Congressman Visclosky Statement in Support of the Iran Nuclear Agreement
Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Visclosky released the following statement in support of the Iran nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:
As the Ranking Member on the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, I am acutely aware of the harmful influence the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies have on the security situation in the Greater Middle East. Simply put, Iran pursues policies that threaten U.S. strategic interests and goals throughout the Middle East, often by enflaming sectarian tensions that are exploited by violent extremist elements in the region.
However, despite my clear and deep mistrust of Iran, I firmly support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This hard-fought multilateral agreement will severely limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions, establish a verifiable and robust inspection regime, allow for the timely reinstatement of sanctions for violations of this agreement, and in no way limit U.S. military options. If fully implemented and rigorously enforced, the JCPOA will result in the removal of a source of risk and uncertainty within the region for the foreseeable future. I believe this will substantially increase the security for our nation and all of our regional allies.
Under the JCPOA, Iran’s access to nuclear material will be significantly curtailed from what we know exists today. Specifically, Iran will not produce or acquire either highly enriched uranium or weapons-grade plutonium for at least 15 years, and they will reduce their stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98 percent, from 12,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms. Additionally, two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges will be removed from nuclear facilities, to be secured and constantly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Also important to note is the commitment Iran has made under the agreement to not pursue certain research and development programs directly linked to the development of a nuclear weapon. All told, these restrictions significantly increase the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a weapon and to build a nuclear device.
The agreement provides for the establishment of a verifiable and robust inspection system, including constant monitoring of Iran’s known nuclear facilities throughout the entire chain of development, from the uranium mines to its centrifuges. Access to the supply chain makes it improbable that Iran could establish a covert nuclear program without detection. Further, the JCPOA ensures continuous monitoring of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities and IAEA inspectors can request access to any location they suspect is involved with nuclear activities, including military sites. In anticipation of difficulties with access, the JCPOA contains a dispute resolution mechanism should Iran deny the IAEA access to any site. While the time allowed for the dispute resolution process has been criticized as too lengthy, I am certain any suspicious site will receive the full attention of U.S. observation assets during that period. Additionally, nuclear inspection experts express the utmost confidence that IAEA environmental sampling would detect the presence of any nuclear material.
In order to receive new sanctions relief, Iran must satisfy IAEA demands about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, dismantle the vast majority of its uranium capability, and remove the core from the Arak reactor. To receive full relief from the remaining sanctions, Iran must continue meeting commitments for the years agreed to in the JCPOA. If the terms of the agreement are not met at any time, the JCPOA provides for the ability to re-impose both unilateral and multilateral nuclear-related sanctions. And notably, the agreement allows the U.S. and its European allies to re-impose United Nations sanctions over the objections of any member of the Security Council, including China or Russia.
Further, the JCPOA only applies to nuclear-related sanctions. The United States will maintain several strong sanctions authorities due to Iran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and for its abysmal record on human rights. For example, U.S. sanctions will continue to apply to several top-level officials in Iran’s security apparatus, to the transfer of weapons of mass destruction technologies, missile technologies, and conventional weapons.
Finally, the agreement in no way constrains the U.S. military options at our disposal, as has been repeatedly pointed out by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony before Congress.
I cannot argue that the JCPOA is perfect, and I share the frustration expressed by its opponents with its limited scope. In particular, I would have preferred if the agreement kept the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program for longer periods of time, further reduced the number of operational centrifuges, did not allow for the future elimination of sanctions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, contained restrictions on Iran’s use of the sanctions relief, and addressed the detention of American citizens in Iran. However, in any negotiation, especially one with many sovereign nations, each having their own economic and security considerations, some compromise is necessary. Critically, I believe the agreement reached accomplishes the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
I fundamentally disagree with those supporters of the deal who have stated that “war” will be the immediate result if the agreement is rejected, and find that opponents of the deal have only presented alternatives that are best described as delusional. Rather, I concur with the sentiments of my esteemed friend, and former Senator, Richard Lugar, who recently wrote that Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would, “kill the last chance for Washington to reach a verifiable Iranian commitment not to build a nuclear weapon,” and, “destroy the effective coalition that brought Iran to the negotiating table.” We cannot reasonably expect foreign nations, even our closest allies, to continue making costly sacrifices at our demand if the U.S. unilaterally withdraws from its commitment to the JCPOA. And I can say with some confidence that China and Russia will have no hesitation to resume trade with Iran if the agreement were rejected. Iran negotiated because of crippling sanctions and a unified international community, neither of which will exist should Congress reject this agreement.
The ultimate success or failure of the JCPOA will be determined by time and verification based on Iranian behavior. However, it is vital for the duration of the agreement that the U.S. leads the international community to maintain focus on Iran’s compliance and ensure that Iran does not undermine regional stability through other pathways, negating the security gains from this agreement. To accomplish this, we must remain steadfast in our commitments to all of our regional partners, including Israel, and help improve their capacity to counter Iran and mitigate the effects of their malign activity. Additionally, we must keep combining diplomacy, economic pressure, and the resolve to keep military options on the table.
Assuming the agreement is affirmed, I ask all to constructively work to improve the security situation in the Middle East rather than using all their energy to undermine the agreement. We cannot rely on force of arms alone to bring lasting stability to any region of our world. And I hope that the exhaustive multilateral negotiations that led to the JCPOA will serve as a template for future U.S. and international engagement on other outstanding issues that have led to instability and violence in the region.