Here’s why I believe the Iran agreement is the best available option for putting the brakes on a nuclear weapon for Iran:
Over the last month I have reviewed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as agreed to by the P5+1 and Iran. I have attended briefings with national security and nuclear experts. I have spoken with Minnesotans who hold strong views on both sides of this issue. Finally, I have met with the ambassadors from the other five nations involved in these negotiations and asked detailed questions about what their countries and others would do if Congress does not approve the agreement.
Preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is one of the most important objectives of our national security policy and I strongly advocated for and supported the economic sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. While the agreement is by no means perfect, I have concluded that it is our best available option to put the brakes on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon and that is why I will support it. In conjunction with that support I will also push for increased security assistance to Israel and enhanced defense cooperation with our Arab allies to combat terrorism throughout the region.
I do this with my eyes wide open to the nature of the Iranian regime, including its human rights abuses, its unjustified detention of American citizens, its threats against Israel, and its destabilizing actions in the region, including its support for terrorist groups.
After a lot of thought and discussion I have concluded that an Iran in possession of a nuclear weapon would make an already volatile situation much worse by greatly increasing the danger to Israel and our other allies in the Mideast. If we were to reject this agreement, Iran would be able to continue all of its destabilizing activities while continuing its pursuit of the most destructive weapon in the world.
I have deep respect for those who hold different views on this subject and acknowledge that this was a difficult decision. And as I have proven through my votes and actions since coming to the Senate, I am deeply committed to protecting Israel’s security, including full aid funding and support for critical security measures like Iron Dome. In conjunction with my support for this agreement I will push the administration and my colleagues in Congress for additional assistance to Israel and our other regional allies to strengthen their security. I will also continue to support efforts to combat terrorist groups in the Mideast.
These are the key reasons I have decided to support the agreement:
1. It curbs Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon.
Before negotiations began in 2013, we were moving steadily closer to the nightmare scenario of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. Even under the pressure of massive economic sanctions, Iran was continuing to build its nuclear infrastructure. It was installing more and more centrifuges, accumulating a stockpile of enriched uranium, and building a reactor capable of producing spent fuel that can be reprocessed into plutonium.
This negotiated agreement will put the brakes on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. As recently noted in an open letter by 29 top American nuclear scientists, including six Nobel laureates, the agreement contains “more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework.” Specifically, the agreement requires Iran to:
• Give up 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium and not enrich uranium to the levels needed to create nuclear weapons;
• Disconnect two-thirds of its centrifuges with restrictions on where and how it can operate the remaining ones;
• Limit any uranium enrichment to a single facility at Natanz. Fordow, the fortified site that Iran long sought to hide from the world, will be converted into a research facility. The core of Arak, the heavy water reactor, will be removed and filled with cement, rendering it unusable for the production of weapons-grade plutonium;
• Open its nuclear facilities to continuous monitoring and allow stringent inspections of its uranium supply chain;
• Permanently commit to never seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons.
2. Sanctions can be reimposed and the military option remains on the table.
If Iran cheats on this deal, sanctions can be reimposed or “snapped back.” In addition, U.S. military options remain on the table just as they were before the deal. This agreement by no means limits or lessens our country’s ability to use force against Iran if it violates this agreement and pursues nuclear weapons. If Iran attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, the terms of this agreement will have given us more information and more limited targets in the event that military action becomes necessary. It should also be noted that this agreement does not in any way constrain the ability of future Presidents or Congresses to authorize military force against Iran.
3. Rejecting the agreement would lead to a splintering of the international partnership that has been critical to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Some have argued that we should reject this deal so we can return to the negotiating table and extract a better deal. Yet I recently met with the Ambassadors representing the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, and not one of them believed that abandoning this deal would result in a better deal. Instead it would allow Iran more time to build up its nuclear infrastructure. The countries that have been our partners in this effort would no longer be unified. The sanctions regime would start to fray, splintering the international consensus on Iran and leaving its nuclear program unconstrained.
4. This agreement will move in parallel with increased commitments to security assistance for Israel and our other allies in the region.
In my view, the most troubling issue with this agreement is that the sanctions relief that Iran will receive after it implements key restrictions on its nuclear program will provide it with additional funds, and a certain portion of those funds could be funneled into Iran’s destabilizing activities around the region. I am deeply committed to the security of our allies, and want to ensure that we are taking steps in parallel with this nuclear agreement to enhance our allies’ ability to defend themselves. First, all U.S. sanctions relating to Iran’s support for terrorist activities must remain in place. Second, we must work with our allies to counter Iran’s support for terrorist groups in the region. This agreement must be accompanied by a strong regional security strategy that enhances security assistance to Israel and provides greater defense cooperation with our Arab allies, as well as continued efforts to combat terrorism.