Former Kansas Congressman Slattery Visits Iran, Optimistic About Nuclear Deal
Former Kansas congressman Jim Slattery believes that a nuclear deal with Iran is possible after speaking with officials during a visit to Tehran December.
He says he was told by Iranians that it was the first time a current or former United States elected official has been invited to speak in the country since 1979.
Slattery had the opportunity to speak with Iranian officials during the International Conference on World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) in December. It was his first trip to the country.
Slattery, a Kansas native, served six terms in congress, from 1983 to 1995. He is currently partner in a law firm based in Washington, D.C.
For the past ten years, he said, he has been involved in dialogue promoting interfaith relationships between Christians, Muslims and Jews, Slattery told Up to Date host Steve Kraske on Monday.
“I happen to believe very strongly in what President Eisenhower used to call 'people to people diplomacy,' and I think it’s very important for people in conflicting areas of the world to get to know each other and try and find common ground, avoid war, and try to find peaceful coexistence where possible,” he said.
Slattery said he strongly believes that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government is eager to complete an agreement with the Obama administration on the nuclear issue. He says he believes that the United States needs to test Iran’s commitment not to build a nuclear weapon.
“The officials that I visited with made it clear to me that they are very flexible on the issue of providing the west and especially the U.S. with verification capability,” he said.
According to Slattery, that needs to include regular, unannounced inspections of all their facilities.
He hopes his visit is the beginning of a more open relationship with Iran and the West.
“I thought it was foolish that we went 30 some years without direct contacts and direct negotiations with Iran. But we are having those conversations now and as we have those conversations, some personal relationships that are significant are forming,” he said.
President Obama said in an interview with NPR last month that he is open to diplomatic relations with Iran.
Slattery even enjoyed some Kansas connections during his visit.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad JavadZarif’s assistant was a University of Kansas graduate, who was studying at KU while Slattery was serving Kansas. He said it was a wonderful reminder of the investments Kansas universities have made in educating bright, capable people from around the world.