Why I’m Supporting the Deal to Prevent Iran from Developing Nuclear Weapons
There are no more momentous decisions facing a United States Senator than those involving war, peace, and the safety and security of our families, our servicemembers, our allies, and our nation. When it comes to these issues, my constituents expect me to do everything I can to cut through the politics, push aside the partisanship, break through the rhetoric, and make the best possible decision with the information we have. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I have approached my decision on the upcoming vote on this deal the same way I approached my decision to support a war in Afghanistan, and the same way I approached my decision to oppose a war in Iraq.
In the weeks since the deal was announced, I have been studying the details, talking to experts, asking questions, getting more information, and listening to my constituents on all sides of the issue. I pushed the Administration for details and answers to tough questions, and I had frank conversations with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary Kerry. I attended classified briefings with the State Department, Energy Department, and members of the intelligence community. I had good conversations with Israeli Ambassador Dermer and so many strong and passionate supporters on both sides of this issue in Washington state and across the country. And I came away from my conversations with a deep respect for the passionate and strongly-argued views on all sides of this issue.
Going into this decision, I had clear principles guiding my thinking. First and foremost, Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and my decision would be based on what course of action moves us closer to that primary goal. Second, Iran cannot be trusted, and no deal should hinge on them holding up their end of the bargain based on their word or good faith alone. Third, a strong diplomatic solution is the best option. And fourth, the United States needs to keep all options on the table, including military options, if Iran decides to move toward a nuclear weapon or threatens us or our allies in any other way.
Guided by these principles, I will be voting to support the agreement to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I will vote against the resolution of disapproval, and, if needed, I will vote against overriding President Obama’s veto.
This is not a perfect deal, and there are several elements I would like to be stronger. But after working my way through the details and the alternatives, losing a lot of sleep, and having a lot of good conversations with so many people — I am convinced that moving forward with this deal is the best chance we have at a strong diplomatic solution, it puts us in a stronger position no matter what Iran chooses to do, and it keeps all of our options on the table if Iran doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. I believe that rejecting this deal would continue Iran down the path they are currently on, it would do nothing to stop their short-term ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and it would limit our ability to verify Iran’s nuclear activity.
There are those who say that we should go back to the negotiating table and try to get a better deal. I respect that view, but I have heard directly from top ambassadors representing our P5+1 partners as well as members of the Administration that starting over is not an option. Additionally, Iran would be spending the time it took to renegotiate a new deal to continue expanding their nuclear program. And if we step away from our international partners right now, there’s no guarantee that we end up with any deal at all or any ability to deepen international sanctions if talks fall apart.
Right now, according to experts, the time it would take Iran to amass enough nuclear material for a bomb is roughly two to three months. This deal will degrade their capability to the point where, if they decide to start ignoring the deal and building a weapon, we would have significantly more time to respond with all options at our disposal. So even if Iran decides to cheat, they are worse off and further from a nuclear weapon under this deal than they would be without it.
This deal forces Iran to get rid of 97% of its enriched uranium and sets a low cap on future enrichment — far below levels that can be used for weapons. This deal forces Iran to remove or shut down the vast majority of its centrifuges, leaving only their oldest, least efficient, and least capable of quickly enriching uranium to weapons grade.
Overall, the verification and inspections tools we will have are very strong and transparent. Although I have some concerns with Iran’s ability to delay inspectors from reaching undeclared sites, we and the IAEA have some of the best scientists in the world working on this problem with incredibly advanced tools. Perhaps most important, inspectors will have full access to the entire lifecycle of uranium in Iran, from the mines, to the centrifuges, to disposal of waste. There will also be a dedicated procurement channel, so we will know what Iran is buying, and we can prevent them from purchasing technology or materials that can be used for a bomb. Iran could try to cheat, but it would be very difficult, and even more difficult to do it without raising suspicions that the United States and our partners could act quickly on.
And, we should remember, the inspections described in the deal aren’t the end of our tools. We have the best intelligence community and technology in the world — and they will be watching everything Iran does. We have a chain of national laboratories with the best scientists who will be part of the testing and verification.
This deal doesn’t simply include inspections, it includes consequences. The ‘snapback’ provision of the deal makes sure that if the United States believes that Iran is violating the deal in any way, we can bring the full force of sanctions back — and we can do that unilaterally. And if these sanctions snap back into place, I would also be personally committed to deepening them and making sure all other options were on the table to stop Iran from moving forward with any development of nuclear weapons.
My support for this deal isn’t based on the hope that it will cause Iran to become more moderate, more trustworthy, or friendlier toward the United States and Israel. I always hope the Iranian people will push their extreme leaders toward moderation, but that’s not something we can count on, and I don’t believe that this hope can be a basis for support of this deal. I support this deal not because I trust Iran, but because I don’t trust Iran. I support this deal because I believe it puts us in a better and stronger position to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons now and in the future — even if they continue down their current extreme path, and even if they get worse. This deal gives us more tools to respond — not less, and it keeps the international community behind us in that effort.
If this deal moves forward, I am hopeful that all of us, whether we supported the deal or not, can work together to keep the pressure on Iran and make sure our allies are getting the support they need. Because this issue doesn’t go away when this deal is signed, far from it.
First of all, if Iran cheats on the deal, or looks like it could be cheating — we need to be ready to act quickly with any and all of the tools at our disposal. Iran should be under no illusions that cheating on this deal — even in small ways — could ever be acceptable, and it will not be tolerated. And I expect the Administration to aggressively enforce the requirements of this agreement.
Second, it is unacceptable for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon today, and it will be unacceptable for them to develop a nuclear weapon fifteen years from now, or ever. If we find ourselves at the end of this deal facing an Iran still threatening to develop a nuclear weapon, we will need to address that the same way we are doing so today — with strong resolve, all options on the table, and a unified international message that Iran developing a nuclear weapon is not acceptable.
Third, I share the deep concerns that the economic benefits that Iran will accrue from complying with this deal could be channeled toward terrorist groups intent on attacking the United States, Israel, or others. This is a serious concern, and I will be pushing the Administration to closely monitor this, make sure we are doing everything possible to prevent it from happening, and make it clear that there will be severe consequences if it does.
Just because we are making a deal to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon doesn’t mean we can turn a blind eye to the many other dangerous actions of this brutal regime — on the contrary, it means we should be even more aggressive as they open their economy and move toward the world community. I will be pushing this Administration and the next one to keep the pressure on Iran and respond appropriately to their actions when needed.
Fourth, our support for Israel should continue and be strengthened to make it crystal clear to all in the region that we will stand with our ally to enforce this deal and make sure Iran doesn’t hurt our shared interests in any other way.
As a strong supporter of Israel, I know full well the risks Israelis face every single day as the only democracy in a region where their some of their closest neighbors are also their fiercest enemies. I deeply value my friends in Washington state who have worked with me for decades to help me understand the region, its people, and its needs. I have traveled with them to Israel and I have seen the emotional, personal, and economic ties between our two countries. I have been a strong supporter of sanctions on Iran, military and economic support for Israel, and standing with our ally hand-in-hand toward our shared goals of peace, security, and prosperity in the region. There are strong supporters of Israel on both sides of this issue, and I deeply value the thoughts and guidance I received from those who share my view that the United States has a strong interest in protecting Israel and making sure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. And I am looking forward to working with supporters of Israel to make sure that this deal is implemented and enforced in a way that works for our strong friend and ally.
And finally, I will continue pushing this Administration and the next one to make sure that this deal aligns with an overall strategy for the region that maintains our national security and does everything possible to avoid pulling our country into another war.
I thank President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and so many others inside and outside the Administration for their work on this. I also deeply appreciate the guidance and advice I have received from experts on both sides of the issue, and from my constituents. I am hopeful that this deal will be implemented and will move us closer to our goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but I will be monitoring it closely and will be ready to join others in moving quickly on other options if Iran choses to pursue an unacceptable path.