W. Ernst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
25. Prof. Hadi S. Esfahani, University of Illinois
26. Prof. John Esposito, Georgetown University
27. Prof. Stephen W. Van Evera, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
28. Prof. Tom Farer, University of Denver
29. Prof. Farideh Farhi, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
30. Prof. Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University
31. Prof. Gene R. Garthwaite, Dartmouth College
32. Prof. Mark Gasiorowski, Tulane University
33. Prof. Fawaz A. Gerges, London School of Economics and Political Science
34. Prof. George C. Herring, University of Kentucky
35. Prof. Robert Jervis, Columbia University
36. Prof. Kevan Harris, University of California Los Angeles
37. Prof. Ross Harrison, Georgetown University
38. Prof. Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
39. Prof. Richard Herrmann, Ohio State University
40. Amb. Robert Hunter, Center for Transatlantic Relations.
41. Prof. Shireen Hunter, Georgetown University
42. Prof. Toby C. Jones, Rutgers University
43. Prof. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, University of Maryland
44. Prof. Arang Keshavarzian, New York University
45. Prof. Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University
46. Prof. Rami Khouri, American University, Beirut
47. Prof. Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington
48. Prof. Charles Kurzman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
49. Prof. Deborah Welch Larson, University of California Los Angeles
50. Dr. Judith A. Lerner, New York University
51. Prof. Peter Liberman, City University of New York
52. Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University
53. Prof. John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
54. Prof. Najmedin Meshkati, University of Southern California
55. Prof. Mohsen Milani, University of South Florida
56. Prof. Stephen Miller, Harvard University
57. Prof. Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University
58. Prof. Mehdi Noorbaksh, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
59. Prof. Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council / Georgetown University
60. Prof. Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
61. Prof. D. T. Potts, New York University
62. Prof. William B. Quandt, University of Virginia
63. Prof. R.K. Ramazani, University of Virginia
64. Prof. Brian Spooner, University of Pennsylvania
65. Prof. Tamara Sonn, Georgetown University
66. Prof. Ahmad Sadri, Lake Forest College
67. Prof. Mahmoud Sadri, Texas Woman’s University and the Federation of North Texas Area Universities
68. Prof. Muhammad Sahimi, University of Southern California
69. Prof. Emile Sahliyeh, University of North Texas
70. Prof. Randall Schweller, Ohio State University
71. Dr. John Tirman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
72. Prof. Stephen Walt, Harvard University
73. Prof. Ehsan Yarshater, Columbia University
79. Prof. Peter Kuznick, American University
82. Prof. Rouzbeh Parsi, Lund University
84. Prof. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Virginia Tech