Retired generals and admirals back Iran nuclear deal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks on Tuesday during a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York on the nuclear agreement with Iran. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

By Karen DeYoung
August 11 at 3:09 PM

Three dozen retired generals and admirals Tuesday released an open letter supporting the Iran nuclear deal and urging Congress to do the same.

Calling the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” the letter said that gaining international support for military action against Iran, should that ever become necessary, “would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance.”

The release followed a similar letter sent last weekend to President Obama by 29 of the nation’s leading scientists, who called the Iran deal “technically sound, stringent and innovative,” and said it would “provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.”

[Read the open letter by retired general and admirals]

The letters provide the White House with additional backing as it wages an increasingly uphill fight to protect the agreement from congressional destruction. Lawmakers will decide next month whether to “disapprove” the deal, a vote that currently appears sure to win near universal Republican support and a significant number of Democratic defections.

Kerry: Dollar could suffer if U.S. abandons Iran deal(1:11)
If the U.S. walks away from the nuclear deal struck with Iran and demands that its allies comply with U.S. sanctions, the dollar may soon cease to be the world's reserve currency, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday. (Reuters)

The administration’s fight now is to persuade enough Democrats to vote to sustain an Obama veto of the disapproval. Some Democratic lawmakers have already said they favor the deal while others, including Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), in line to be the next Democratic leader in the Senate, have voiced opposition.

Signers of the military letter include retired general and flag officers from every branch of service. They include four-star Marine Gens. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Joseph P. Hoar, former head of the U.S. Central Command; and Gens. Merrill McPeak and Lloyd W. Newton of the Air Force.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Harold L. Robinson, a Jewish rabbi and former naval chaplain who currently chairs the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, also signed.

“There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon,” the letter said. “Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented. If the Iranians cheat, our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it, and U.S. military options remain on the table.”

“And if the deal is rejected by America,” it said, “the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year. The choice is that stark.”

The Israeli government is adamantly opposed to the agreement, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been in the forefront of a campaign to build public opposition in this country. Robinson said he decided to speak out to demonstrate that “those of us who love Israel in the United States are not of one mind and one voice on this matter. I thought it was important to represent some of the diversity within the American Jewish community.”

“As a lifelong Zionist, devoted to Israel, and a retired general officer and a rabbi for over 40 years, and operating without institutional encumbrances, I have a unique perspective,” he said in an interview.