BY LUIS GRONDA
Forest Hills residents listened to a discussion on United States-Iran relations Monday night.
The forum, called “Halting Iran’s Nuclear Program,” focused on the future of Iran’s nuclear program and what could happen to it under the country’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. It was held by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing).
The two main speakers of the event were Ambassador Mark Wallace and David Ibsen. Wallace is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Ibsen is a former official at the U.S State Department. Both are now members of United Against Nuclear Iran, a non-profit organization that advocates stopping that country’s nuclear program.
Wallace said that while U.S. and Iran relations have eased since President Rouhani took office more than two months ago, he still has not stopped its nuclear program, which was one of the focal points of his campaign. He added if the two countries are unable to strike a deal by his 101st day in office, the United States should continue with the sanctions that have negatively affected Iran’s economy for years.
“If he wanted to end his nuclear program, and truly make a deal with the west, he could have done it on his first day in office,” said Wallace, who is the executive director of UANI. “We’re of the belief that he should be tested on his first 100 days and on the 101st day, if there’s no deal, that we immediately continue more economic pressure.”
He later added that countries like Japan support the United States regarding this issue and he is hopeful that Russia will back the U.S. as well, because they would benefit from Iran stopping its nuclear program.
Meng, who could not appear at the forum due to being called back to Washington D.C., called into the event via Skype to discuss the issue. She said her goal is to ensure that Iran is not capable of developing nuclear weapons. She co-sponsored a bill that strengthens sanctions against Iran.
“While I don’t oppose our pursuit of diplomacy, I must insist that we remain clear-eyed and realistic about the Iranian threat,” she said.
Meng added the U.S. government must continue to use those tough sanctions in order to keep the country at the negotiating table.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.