A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Wednesday found that a large majority of Americans would support an agreement between the United States, its international partners and Iran that would allow some easing of sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
When asked, “would you support or oppose an agreement in which the United States and other countries would lift some of their economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons,” 64 percent of respondents said they would support such an agreement while just 30 percent opposed. The same poll also found that Americans are skeptical whether a first step agreement will ultimately prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Negotiations are set to resume on Wednesday in Geneva where the six world powers — the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany — and Iran will try to work out the contours of a first step agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The two sides were close to a deal earlier this month and agreed to meet again this week to iron out key differences.
The details of the first step, six month, agreement have yet to be publicized, but some experts say it will most likely involve Iran suspending its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity — which is close to weapons grade levels — and curbing other aspects of its program in exchange for around $7 billion in sanctions relief. Obama administration officials have said that any easing of sanctions could be easily reversed if Iran does not adhere to the terms of the deal.
But the Post/ABC poll comes as supporters and opponents of coming to terms with Iran’s nuclear program are, as a Politico story noted on Wednesday, “duking it out in public.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some members of his administration have perhaps been the most vocal in opposition. “To use fancy international relations theory jargon, what the Netanyahu administration is doing right now is ‘wigging out,’” wrote Tufts University professor Dan Drezner on his Foreign Policy blog this week. Meanwhile, some current and former high level Israeli officials have criticized Netanyahu’s public campaign against an Iran deal.
But most experts agree with the American public. While a bipartisan group of 79 American national security experts earlier this month praised the White House’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the impasse regarding Iran’s nuclear program, two former National Security Advisers to U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush sent a letter to key U.S. Senators this week in support of a first step agreement with Iran.
“We support President Obama’s decision to seek a first phase understanding with Iran to limit Iran’s nuclear program now,” wrote Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. “The agreement under discussion would slow crucial elements of the Iran program, make it more transparent and allow time to reach a more comprehensive agreement in the coming year.”
A CNN poll released on Nov. 21 similarly found that “56% of the public would favor an international agreement that would impose major restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program but not end it completely, with 39% opposed to such an agreement.”