This is arguably one of the most, possibly the most, important issues facing the United States today. As many of you know, I've written and spoken a lot about Iran going back several years. I have previously warned of the dangers to America, our allies and ours interests -- the dangers that arise from the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is not a topic that is new to me.
I have also long supported the strongest possible sanctions. I wish the sanctions had gone into effect earlier. I wish they had been stronger. But I do know that those sanctions that were finally imposed had a powerful impact on the Iranian economy. So powerful that they brought Iran to the negotiating table - a place the Iranians did not want to be.
For many months now, I have been skeptical about the President's approach to the negotiations with Iran. It seemed to me that we were holding all the cards, but we played our hand as a very weak hand. Nonetheless, if the President had succeeded in achieving the goals he stated, then the product of these negotiations might have been worth supporting.
The President's very often stated goals after all were to complete the elimination of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, to prevent Iran from ever being able to obtain nuclear weapons, and to create an inspection system, that would be robust enough to detect any Iranian cheating. And in return for those things, if they were to be achieved, then the U.S. would end sanctions and bring Iran into world community. And hopefully, in the process, change Iranian attitudes towards the U.S.
Now I still would have wanted Iranian commitments to halt their active support and funding of terrorist activities and I would have wanted them to free the American hostages that they are holding. But if the President's stated goals had been achieved, then it would be a deal worth supporting.
Well I have taken the last weeks since the deal was announced to study it very carefully. I think to fully understand this agreement, we must look at both the details of the deal itself but also the context in which we are entering into this agreement potentially.
So let me talk about the context as I see it- first we have a lengthy and substantial history with Iran. Unfortunately it's not good. Iran has been extremely hostile to the United States for decades now. Many of us remember 36 years ago when Iranian students, encouraged by Ayatollah Khomeini, stormed and took over the U.S. embassy. They captured and took 52 Americans hostage and held those Americans hostage for 444 days.
Our relationship with Iran has not improved that much since then. They are still holding American hostages as we gather here today. They have killed over 500 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by creating very sophisticated IEDs that they manufactured and planted where they would do the most harm to Americans. Finally, they regularly call for "Death to America." The Iranian regime leadership continually refers to us as the "Great Satan."
The second thing to bear in mind is that Iran has demonstrated aggression in their region. This country is after all the world's number one supporter of terrorism. They have actively supported Hezbollah and actively, aggressively supported Assad while he massacres hundreds and thousands of his own people. Iran started a civil war in Yemen because they didn't like the fact that the government in Yemen was cooperating with the United States. And of course they continue to routinely and emphatically threatening Israel's very existence.
I would also argue that this is a regime that is extremely untrustworthy. They are in open violation of over 20 international agreements that they have committed to. They were caught trying to buy nuclear parts while these very negotiations were underway. They were recently caught again using Hezbollah to supply arms to Assad in open violation of U.N. resolutions. The bottom line is this regime in Iran cannot be trusted.
And finally -- and I think this may be the most important point about the context of this agreement -- it seems to me in all of my experience in business, a document that attempts to codify an agreement can work if there has been a meeting of the minds. If both parties actually want a particular outcome, then you can document the process by which you get to it with some confidence that it will work. But there must be an agreement on fundamental objectives.
Let me give an example -- the case of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Now I think we can all agree that Muammar Gaddafi was a very bad guy -- there's no doubt in my mind. But Gaddafi saw what we did in Iraq and when the Bush Administration confronted him with the intelligence they had on his program to develop nuclear weapons, Gaddafi made a decision. His decision was his hold on power was safer if he didn't have nuclear weapons and had to worry about an American attack than his grip on power would be if he continued to pursue weapons.
That did not make him a good guy. He was still a bad guy but he came to a rational and sincere conclusion based on his perception of his own self-interest and as a result we were able to reach an agreement by which his nuclear weapons program came to an end. Nobody doubts that was the case.
I am convinced that the Iranian regime has come to no such conclusion. In fact I don't think there is any evidence at all that they actually intend to abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons, in fact quite the contrary. The very demands that the Iranian regime insisted upon in this agreement, I think clearly point to the fact that they intend to continue to pursue the development and the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
To summarize this context -- it seems to me, when we are dealing with a country that has been and continues to be extremely hostile to the U.S. and our allies, and our interests, when we are dealing with a country that is aggressively seeking to dominate its region; when we are dealing with a country that is fundamentally and repeatedly untrustworthy; and when we are dealing with a country that shows no intent to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons; then it that context very, very difficult to complete an acceptable negotiation to keep such a country nuclear free.
So I have reviewed this deal- I have had many days since the documentation has been made available to members of Congress. I have read the language.
I have studied the deal extensively. I have looked at the classified material. I've had numerous briefings. I've consulted with experts. I've listened to the testimony and I have concluded that these negotiations have let down the American people.
This deal fails to meet the minimum criteria we need to remove sanctions on this regime. And rather than enhancing America's national security interests, in fact this deal threatens it. I do not support this deal. I will vote for a resolution of disapproval of this deal. And I will attempt to persuade my colleagues to do likewise.
I have many specific concerns about the details of this agreement. I want to focus on six of them that are most compelling and should make the case for why we shouldn't project this deal.
First this deal releases over $100 billion in sanctioned Iranian oil money to the regime almost immediately. The deal removes economic sanctions within months -- long before Iran could have complied with the full terms of the agreement. The first rounds of sanctions are to be removed in October. More follow shortly thereafter.
In my view, the removal of the sanctions should occur only after Iran has complied with all of the terms to which they are supposed to be subject. In fact, the removal of the sanctions should occur only after Iran dismantles its nuclear program. In fact, under this agreement Iran never has to dismantle its nuclear program.
So these many tens of billions of dollars are going to go to this regime which will undoubtedly use some of that money to increase funding for terrorist activity because that's what they do. It's not just my speculation. The president's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, admitted that some of the money will be used to continue Iran's bad behavior in the region. Two examples that are obvious: rockets in Lebanon and Gaza and targeting Israeli and Jewish interests all around the world maybe as far away as Argentina.
Nominee for Vice-Chairman of Joint Chiefs, Air Force General Paul Selva, said that sanctions relief is extremely dangerous and will fund terrorism. Once Iran has the money it no longer has any incentive to comply its obligations under this agreement. What it's in this for is the money and under this agreement they get the money up front.
The second big concern that I have- this agreement allows Iran to maintain an industrial scale uranium enrichment program -- the capabilities all remain intact. Iran claims that this enrichment is for peaceful purposes only. Now let's put aside how implausible it is that a country that is completely awash with oil and natural gas needs to have a nuclear power electric generation.
If you believed that was the intent of the Iranians with respect to this nuclear program. Then why wouldn't Iran follow what 18 other countries around the world have done which is to have electricity generated by nuclear power where they purchase the enriched uranium from other countries. That would be available to Iran. But instead Iran has insisted and they have been granted the ability to retain a domestic, indigenous enrichment capability.
In fact, they will be able to keep 6,000 centrifuges, over 5,000 of them operational. They will be able to keep facilities at Fordow as a research facility where their centrifuges will be spinning. They will be able to keep facilities at Arak, and will redesign and update the heavy water reactor they have there. Advanced nuclear research for the purpose of developing ever more sophisticated centrifuges is permitted to continue.
That brings me to number three. In light of the context that I mentioned earlier, it would seem to me that an inspection and verification regime is absolutely essential. It should be completely bulletproof to have any hope that this agreement could reach what it purports to seek. In fact the enforcement and verification is extremely dubious.
Let me give some examples. The agreement subcontracts out for the essential enforcement mechanisms to the IAEA. This is the IAEA that Iran has continually ignored IAEA for years. Iran has not allowed the inspectors to visit certain sites. Iran has misled the inspectors from the IAEA previous trips and harassed them. The IAEA has stated that they have been unable to do their job properly because of the way Iran obfuscates. And Iran doesn't even have to fully disclose all of its previous nuclear activities.
So despite the promise of "anytime, anywhere" inspections, there is nothing of the sort. Iran will have at least 24 days from the IAEA notification that begins the process to the time that an inspection can occur. At least 24 day -- there is an elaborate process. But inspectors will only be able to a request a visit to an undeclared site when they have evidence that they have to submit to Iran. With, by the way, a disclosure of the sources and methods by which they obtain it. And that's just to get the clock started.
Then there are a series of these negotiations that can occur between Iran and the IAEA, between the joint commission and others followed by a period where Iran gets three additional days. It all adds up to 24 days and that assumes that all players comply with all deadlines. Now let's just think about this. How much can be covered up in 24 days? I would suggest quite a lot.
But there are other huge problems with the enforcement regime that's contemplated. First of all, there are two side agreements that are incorporated into the overall deal that we haven't seen.
They deal with Iran's past nuclear activities and the mechanisms by which they will occur. These are agreements between Iran and the IAEA and we are not a part of those agreements. Not only are we not a part of those agreements- we haven't seen them. And when I say "we" I don't mean just Congress. John Kerry acknowledges that he has not seen these agreements.
We do not know the nature or the extent of Iran's previous nuclear activity. We do not know whether it's adequately documented so that the IAEA will be able to figure out where they're picking up and plowing new ground versus what's already been done. We don't know the terms of the inspection regime and neither does anybody in our government.
Another concern that I have about the enforcement of this -- the agreement explicitly states that if the United States re-imposes any nuclear sanctions for any reason then Iran is relieved of all commitments under the deal. Let me restate that. If the United States comes to the conclusion that any of the nuclear sanctions that we have had enforced need to be re-imposed for any reason whatsoever, Iran can walk away from the deal.
So let's think about the implications of this. Let's say that Iran is in clear unambiguous violation of the agreement. Let's say we discover this. It is documented. The E.U., the Russians, the Chinese -- everyone agrees, there is no doubt, there's no question- Iran is in violation of the agreement. If we then decide to restore some of the nuclear sanctions in proportion to the magnitude of the violation, it stipulates in the agreement that Iran can walk away and all future obligations are over.
This is on paragraph 37, page 20, you can look this up and I will in fact quote the operative part: The agreement acknowledges and I quote "Iran has stated that if the sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part."
So now let's think about this what is the dynamic that this creates? We have an administration that has told us repeatedly that the only alternative to this deal is war. That's what they have said. So if we discover a violation, and we start to think maybe we need to re-impose some sanctions- what other enforcement mechanism is there? I think I know what the Iranians are going to say. They are going to take out the agreement and they're going to turn to page 20 paragraph 37 and say "if you do that, we're out of here."
Well if the administration believes the only alternative to this agreement is war, and they don't want to pursue a war, then they're not going to enforce a violation. My fear is that they will look the other way. What kind of enforcement is that? This means the whole idea of snap-back sanctions is a fantasy.
Here is the fourth big problem I have with this agreement. It is temporary. It's only 10 years at most, and many of the essential provisions are only eight years.
In fact I think the Prime Minister of Israel was right when he said that this deal won't block Iran's path to nuclear weapons, it paves their path to a nuclear weapon. A decade from now, if the Iranians were to fully comply with every detail on this agreement, they'd be within weeks of having a nuclear weapon. And there's no linkage whatsoever between Iran's behavior, anywhere in the world and the removal of all of these limits that are contemplated in the agreement.
By the way, as we discovered very, very late in the negotiating process, completely unrelated sanctions that deal with conventional weapons embargo that has been enforced for eight or nine years now- those are lifted, those are lifted in five years.
Similar decades-old ballistic missiles embargo, that's lifted after eight years, and research is allowed to continue along the way.
So think about this. In 10 years, I'm pretty sure we will have all of the same problems with Iran but there will be some big differences. Iran will have a nuclear weapon. It will have ballistic missiles. Iran will be heavily armed with new conventional weapons which will include Chinese and Russian missiles and other weapons and the Iranian economy will have recovered and they will be flushed with cash.
But the ultimate in temporary is paragraph 36. Amazing. It gives Iran the right to walk away from deal anytime it feels the US not meeting obligations- for any reason - with a 35 days' notice- this is unbelievable but it is true.
The agreement calls for a dispute resolution mechanism so it contemplates the possibility that either the U.S. or the European powers or Iran would complain that the other side is not in full compliance with the agreement, it contemplates a resolution mechanism that carried on for 35 days.
At the end of that, if any party, including Iran, determines that the outcome of this resolution mechanism is unsatisfactory, then they can walk away from the deal after 35 days. Let me just quote the actual language from this because I know how hard it is to believe this:
"If the issue [the issue we are referring to is any dispute] still has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complaining participant, and if the complaining participant deems the issue to constitute significant nonperformance, then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part."
Here's the fifth specific problem. I think it has the practical effect of making it very, very difficult for Israel to defend itself from a very dangerous and growing threat.
We know Iran is going to receive delivery of various sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles from Russia. And separately, because of the UN resolution that was passed earlier this month, Iran is now eligible for upgraded "battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles or missile systems."
These are not defensive weapons. These are offensive weapons. This advanced weaponry can target Israel from greater distances and cause great destruction.
The last of the specific things that I wanted to mention that are so problematic about this agreement is the proliferation that I think is unfortunately inevitable.
The world has actually done a reasonable decent job of keeping nuclear weapons pretty bottled up for 70 years. It has not been perfect; we would all wish that North Korea hadn't violated the agreement that we were told would prevent them from having a nuclear weapon. We would wish that the Pakistanis and the Indians hadn't detonated nuclear weapons and they did. But these are rare exceptions to a non-proliferation regime that has generally been quite effective.
I think this deal makes the Middle East so dangerous, not less. The Sunni Arab states feel intensely threatened by Iran for a very good reason. Turkey worries a great deal about Iran. The Saudis, other Arab states, probably the Turks, the Egyptians -- they are not going to tolerate a nuclear armed Iran and not develop the same capabilities of their own.
They have the ability, either to develop it internally or to acquire it; they have either the ability or the wealth or both. These countries are going to have nuclear weapons in my view. I can't think of a region in the world where I would rather less want to see the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Not only will Iran will have the ability to target Israel, but based on their past history, I think we have to fear that they very well pass on this capability to terrorist organizations that might do the work for them. And anyone who doubts the impact of a nuclear-armed Iran in destabilizing the Middle East, they should just look at what they are doing right now without a nuclear weapon. Contrary to president's assertion - there are alternatives to a bad deal that are not war.
Now the heart of the President's argument is something I alluded to earlier- the President says -- we have to accept this agreement because the alternative is war. Let's unpack that a little bit. Chairman Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress that he never told the President that this was either "deal or war."
And from the beginning, the president use to say that he would walk away if it were a bad deal. Well at best, this deal delays Iran's nuclear weapons program. More likely, it enables Iran's nuclear program. Either way - the deal irrefutably legitimizes their nuclear program. I think no deal is better than a bad deal.
There is a third course, an alternative course and here's what I think it is. It is a course of action that would change the minds of the regime. What I mean by this is very tough sanctions. I think what we need to do, is what we should have done a while ago, and is impose sanctions so tough that it cripples the Iranian economy.
Now that's not pretty but it has to happen and it has to result, in considerable domestic unrest. We have seen that before, recently in Iran. In that context, over an extended period of time, we must make sure that the Iranian regime decides that their hold on power is safer without the nuclear weapons and therefore without the crippling sanctions than it is with the nuclear weapons. That is the decision that Gaddafi made. That is the point at which you can have an effective binding agreement.
So in conclusion- as we move forward --I think it is essential that Congress has to assert itself to protect the American people .This deal did not meet any of the negotiating goals that it set out to make. This agreement does not make America safer.
I think we need to pass a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval in order to stop this deal. That will require 60-votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. And then it will require 67 votes to overcome a presidential veto. Those are difficult hurdles to overcome. Senators are often called upon to cast many important votes, some are more important than others. This vote on this deal strikes me as quite possibly the most important vote I'm going to cast in my entire time in the United States Senate.
So let's summarize the essential facts. This is a deal that would provide a massive present day, up-front cash infusion to the Iranian terrorist machine. It would cause untold destruction and misery in the near term. In the medium term, it would legitimize and pave the way for the world's most dangerous regime to have the world's most dangerous weapon. This deal seriously jeopardizes Israel's security, which is something I care very deeply about. It also jeopardizes Israel and American security in a fundamental way. No one should kid themselves here.
Like all of the radical Islamic terror movements, if Iran is able to inflict harm on Americans, Iran will inflict harm on Americans - and the more harm the better in the twisted mindset of this regime. This deal would give Iran the capacity to do that in unprecedented and massively destructive ways. So I pledge to you, I will do everything I can to defeat this deal, and I encourage all of you to do the same.