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  1. Opinion

Column: U.S. security at stake in Iran deal

Published Mar. 19, 2015

In a recent address before a joint session of Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, made his case about the urgent need to completely halt, not slow down, Iran's nuclear ambitions. As the prime minister warned, "History has placed us at a fateful crossroads." As the world's leader, I believe America has a responsibility to prevent a nuclear Iran. If Iran were to be armed with nuclear capabilities, it would further exacerbate and destabilize the region and cause an arms race among other, nonnuclear nations.

The Obama administration's foreign policy missteps do not inspire confidence that the current negotiations will be any different. The president seems to be arguing that we should just trust him on this.

We can't just take the president's word for it — this deal is too important.

A nuclear Iran is bad for the United States, plain and simple. The intransigent Iranian regime has made existential threats to our steadfast ally, and only democracy in the Middle East, Israel. Additionally, the mullahs promise to destroy U.S. military assets, including personnel, and American interests abroad with missile strikes and more. We must take these threats seriously.

In his first address to Congress in 1996, Prime Minister Netanyahu cautioned Americans that an atomic Iran would "presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind."

Two weeks ago on the House floor, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "if the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires. If Iran changes its behavior, the restrictions would be lifted. If Iran doesn't change its behavior, the restrictions should not be lifted. If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country."

Now that we are past Israeli elections, we should be coming together to take a substantive, firm look at our own policies and how they intersect with those of our allies when dealing with Iran.

Sanctions in previous Congresses have passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. They are a vital tool when working to keep our citizens and allies out of harm's way. In dealing with an aggressive state sponsor of terror, there should be no daylight between the position of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, nor Congress with the president, nor the United States with our allies. Civilized nations must stand united against the destructive output from rogue regimes like Iran.

The time has come for the White House to focus serious attention on not merely reaching a deal with Iran, but reaching the right deal with Iran. A good deal would dismantle the nuclear ambitions of the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, not simply verify their progress. A good deal would prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, not merely delay their acquisition.

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President Barack Obama has promised since 2008 that he would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. He should keep that promise to the American people, our allies and the rest of the world.

If the past is any indication of the future, we can expect that Iran will continue to employ its stonewalling tactics, blocking any real transparency or inspections of its nuclear facilities.

An agreement that allows Iran to maintain thousands of centrifuges and a stockpile of uranium will position Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb in short order.

Israel is our ally and longtime friend, and I believe the United States has a responsibility to stand with Israel and her other allies across the globe. Now more than ever, we must assure Israel that it does not stand alone.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, represents parts of north Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and all of Pasco County. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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