8/18/2015 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI -- After numerous public hearings, classified briefings, consultation with nuclear experts, and discussions with Rhode Islanders, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced their support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear agreement.

This agreement, reached by the United States and five partner nations (the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia, and Germany) and Iran, would prohibit Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and place its nuclear program under strict and comprehensive international monitoring.  The agreement between the P5+1 and Iran ensures no sanctions relief is provided unless the Iranian government undertakes a series of significant steps.  The JCPOA also ensures the international sanctions regime against Iran can be quickly restored if the Iranian government fails to honor its commitments.

“I support the JCPOA because it cuts off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and gives international inspectors unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and supply chains,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “It establishes strong enforcement and vigilant verification mechanisms that -- in combination with our intelligence capabilities, and those of our allies -- increase our ability to detect covert activity.  No one assumes Iran will change its stripes, which is why the agreement is built on a foundation of intrusive inspections and constant verification.   If Iran cheats, they will be isolated, international sanctions snap back, and we will have better intelligence, a broader coalition, and a stronger case for swift, forceful action.  But if Congress derails the Iran nuclear agreement it could be a costly, strategic mistake that would likely end strong international sanctions and leave Iran’s nuclear ambitions unchecked.”

While the JCPOA is focused solely on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and does not resolve the many other important regional security challenges, Reed emphasized opportunities to strengthen security cooperation between the U.S., Israel, and other regional partners, stating: “The narrow focus of this agreement requires us to deepen and expand our ongoing security relationships, assistance, and capacity-building activities with our allies and partners, particularly Israel.  Enhancing their capabilities is critical to defending effectively against Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region.

Reed, who voted against the Iraq war, which empowered Iran and continues to destabilize the region, concluded:  “As this debate continues, I urge Americans to pay less attention to over-heated rhetoric and, instead, listen to our leading scientists, active and former military officers, diplomats, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and non-partisan experts who’ve studied the facts and concluded that this agreement is ‘stringent,’ ‘technically sound,’ and ‘the most effective means available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’‎ Ultimately, implementation and enforcement will be key. There must be rigorous commitment to the letter and spirit of the JCPOA from all parties or it will unravel.  The big historic advancements this agreement has the potential to make will not occur overnight.  They will be made, and verified, one day – and one inspection – at a time.”

Senator Whitehouse stated: “I thank the many Rhode Islanders who have contacted me on every side of this question. I appreciate their thoughtful input.  I’ve decided to support the P5+1 agreement with Iran, not because it assures anything on its own, but because -- with persistent watchfulness and effort -- it could open a new doorway in the precarious Middle East. I do not see a better credible option.

Whitehouse continued: “Short of war, with all its dramatic uncertainties and terrible costs, I do not see another pathway to impose a nuclear weapons-free Iran.  I have heard the unified commitments of all the other involved governments that they will be strong partners to enforce this nuclear weapons agreement and to ramp up enforcement under other international agreements against Iran’s terror activities.  I have no reason to disbelieve all five governments speaking together.  I have heard their warnings that if we walk away from this agreement before even giving it a try, the prospect of further multilateral negotiations yielding any better result is ‘far-fetched.’

“If, within Iran, a freer and more liberal society can emerge from the grip of the ayatollahs, and if strong international pressure can be brought to bear to contain Iran’s continuing mischief in the surrounding Middle East, there is at least the prospect of this becoming an historic turning point.  But our vigilance and pressure must be unrelenting, and the outcome is far from sure, so our support for Israel must remain unswerving -- which may include additional U.S. support for Israel through the uncertainties of compliance and enforcement ahead,” ‎Whitehouse concluded.

Both houses of Congress are expected to vote by mid-September on a “resolution of disapproval,” expressing that Congress “does not favor the agreement.”  This measure would then be subjected to a Presidential veto, meaning it would require a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress to override the President.  So a total of at least 34 U.S. Senators will have to vote in support of the JCPOA or the agreement could collapse.

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