Secretary of State John Kerry defended the administration's first-step deal with Iran to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. He argued that the Congress passing new sanctions before the 6 month negotiation period ends would disrupt the unity of countries that currently support both sanctions and the negotiations (countries including China, Russia, and European allies).
In this deal, the United States agrees to limit some sanctions in exchange for Iran halting key progresses in their development of a nuclear weapon and allowing greater inspections. The U.S. hopes that in 6 or 7 months a comprehensive accord will be reached whereby Iran agrees to not take actions that would allow them to create a nuclear bomb and the international community can verify that Iran holds their end of the bargain. In exchange, the international community will lift sanctions.
The crux of the disagreement is the enrichment of Uranium. The U.S. prefers Iran to completely end its enrichment so that Iran cannot have the material needed to make a nuclear weapon. However, this goal seems out of reach. Iran insists on its right to enrich Uranium. The U.S. goal in a potential final agreement will then be to limit Iran's enrichment in such a way that - A: Iran cannot build a nuke from the process, and B: the U.S. can detect Iran's breaking of the agreement in time to stop them from completing a nuclear weapon.
It is uncertain whether an acceptable agreement can be reached and any deal will not be ideal, but this is the best shot the U.S. has at a diplomatic solution and the administration should be commended for this effort. Iran has progressed toward a nuclear weapon for a decade while the U.S. has refused to negotiate, so the time is ripe for negotiation before time for a peaceful solution runs out.
Domestic and international critics of this initial deal should be concerned, but they should not let their desire for ideal victory get in the way of success. Iran is a large and proud nation that may prefer the risk of war over the complete humiliation of giving up enrichment rights that the U.S. itself enjoys. Congress and critics should give the administration the space needed for diplomacy to work. If this fails, the only choices left will be living with a nuclear Iran or war.