3-star Admiral Visits Villanova

Maria McGeary

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, Villanova NROTC hosted Admiral Joe Sestak in Driscoll Hall for a town hall meeting. Villanovans and citizens of the Radnor Township had the opportunity to hear Sestak’s views and voice their own opinions on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran deal, that has been hotly contested in Congress and has dominated the attention of the American news media for the past several months.

A Delaware County native and Naval Academy graduate, Sestak served in the U.S. Navy for 31 years, earning the rank of 3-star Admiral. Sestak continued to serve his country as a Congressman for Pennsylvania, becoming the highest-ranking former military officer to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Currently the Director of the U.S. Navy’s first anti-terrorism Unit, Sestak combines his military and civil experience to formulate his stance on the agreement currently being debated by Congress, which seeks to limit the nuclear capabilities of Iran by implementing an investigation protocol of all facilities and micromanaging the storage of nuclear equipment.

“I am supportive of the nuclear agreement with Iran if for no other reason than Iran could have bomb-grade material for a nuclear weapon within 30 days of today,” Sestak said to an audience comprised of Villanova students and faculty, NROTC midshipmen and candidates and Radnor Township residents. “This agreement sets back that clock for at least one year, if not 15 years, by diluting the uranium and placing centrifuges in storage.”

Many Americans who oppose the deal have voiced concern regarding the dangers of trusting Iran. In a short interview before his remarks, Sestak addressed several questions, including the timeline of the deal and how long it will last. “Any nation, in any treaty can always decide for national security interests…to withdraw. That’s why I say what Ronald Reagan used to say about the Soviet Union ‘trust but verify,’ I say verify before you trust. And that’s why the inspection regime is so important.”

Sestak told The Villanovan, and later the meeting’s attendants, that he has full confidence in the investigative protocol outlined by the JCPOA. “These are sufficient means by which to ensure that we will catch the Iranians if they cheat and if they begin to move towards nuclear capability, this is probably the most intrusive, widespread, and full-spectrum…regime of inspection that I’ve had.”

In an op-ed piece published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sestak reinforced these sentiments, saying, “A number of respected nuclear experts, including prominent inspectors with decades of experience with challenging regimes like Iraq and North Korea, are impressed with the inspection safeguards in this agreement.”

On Wednesday, Sestak went on to tell his audience, “If they do cheat, or we do find that they break the treaty within the time limits of it, the military option is always on the table.” Sestak described his philosophy as “diplomacy backed by the U.S. military,” expressing his deep appreciation for the enlisted men and women as the backbone of the U.S military, adding that the average age on an aircraft carrier is 19.5 years. The former admiral also highlighted the importance of accountability, pivotal to leadership and something lacking in Washington today. “I hope that those in [Washington] D.C. truly understand the costs and benefits of using the military.”

The jury, or rather, Congress, is still out on whether these words will hold true. According to an article by Karoun Demirjian, published Sept. 10 in The Washington Post, the resolution to reject the deal was blocked, virtually ensuring that the deal will pass and “delivering the Obama administration a long-awaited, major foreign policy victory.”

Obama did not have the same success with the House of Representatives. On Thursday the House passed a resolution “stating that President Obama didn’t fulfill his obligations under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act because Congress has yet to see two confidential side agreements pertaining to the deal,” Demirjian reported.

While a nuclear agreement may be the first step toward national and international security, Iran’s abominable human rights violations are not addressed in the deal, including the current detainment of three American hostages in Iran. “What we had to do is weigh the benefits of coming to this agreement to the cost of not doing it and holding out for other types of issues,” Sestak said. “They are two separate issues. It’d be nice to bring them together. But if you aren’t able to, and you are able to stop their nuclear capability, I think that has to be done. And never stop trying to remove those hostages.”

Following his remarks, Sestak fielded several questions from the audience, also taking the time to share personal stories and offer advice to the numerous NROTC midshipmen and candidates in attendance. He capped his remarks by reiterating his “cautious support” of the deal, claiming it to be the best way to hold Iran accountable in their pursuits of nuclear energy. “To my mind, does this enhance the security of America and Israel? Yes. But every day we must verify that it’s doing so.”