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U.S. SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): Mr. President, the vote the Senate will soon take on a resolution to disapprove the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is both momentous and historic.
I, along with my colleagues, have carefully and conscientiously reviewed this agreement. We have each applied our independent judgment as to whether or not it achieves the primary objectives the President set out in the negotiations when they began in November 2013--to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Since the conclusion of the negotiations, I have reviewed the text of the agreement, attended and participated in hearings of the Armed Services Committee and Banking Committee with government witnesses and nongovernment witnesses, received a series of classified briefings, and reached out to Rhode Islanders for their views. These venues--all of them--provided a full range of views and opinions and were critical in my review and decision with respect to the JCPOA.
In my view, evaluating the JCPOA rests on three factors. The first is the sufficiency of the provisions to cut off all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon. The second is the ability to conscientiously and continuously monitor and verify adherence to these provisions. Finally, we have to evaluate whether this agreement will leave us in a better position than a rejection of the agreement.
This last point of whether the agreement leaves us in a better position than rejecting it touches on two alternatives suggested by opponents of this agreement. The first suggested alternative is that there is a better agreement awaiting us if we simply reject the JCPOA and impose even more stringent sanctions. The second suggested alternative is that, without the JCPOA and with the possibility that an enhanced sanctions regime cannot be reconstituted, we can exercise a military option which will be more effective and less costly than following through with the JCPOA.
For reasons I will discuss in detail in the course of my remarks today, the JCPOA, in my view, does provide adequate measures to interdict Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon and an unprecedented monitoring and verification regime moving forward. In addition, our national intelligence means will provide further insights into Iranian activities. In this regard, we will be aided by many international partners whose intelligence activities are acutely focused on Iran.
As such, I believe the JCPOA, if scrupulously implemented, will accomplish our objective of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and is a better option than the alternative suggested in lieu of the JCPOA. That is why I intend to support the agreement and will vote against the resolution of disapproval.
To begin this discussion, I think it is important to recognize where we were when President Obama began his efforts to cut off all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon. Perhaps the most revealing description comes from Uzi Arad, who in 2009 was the National Security Advisor to newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Arad described Iran's nuclear capacity in an interview with Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper. In his words, “The point of no-return was defined as the point at which Iran has the ability to complete the cycle of nuclear fuel production on its own; the point at which it has all the elements to produce fissionable material without dependency on the outsiders. Iran is now there.” That was in 2009.
This was the situation that confronted the President and the world in 2009. To glibly suggest today, as some do, that the international community could negotiate Iran back, after they pass the “point of no return,” to a position of “no enrichment'” is to ignore the reality of Iranian efforts, particularly from the mid-2000s forward. For example, in 2006 the Iranians possessed fewer than 400 centrifuges in a research facility. By 2009 they had well over 8,000 centrifuges, together with the essential elements of a nuclear program, taking them beyond the “point of no return,” as indicated by Uzi Arad.
Former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to President George Herbert Walker Bush, GEN Colin Powell, recently made this point as well. He said that Iran has “been on a superhighway for the last ten years to create a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program, with no speed limit.”
In a similar vein, Amos Yadlin, former head of the Israeli Defense Forces Military Intelligence Directorate and now director of the Institute for National Security Studies, made the point that any analysis or possible options regarding the Iranian nuclear program must begin with the recognition that they have already passed the “point of no return.” In his words, “[t]he starting point for comparing the various scenarios is not one in which Iran has zero nuclear capabilities, but one in which Iran has been--however illegitimately--a nuclear threshold state since the beginning of the current decade.”
The Iranians advanced their nuclear program as the international community insisted on no enrichment but failed either through sanctions, negotiations, or other actions to significantly interrupt Iranian progress on its nuclear infrastructure or nuclear know-how. Instead, when the negotiations began under President Obama, Iran had already acquired approximately 19,000 centrifuges and other essential components of the nuclear program.
Indeed, the administration's diplomatic effort to build an International coalition to give effect to the sanctions, which ultimately forced the Iranians to negotiate, was done with the P5+1's recognition that a “no enrichment” approach would not lead to negotiations. This was not a realistic option.
With that prologue, let me now turn to the elements of the agreement that were critical to my judgment. In the area of cutting off pathways to provide nuclear material for nuclear weapons and Iran's enrichment capacity, this agreement accomplishes a key objective. It constrains and, through the interrelated verification measures, eliminates Iran's ability to produce either plutonium or uranium for a nuclear weapon.
On the uranium pathway, the JCPOA requires Iran to cap its stockpile of low enriched uranium, LEU, to 300 kilograms over 15 years. Why is this significant? First, before November 2013 and the initiation of the interim agreement, Iran had more than 12,000 kilograms of LEU. If fully enriched, this is enough to make seven to eight nuclear weapons.
Second, with this cap Iran will not have sufficient LEU in country to enrich and achieve the quantity necessary to produce a single weapon, even with additional enrichment. In other words, it will have to break a term of the agreement--the 300 kilogram cap of LEU--to have enough feedstock to further enrich and to make the quantity needed for even a single weapon.
On the plutonium pathway, Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild the heavy water research reactor in Arak. The redesigned and rebuilt reactor, the design of which must be approved by the P5+1, may only support nonmilitary nuclear research in radioisotope production. Why is this significant? Arak has been one of the most concerning elements of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons infrastructure, and this fundamental change to the reactor ensures Iran's plutonium pathway for a nuclear weapon is shut off.
In an alternative scenario, if completed, the heavy water reactor at Arak could have been a proliferation risk of unmatched proportion within their program. It could have allowed Iran to take easily acquired natural uranium from the ground and, over a period of time and through a series of reprocessing steps, make weapons-grade plutonium without the need for centrifuges for enrichment. The elimination of this heavy water reactor, as the Iranians previously envisioned it, is enormously significant.
Further, under the agreement, Iran will be forced to use its first generation centrifuge technology, known as IR-1s. This is a significant check on the program because these are Iran's most inefficient centrifuges. While Iran will be able to install more advanced centrifuges in the future, it will be required to abide by the enrichment plan submitted to the IAEA and to be consistent with the limitation inherent in the Additional Protocol. Also, it is significant that the P5+1 will have 10 years of evaluating, measuring, and assessing Iran's intentions to determine whether its plans and programs are indeed exclusively peaceful, as stated by the preamble to the JCPOA.
More broadly, the agreement's research and development measures provide the international community with insight into Iran's nuclear program. This is a significant opportunity to gauge Iran's intentions and willingness to abide by and comply with its commitments. The JCPOA establishes limitations on advanced centrifuge research, development, testing and deployment in the first 10 years. After that period of time, the international community will continue to have a critical “distrust-and-verify” mechanism built into the program. Iran must abide by its enrichment and research and development plan and submit it to the IAEA. This plan is subject to all of the IAEA's inspection and monitoring tools.
Furthermore, the JCPOA includes a permanent prohibition on Iran conducting research and development activities that could contribute to design and development of a nuclear explosive device. This significant prohibition goes well beyond the limitations of the non-nuclear weapons statement in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Taken together, closing off the pathways to a weapon and the constraints on enrichment and R, Iran's breakout time for a single nuclear weapon will remain at least 1 year for each of the first 10 years of this agreement and, critically, Iran's breakout time will remain longer than the two to three months it was in November of 2013.
Before I move on to the next area of discussion, I acknowledge that legitimate concerns have been raised about Iranian activities after the first 10 years of the agreement, sometimes referred to as the “out years.” During this time, Iran's breakout time could shrink substantially. However, the initial 10 years of the JCPOA will be critical for the international community to measure and assess Iran's intentions.
A recent analysis of the JCPOA by Robert Einhorn, a noted expert in nonproliferation and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is instructive in this area. In his words: “If Iranian leaders . . . believed their national interests were best served by having nuclear weapons, they would run major risks in going forward, with no guarantee of success. Even in the `out years,' the JCPOA's rigorous monitoring arrangements will remain in force. The world will have gained intimate knowledge of Iran's nuclear program, which would give the United States prompt warning of any Iranian effort to make a dash for the bomb.”
In any case, the P5+1 must begin now to communicate its insistence that Iran operate consistent with a peaceful nuclear program after the initial 10-year period. The international community must convey in stark terms to the Iranians that a rapid buildup of enrichment capacity after 10 years, beyond what they need for their existing nuclear fuel cycle, will be considered an abandonment of the principles embodied in JCPOA, and that the P5+1 will need to evaluate alternative options.
Now, if my colleagues will allow me to discuss the area of inspection, monitoring, and verification. For me, the agreement must be built on a principle of “distrust and verify.” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell put it nicely. He said: “It's don't trust, never trust, and always verify.” And the architecture our negotiators designed to verify compliance with this agreement took this approach and set new precedents in key areas: access, modern technological monitoring, and the requirement for affirmative approval for certain actions. Thus, this is a custom-built, rigorously “red teamed” verification regime that is more stringent than any other previously created.
Specifically, the JCPOA does the following: Inspectors from the IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran's nuclear-related facilities. This includes Iran's two primary sites at Natanz and Fordow.
Inspectors will have cradle-to-grave access to Iran's nuclear supply chain, including uranium mines, mills, and centrifuge production and storage facilities that support Iran's nuclear program for at least 10 years and in many cases longer.
The verification regime established by this agreement has the effect of making the entire Iranian nuclear program auditable. This is a powerful tool that will make it possible for IAEA inspectors to know whether Iran is diverting material to a possible covert program.
Iran has agreed to apply provisionally the IAEA's Additional Protocol. This Additional Protocol to the IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreement further augments the agency's ability to investigate suspected clandestine facilities and activities. Of great importance, this is an enduring requirement for Iran beyond the JCPOA's terms.
A dedicated and exclusive procurement channel for Iran's nuclear program will be established to manage all purchases of the nuclear supplier group's “trigger list” and dual-use items. This additional step provides an intrusive authorization and transparency mechanism through which the IAEA can control what is coming into the country and gauge whether the requirement is consistent with the needs of the program and Iran's intentions. Any such procurement outside that channel would be a violation of the JCPOA.
This agreement is often casually compared to the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea. Not only are there significant differences between the two, but provisions of the JCPOA were specifically written to provide more stringent verification based on the lessons from the 1994 agreement. One of the most significant differences was pointed out again by Robert Einhorn. As he indicated, a key weakness of the 1994 Agreed Framework was that “it only provided for IAEA monitoring at the nuclear facility at Yongbyon. It did not provide for monitoring in the rest of the country because that was the only declared site.”
Under the JCPOA, Iran must implement and abide by the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an addendum that the IAEA designed to address the ability of a nation to covertly develop a nuclear weapons program, as Iraq did after the first Gulf War. The Additional Protocol applies to all facilities that take part in any element of the nuclear fuel cycle of a state. The JCPOA is significantly more stringent in this regard than the 1994 framework.
More specifically, the Additional Protocol will allow IAEA inspectors access to suspected undeclared nuclear sites anywhere in the country so as to prevent Iran from conducting clandestine nuclear activity. If Iran does not provide access, it is in violation of the agreement and sanctions will be re-imposed.
Iran's compliance with the Additional Protocol in the years after the term of the JCPOA will continue to provide the IAEA with a powerful tool to conduct inspections of Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Again, the creation of the Additional Protocol was in direct response to previous efforts to circumvent the IAEA's monitoring efforts in Iraq and North Korea.
An additional element of the monitoring and compliance regime is the independent and unilateral role that the U.S. Intelligence Community and its intelligence liaison services will play in validating Iran's compliance or noncompliance. While we can never be certain that these intelligence efforts will provide a complete picture of all Iranian nuclear activities, they provide a critical assessment of Iran's compliance with the agreement, Iran's perceptions of the cost and benefits of compliance with the agreement, and key insights into the Iranian leadership's priorities for the program. As a member of both the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, these activities and insights will also serve as a critical tool for my colleagues and me to gauge the success or failure of this agreement.
Over the course of the Armed Services Committee hearings, there was detailed questioning on several topics but one in particular: the 24-day period of time that Iran has available to it under the agreement to potentially delay access for IAEA inspectors to a facility suspected of prohibited activity. Secretary Moniz offered a helpful insight into this area. He said: “The 24-day period is itself new in the sense there has never been any time limit in terms of access to undeclared sites. Again, to repeat, on nuclear materials we have very, very sensitive capabilities and historically those have been proved.”
But Secretary Moniz went on to speak candidly as he said: “With regard to nonnuclear materials, it gets more difficult. However, when one has nuclear weapons specialized activity, such as explosively driven neutron initiators, we would not be without tools to detect activities in that kind of a time period. But early, as one gets farther and farther away into let's say, just conventional explosive testing, which is something militaries do normally, then it's a question of intelligence putting together the context for suspicious activities. But nuclear material, in the end, you need to do nuclear materials to get to the weapon and that's where we have extraordinary techniques.”
Now, critics of the agreement have said that this 24-day period of time is too long and offers Iran too much time to cover up its activities. As Secretary Moniz stated clearly, this is a possibility as it relates to certain non-nuclear activities. However, if Iran introduces fissile materials into these activities, Iran's ability to cover its tracks in 24 days is extremely unlikely.
I also believe this part of the agreement is an area where Iran's intentions need to be subjected to constant questioning and evaluation. If Iran is challenging the IAEA inspectors at every turn, it should be interpreted as an indication of its intent with respect to the permanent commitment it made on the third page of the agreement: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons.”
This is a strong restatement of its basic obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A pattern of frustrating IAEA inspectors should be seen as a clear warning of possible reneging on this central commitment.
Let me at this juncture discuss the duration of the agreement. Critics have made a variety of comments in this area of duration. Some argue that Iran can begin enriching beyond the low-enriched limit of 3.67 percent fissile uranium at year 16. That is true, but Iran could do that tomorrow without this agreement. Nevertheless, some argue that this agreement simply suspends Iran's program in place for a decade. In my view, this is not an accurate characterization as many of the access and verification elements of the agreement go well past 10 years or 15 years. Indeed, some are permanent. Iran's commitment under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and its Additional Protocol remain in place, and their compliance with it will be a key metric for the P5+1.
Further, the international community's ability to impose sanctions always remains available.
Now I want to address the area of possible military dimensions or PMD. Iran has agreed to address all the past and present outstanding PMD issues in a comprehensive and time-limited manner. This requirement is laid out clearly in paragraph 66 of Annex I of the JCPOA. It is further articulated in more detail in the IAEA's July 14, 2015, “Road-map for the Clarification of Past & Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran's Nuclear Program.”
Resolving the issue of PMD is critical for a number of reasons. It is critical that the IAEA is able to complete its investigation of PMD and issue an independent assessment of any nuclear weapons-related work Iran has conducted in the past. The IAEA made clear in the Director General's November 2011 report on PMD that unanswered questions remain. The U.N. Security Council has endorsed and reinforced the requirement that Iran address these questions.
Under the agreement, if Iran complies, the IAEA will again gain access to Parchin, and the IAEA will be provided the additional accesses to people, places, and other items it has requested. However, Iran gets nothing in the way of sanctions relief if it does not address these unanswered questions to the satisfaction of the IAEA.
Some critics of the agreement have also suggested that IAEA has outsourced to Iran its inspection of Parchin, the most infamous of Iran's suspected facilities. I have been briefed extensively on this matter in a classified setting. Those briefings are consistent with the conclusion of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. He has stated the agreement with the Iranians is, in his words, “technically sound” and does not--again in his words—“compromise [the IAEA's] safeguards standards in any way.”
Secretary Moniz has further assured me of this fact. We know the Iranians have repeatedly attempted to eradicate any sign of their activities at the Parchin site. Thus, it is unlikely that any significant PMD-related activities have occurred there in the last 4 years. We do not know what signs of past activities will remain at the site. Importantly, the IAEA will be able to confirm whether there is any ongoing nuclear-related activity at that location.
Critics of the arrangement to inspect Parchin have also suggested that the IAEA has entered into a secret side deal with Iran. In fact, the United States and all the other NPT member countries--Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty countries--have confidential agreements with the IAEA which cannot be shared.
These agreements vary by country, but they are designed to protect the integrity of the IAEA inspection process and the sensitive technical and design information about peaceful national nuclear programs. The IAEA and the Obama administration have taken extraordinary steps to brief Congress on this agreement in a classified setting. These briefings have been informative and helpful to understand more fully what we can expect in the months and years ahead.
Now, I would like to discuss at this point the topic of the arms embargo and missile sanctions, which is part of this arrangement. Like many of my colleagues, I remain concerned about the elements of this agreement that relate to these issues. The inclusion of these provisions in the JCPOA is directly related to the fact that the United States secured these measures in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 to pressure Iran to address the international community's concerns with respect to its nuclear program. Since these sanctions were deemed by the P5+1 to be related to the nuclear program through the U.N. Resolution, they were within the ambit of sanctions relief.
Nevertheless, moving forward, this is an area where the United States needs to leverage the available sanctions and additional tools under other U.N. Security Council resolutions to keep pressure on Iran. For example, other U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit Iranian transfers of arms to groups such as the Houthis in Yemen, non-state actors in Lebanon, which includes Hezbollah, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Shi'a militias in Iraq, as well as North Korea, Libya, and several sub-Saharan states in Africa.
This will mean the Treasury Department, the State Department, and the Intelligence Community must double their efforts to identify prohibited activities and build the international architecture necessary to counter it and deter them.
It also means working with our partners on the Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, to prevent the spread of critical missile technologies, and with our more than 100 partners under the Bush administration's Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI, to help limit Iranian missile-related imports or exports.
It may also mean what former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns recently suggested to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is that we will need to, in his words, “reconstitute a coalition of sanctions countries against Iran five years from now on conventional weapons, eight years from now on ballistic missiles.” I believe the next 5 years will provide the international community a critical measuring stick for Iranian intentions, and we must be prepared to lead efforts to preclude Iran from obtaining enhanced military technologies.
Now, a bulk of the work that will be done and will be so central to our efforts will be done by the IAEA. The IAEA will be responsible for carrying on the ground the implementation of this agreement on behalf of the P5+1. While critics of the agreement are quick to call into question the technical expertise and skills of the IAEA, it is comprised of individuals with extensive training and experience and a deep commitment to the importance of nonproliferation work.
A recent study by Tom Shea, a noted safeguards expert with experience at the IAEA and in the laboratory community, concludes: “The IAEA's capabilities have been extended, strengthened and refined over the years in response to real-world proliferation cases in Iraq and North Korea. Its current capacity reflects the international community's decades-long investment in the organization, and the continuing commitment of states around the world to its mission.”
I would also note that upwards of 200 IAEA technical experts will be devoted to implementing this agreement. This number far exceeds any number of experts and inspectors devoted to any one country by the IAEA.
Allow me now to focus on the area of sanctions and our ability to reapply them. First, it is critical that we remember Iran will receive no new sanctions relief if it does not complete its nuclear commitments and the IAEA's inspectors verify those steps. Let me be specific here. Prior to granting any further sanctions relief, Iran must, as verified by the IAEA, demonstrate that it has implemented the necessary steps with respect to, No. 1, the Arak heavy water research reactor; No. 2, its overall enrichment capacity; No. 3, its centrifuge research and development; No. 4, the Fordow fuel enrichment plant; No. 5, its uranium stocks and fuel; No. 6, its centrifuge manufacturing; No. 7, completing the modalities and facilities-specific arrangements to allow the IAEA to implement all transparency measures and the Additional Protocol and Modified Code 3.1; No. 8, its centrifuge component manufacturing transparency; and, No. 9, addressing the past and present issues of concern relating to PMD.
This means that Iran must take significant steps to roll back and freeze its nuclear program before it gets anything in the way of sanctions relief. In testimony before the Senate banking committee, Adam Szubin, the acting Under Secretary of Treasury said: “We expect that [process] to take at least six to nine months. Until Iran completes those steps, we are simply extending the limited relief that has been in place the last year and a half under the Joint Plan of Action. There will not be a cent of new sanctions relief.”
Moreover, while the President will waive the application of the nuclear-related sanctions under the terms of the JCPOA, the U.S. sanctions, which include the Central Bank and other financial sanctions, will remain available until Congress acts to terminate them. This will allow Congress to monitor an extended period of Iran's compliance before taking any such action. This also gives the President a strong hand because the ability to quickly snap back nuclear-related sanctions means that we can again shut off, to a substantial degree, Iran's access to the international financial system, to international markets, and to international financing that relies on access to the U.S. banking system.
It is important to note that this agreement does not take away the tools available to the President to target sanctions against Iran's violation of human rights or to damage Iran's ability to finance terrorism. U.S. secondary sanctions remain in place. As Richard Nephew, a fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee, under the agreement: “[The] United States will still be able to pressure banks and companies into not doing business with the IRGC, the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, and Iran's military and missile forces. This is both due to direct risk of U.S. secondary sanctions, which remain in place, and an improvement in international banking practices since 9/11.”
These secondary sanctions are not insignificant tools, and our use of them in response to human rights violators and terrorism are not a violation of the agreement. As Under Secretary Szubin recently told the Senate banking committee on the matter of terrorism sanctions: “[O]ne of the most powerful [tools] . . . is that when we sanction Iranian terrorist supporters, our designation is amplified internationally. What I mean by that is, when we name a Hezbollah financier, a Hezbollah money launderer, any bank worldwide, not just American banks, any bank worldwide that facilitates transactions for that designated entity faces very severe sanctions from the U.S., sanctions that no bank wants to face.”
Under Secretary Szubin has also indicated that the United States will do more in the area of terrorism-related sanctions. Should Iran decide to continue its destabilizing actions in the region, increasing the cost in this area will be critical, so it is important to note the administration's willingness to ramp up pressure in the face of such conduct by the Iranians.
Particular attention has rightly been paid to the amount of sanctions relief Iran will receive and Iran's likely use of that sanctions relief. This is an important issue. While we do not know what Iran will do with it, we do know a couple of things. First, the amount of sanction relief is not $100 or $150 billion as some critics of the deal have suggested. According to the Treasury Department, the number is between $50 and $60 billion. While this number is significant, it is one-third of what many critics have asserted.
Second, it is likely that Iran will invest a portion of this money into its economy to address the concerns of its people and to begin to recover from the international sanctions regime, but it may also invest in its financing of terrorism across the region. General Dempsey has rightly suggested, “[t]he answer is probably a little bit of both.”
What we will need to do is monitor closely, particularly via our Intelligence Community, where Iran is making its investments and actively counter those maligned activities.
Now, I believe the JCPOA is the best option available to us right now. Critics recommend rejecting the JCPOA and advocating a regime of new and increasingly crippling sanctions that are more effective to ensuring Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. It is my view that this alternative is not feasible at this time and may, indeed, be counterproductive.
Moreover, the options for enhanced sanctions and even military operations remain available to the United States and our P5+1 partners should Iran at any time fail to comply with the JCPOA. Indeed, noncompliance would be more likely to find an international commitment for aggressive action than a rejection of the JCPOA. Such a rejection could give the Iranians the opening to argue that it can resume all of its existing activities prior to the interim agreement and insist that international sanctions have been nullified by our rejection of the JCPOA.
If the United States were now to say “this deal is not good enough,” it would likely have the immediate effect of alienating us from our partners and, therefore, empowering Iran. Iran would seize this opening to drive a wedge between us and our European allies, as well as Russia and China. Such an action by the United States would play right into the hands of Iran, both in terms of the viability of the multilateral sanctions regime and in terms of the obligations it has already agreed to take under this agreement.
It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the United States can break, at this juncture, with its most critical economic partners on the Iran nuclear program and then secure more stringent sanctions.
Another complicating factor in this scenario is the outcome for the hardliners in Iran. Undoubtedly, their narrative can gain additional traction in Tehran and they may be able to seize an even greater amount of power and influence. This makes the “more sanctions” approach more concerning because it could produce the unintended consequence of empowering the most strident elements in Iran.
The second most common option discussed by critics of this agreement is the military option. In this regard, it is critical that we understand some points up front. Unless we are prepared to invade and occupy Iran, executing a military option to destroy the nuclear infrastructure will only delay Iran's nuclear program. It will not bomb away Iran's knowledge, and it will empower significantly the hardliners in Iran who are committed to developing a nuclear weapon. They will likely disperse and disguise their activities so that military strikes are increasingly ineffective and produce significant collateral damage, which will be exploited by the Iranians for propaganda purposes.
On this issue of delay, General Dempsey provided two important insights. First, in response to a question asking for his military assessment on what is more effective in delaying or stopping the Iranian nuclear program at this time or in the near future, a military strike or this P5+1 agreement, he said: “First . . . I would like to point out that the military options remain. Secondly, I think a negotiated settlement provides a more durable--and reduces near term risk, which buys time to work with regional partners to address the other malign activities.”
He also said: “Our government's policy has been they will not get a nuclear weapon and nothing we're talking about here today should change that policy.”
This agreement does not change that longstanding and clearly articulated U.S. policy.
I also agree with the assessment of former Senators John Warner and Carl Levin--both of whom served terms as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee--that a vote against this deal is a vote to undermine the deterrent value and credibility of our military option.
Closer examination of the military option raises the critical question of our objective if we were to use force--to delay the nuclear program or to overthrow the regime so as to eliminate the nuclear threat? In either case, a daunting scenario emerges. As previously discussed, if our focus is limited only to Iran's nuclear program, the United States--likely alone or nearly alone--will need to conduct a similar option every few years, as the Iranians will undoubtedly make their nuclear program an operation that is conducted in smaller and more numerous locations in areas that are increasingly difficult to locate and deeper in the ground or masked by civilian activities in populated areas.
If we conduct such targeted strikes, analysts suggest that the Iranians will respond. Such responses could include attacks against U.S. forces in the gulf region and Afghanistan; attacks against Israel by Iran's most capable proxy, Hezbollah; attacks against our partners in the GCC; attacks against the region's energy infrastructure; or a combination of all of the above. Along with the significant economic consequences, the loss of personnel and resource drain on our Nation's military could be severe. Ironically, an additional consequence would be a shift in resources away from the campaign against the Islamic State in the Levant--or ISIL--particularly in Iraq, and our ongoing efforts to consolidate the international community's gains in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, if our military objective was regime change, I would first remind my colleagues of the Iraq war and all of the implications that exercising that military option had on the region.
In 2012, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution wrote: “An occupation of Iran would require up to one million U.S. and other foreign troops over an extended time and, hence, would indeed be implausible. But an invasion, with the single goal of deposing the government, could be considered a possibility under extreme circumstances--if for example there were unmistakable evidence that Iran's current government was preparing a major attack on Israel, or if it responded to any U.S. “surgical” air campaign with an all-out global terrorist response, using Hezbollah and various elements of its security apparatus.”
Although Michael O'Hanlon makes a distinction between an “occupation” and an “invasion,” our experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan should demonstrate that the deployment of ground forces to effect regime change is unlikely to produce a quick exit, so we must be prepared for his “implausible”--an expensive occupation with a million military personnel on the ground.
Thus, as some observers continue to discuss the military option regardless of the scope and intent of it, I would urge them to ensure that their analysis goes beyond the first day, first month, or first 6 months of conflict and rather considers the first year, first 5 years, and first decade of conflict. Our Nation has seen the great cost of war over the past 15 years.
This agreement retains the military options for the Commander in Chief and at the same time establishes an arrangement with the Iranians that allows us to test vigorously and monitor invasively the intentions of the Iranian regime's nuclear program. This is one major reason at this point that the JCPOA is the most compelling option.
A number of noted national security experts and a number of my colleagues and Americans have discussed the importance of ensuring Iran is not only constrained with respect to its nuclear program but also with respect to its regional hegemonic aspirations and its support directly and indirectly of terrorism. These negotiations did not cover other hostile, objectionable actions by Iran--namely, its support of terrorism, its destabilizing activities across the region, its abuse of its own people, and ongoing detention of American citizens. We cannot condone or ignore these critical issues, and they all must be addressed. But absent implementation of this agreement, the threats posed by Iran would likely be amplified as it returns to deliberate and focused efforts to build a nuclear infrastructure.
The choice before us under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act is exclusively on the nuclear dimension. But without the JCPOA, I suspect the Iranian nuclear challenge will grow quickly, adding further menace to their regional aspirations and their support of terrorism. Critically, any of these other objectionable Iranian behaviors would be far more dangerous if Iran acquired nuclear weapons.
As I said earlier, I evaluate this agreement with great skepticism. Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism and a leader in other destabilizing activities across the Middle East. As I mentioned previously, though, the negotiations to secure this agreement were not focused on Iran's support of terrorism. This matter remains outstanding, and charting a pragmatic and implementable strategy to counter it is critical to U.S. national security interests.
More broadly, however, these negotiations are not without precedent. During the Cold War, we negotiated with the Soviets despite their persistent destabilizing activities in many parts of the world. In fact, President Nixon was still in negotiation with the Soviets even while they still supported the North Vietnamese.
Graham Allison, a noted nonproliferation expert at Harvard's Belfer Center, noted in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently that “claims that the U.S. cannot reach advantageous agreements to constrain nuclear arms with states we are seeking to contain, or subvert, or even overthrow . . . are . . . wrong. [The Reagan] administration's core national security strategy for competition with the Soviet Union . . . states that `U.S. policy towards the Soviet Union will consist of three elements: external resistance to Soviet imperialism; internal pressure on the USSR to weaken the sources of Soviet imperialism;' and `engaging the Soviet Union in negotiations to attempt to reach agreements which protect and enhance U.S. interests and which are consistent with the principle of strict reciprocity and mutual interest.'”
Even with the JCPOA, I do not suspect that the Iranian support for their proxies will automatically abate under this agreement, and I do not think this agreement is a forcing mechanism for modifying Iranian behavior in the region. I do, however, think this agreement takes the near-term scenario of a nuclear-armed Iran bent on supporting its proxies in the Middle East off the table. And I believe it is for the time being sensible for the United States and our partners to take stock of Iran's willingness to comply with this agreement; monitor its activities closely in the region to see if they increase, decrease, or remain the same; and, in parallel, work with our regional partners to counter Iran's asymmetric threats.
On the matter of our regional partners in the Middle East, I see two critical matters that must be addressed.
First, our partners in Israel rightly see Iran as a significant and ongoing threat to their national security. It is incumbent upon the United States to better understand the concerns of the Israelis with respect to their gaps in addressing the Iranian problem set and to identify areas of cooperation on military and intelligence matters that address these gaps and maintain their qualitative military edge at all times.
Second, it is also critical that our partners and allies know that the United States will not abandon the region in the wake of this agreement. This message is critical for all of our partners to hear and understand.
The May 2015 joint statement following the United States and Gulf Cooperation Council meeting at Camp David provided a roadmap for how the administration intends to proceed. The joint statement indicates that the United States will be increasing training and exercise engagements with GCC special operation forces elements so as to better enable our partners to confront Iran's asymmetric capabilities, as well as enhancing the ballistic missile defense capabilities of the GCC and improving their interoperability to increase collective defense in order to counter Iran's support of terrorist proxies. These are important and essential efforts that will consume significant time and effort in the Middle East, and it will be critical that we ensure that they are resourced appropriately. The added benefit of these activities is that they will provide the U.S. military with additional access and capabilities in the region to ensure that the military option remains credible to the Iranians and available to the President.
Mr. President, I approached this vote with deep suspicion regarding Iran, and I see the agreement for what it is--a combination of opportunities and risks. I believe these negotiations were necessarily focused on denying Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would be a formidable force in the Middle East and, as it has repeatedly demonstrated, not a force for peace and stability. Moreover, a nuclear-armed Iran would likely prompt a nuclear arms race in the region that through accident or design could lead to catastrophe. This agreement provides a framework to close off Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon.
Rejecting the resolution of disapproval is vitally important, but effective, unrelenting implementation of the JCPOA will be the real test. As such, it is critical that both the President and the Congress exert every effort to ensure that there are unstinting efforts to monitor and sustain the provisions of the agreement. This effort demands constant attention and ample--more than ample funding for the indefinite future.
As Gen. Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to President George Herbert Walker Bush, recently stated in a Washington Post op-ed supporting the agreement: “Implementation and verification will be the key to success, and Congress has an important role. It should ensure that the [IAEA], other relevant bodies and U.S. intelligence agencies have all the resources necessary to facilitate inspection and monitor compliance.”
I believe General Scowcroft is correct. Iranian compliance and the implementation phase of this agreement is critical no matter how you vote on the resolution of disapproval.
It is also important that we ensure that the administration is able to follow through on the commitments they have made to our allies and partners in the Middle East, especially to the State of Israel. Again, General Scowcroft makes an excellent point. The United States must work, in his words, “closely with the GCC and other allies to moderate Iranian behavior in the region, countering it where necessary.” Absent support and resourcing for the implementation phase of this agreement, these efforts may not happen and our efforts to reassure our partners in the region may fail.
Soon, this debate will be over. I believe sustaining the JCPOA will leave us in a strong position to counter potential Iranian proliferation. But regardless of the outcome of this debate, we must not relax our efforts in countering Iranian nuclear aspirations, regional aggression, and the sponsorship of terrorism. I believe the JCPOA will give us valuable tools to monitor and interdict their pathways to a nuclear weapon, but it will require day-to-day surveillance and, where necessary, intervention to increase our chances of success.
In many respects, we are at a moment that recalls the emotional words of Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
We have concluded an agreement that dramatically constrains Iran's nuclear ambitions. Now the hard work begins each day to ensure that our aspirations become real.
I yield the floor.<