On October 13, President Donald Trump announced that he would not recertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. Members of Congress weighed in during the runup to and after President Trump’s speech. Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which would be a violation of the deal. Lawmakers could also rewrite the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which requires certification every 90 days, or draft a new law with additional conditions for Iran.
Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Bob Corker (R-TN) have been working with the administration on legislation to address perceived flaws in the deal, namely the so-called “sunset clauses,” gaps in the inspections regime, and the failure to restrict Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges. The following are recent remarks by lawmakers on the nuclear deal.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI)
"The nuclear agreement struck by the previous administration with Iran is fatally flawed. Not only did it codify Tehran’s domestic enrichment capability, but once key restraints expire in the coming years, the regime will be free to pursue nuclear weapons under the guise of international legitimacy. All the while, Iran has continued to test-fire ballistic missiles and finance its terrorist proxies across the globe. Simply enforcing a fatally flawed agreement is not sufficient. I support President Trump’s decision to reevaluate this dangerous deal, and the House will work with his administration to counter Iran’s range of destabilizing activities."
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)
“The President’s announcement today rightly focuses on the full range of deadly threats from the Iranian regime. Our relationship with Iran should not be defined by one flawed nuclear deal. From Yemen to Lebanon, Iran is working to impose its brutal theocratic rule throughout the region. It supports terrorist groups like Hezbollah, bolsters the ruthless Assad dictatorship, promotes instability through sectarianism in Iraq, and abuses the human rights of the Iranian people. We cannot allow such a regime to become a nuclear power. The nuclear deal has significant flaws that must be addressed if that objective is going to be accomplished.
“We are committed to work with the President to address these flaws, hold Iran strictly accountable to its commitments, and support efforts to counter all the Iranian threats. We’ll take an important step to that end on the House floor by passing bills to increase sanctions unrelated to JCPOA that target Iran’s support for terrorism and its ballistic missile program when Congress returns in the coming weeks.”
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)
“As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it.”
—Oct. 11, 2017, in a hearing
Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
“I do not want the U.S. to pull completely out because Iran has already gotten the plane load of cash and a lot of the benefit from it.” [referring to the Obama administration’s payment to Iran in January 2016]
—October 2017, on “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo” via the Washington Examiner
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), member of Senate Armed Services Committee
"Lawmakers need to do now what we couldn't do two years ago: unite around an Iran strategy that truly stops Iran's nuclear weapons program and empowers the United States and our allies to combat the full spectrum of Iran's imperial aggression. The legislation Senator Corker and I have been working on with the administration will address the major flaws in the original Iran deal: the sunset clauses, the weak inspections regime, and the failure to restrict Iran's development of advanced centrifuges. And it will create time and leverage for firm diplomacy-together with our allies-to work and neutralize the threat of a nuclear Iran permanently."
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement ahead of President Trump’s announcement
Cotton-Corker Legislative Strategy
Fixing the Iran Deal
Background and Key Details
Objective: Address the major flaws of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by requiring the automatic “snapback” of U.S. sanctions should Iran violate enhanced and existing restrictions on its nuclear program.
Background on JCPOA’s Flaws: Beginning in 2010, Congress overwhelmingly passed a series of devastating sanctions on Iran’s economy, forcing Iran to the negotiating table.
In 2015, the Obama administration and international partners negotiated an agreement with Iran aimed at restricting Tehran’s nuclear program.
Unfortunately, the JCPOA—which was opposed by a bipartisan majority in Congress—contained a number of major flaws, including:
Sunsets: At year eight of the deal, restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program begin to “sunset,” allowing Iran to steadily industrialize its uranium enrichment program. By year 15, all restrictions expire, bringing Iran to the brink of nuclear breakout.
Verification: The JCPOA fails to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) necessary authority to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement.
Research and Development: The JCPOA allows Iran to develop advanced centrifuges which dramatically reduces the time needed to produce a nuclear weapon.
Key Provision: Automatic snapback of U.S. sanctions should Iran go under a one-year “breakout” period and move closer to a nuclear weapon.
The legislation automatically re-imposes sanctions if Iran’s nuclear program violates certain restrictions. These restrictions:
- remain in force indefinitely, effectively ridding the JCPOA of its sunset provisions as they apply
to U.S. sanctions;
- bolster IAEA verification powers; and
- limit Iran’s advanced centrifuge program.
The legislation, if passed, would:
- establish a U.S. policy on Iran that is backed by a bipartisan majority in Congress;
- empower a diplomatic push to unify our allies behind a common Iran policy; and
- focus U.S. policy toward permanently halting Iran’s nuclear program and combatting the full spectrum of Iran’s nefarious activities.
The legislation would not conflict with the JCPOA upon passage. Instead, it would set conditions that halt Iran’s nuclear program and provide a window of time for firm diplomacy and pressure to work.
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a fact sheet
“So, after two years of living under this terrible deal, the question before us is: What now? To that I quote Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “fix it or nix it.”
“The world needs to know we’re serious, we’re willing to walk away, and we’re willing to reimpose sanctions, and a lot more than that. And they’ll know that when the president declines to certify the deal, and not before.”
—Oct. 3, 2017, in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations
Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
"For years, the Iranian regime has literally been getting away with murder. Meanwhile, the United States has lacked a comprehensive strategy to meet the multifaceted threat Iran poses. The goals President Trump presented in his speech today are a welcomed long overdue change. They offer the United States a path forward that centers our policy towards Iran on its destabilizing regional ambitions rather than its nuclear program alone. I look forward to learning more about the specifics of this strategy, and the Senate Armed Services Committee will conduct thorough oversight of our military's role in it."
"Iran has routinely threatened the United States and its neighbors for decades. It is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Its support of the murderous Assad regime has contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions, destabilizing nations across the Middle East. Its continued development and testing of ballistic missiles flouts international law. Its rampant abuse of human rights within its own borders and around the Middle East is horrific. And it has the blood of hundreds of American soldiers on its hands from its support of anti-American terrorist groups and militias throughout the region. And yet, despite this long track record of Iranian malign activities, the Obama administration consistently treated Iran narrowly as a non-proliferation problem rather than as a geopolitical one. This legacy of failure casts a long shadow on our present situation."
"I did not support the nuclear deal at the time it was proposed, and many of its specific terms will make it harder to pursue the comprehensive strategy we need. In that sense, I agree with the President that the deal is not in the vital national interests of the United States. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on additional legislation to increase sanctions and other pressure to hold Iran accountable for its broader destructive behavior in the region. I am also eager to collaborate with our partners and allies to revisit the most problematic provisions of the nuclear deal, and support a unified, forceful international front in the event that Iran materially breaches the terms of the agreement."
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“I have long opposed the Iran nuclear agreement because I did not believe it was in America’s national security interests. This deeply-flawed agreement, which was opposed by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, has empowered Iran to increase its destabilizing activities throughout the region, while at best pausing—not dismantling—Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons and delivery systems. I look forward to hearing more from the administration about how it plans to engage our allies as we move forward, particularly when it comes to addressing some of the biggest weaknesses in the agreement, such as Iran’s ballistic missile program, international inspectors’ access to Iranian military sites, and the sunset timeline for key provisions. It is critically important that we put in place a comprehensive regional strategy to combat Iran’s influence and hold it accountable for both its nuclear program and its destabilizing non-nuclear activities, including its support for sectarian militias and terrorist groups like Hezbollah, human rights violations, and increasing involvement in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I look forward to considering legislation to address many of the issues the President raised in his speech today.”
—Oct. 13, 2017 in statement
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“President Trump made the right decision to decertify the Obama Administration's Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran (JCPOA). He is correct in finding that this deal is not in our national interest.
“I know the White House has been working hard to craft a new law to fix the Iran deal, and I appreciate them and Chairman Corker seeking my input. I will reserve judgment until actual legislation is presented. But I have serious doubts about whether it is even possible to fix such a dangerously flawed agreement.
“Ultimately, leaving the nuclear deal, reimposing suspended sanctions, and having the president impose additional sanctions would serve our national interest better than a decertified deal that leaves sanctions suspended or a new law that leaves major flaws in that agreement in place.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“Most of the complaints about Iran don’t have anything to do with the agreement. They complain about ballistic missiles and other things, but that’s not part of the agreement.”
“I think while the agreement’s not perfect, my main concern has always been compliance. But if they’re complying with it, I think we should stay in it.”
—Sept. 20, 2017, in a statement to Politico
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“I don’t think that we should relieve Iran of its obligations. They realize the benefits already of the sanctions relief. And now, to be in a position where they could get out from under the protocols under the agreement, that’s what I’m worried about.”
—Early October 2017 in remarks to Politico
Rep. Peter J. Roskam (R-IL)
“I support the President’s decision to refuse to certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and to advance the fight against Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the Middle East. I will soon be introducing legislation to support the President’s goals of permanently preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and countering Iranian aggression.
“Iran – the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, primary backer of Bashar Al Assad’s massacre of the Syrian people and egregious violator of human rights – must be permanently prevented from developing a nuclear weapon. Under its current terms, the Iran nuclear deal reached by the Obama Administration fails to achieve this goal. The JCPOA only delays Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon while legitimizing and enriching Iran’s malevolent regime; and major flaws in the JCPOAs inspection regime allow Iranian military sites previously used to develop nuclear-related technology to operate without scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The current accord not only fails to address Iran’s support for terrorism, advancing ballistic missile program, and other illicit activity, but awards Iran’s most hostile actors like the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its enablers, such as Iran Air. During this policy roll out, I strongly encourage the President to prevent the sale of aircraft to Iran Air until the airline ceases its support for terrorism.
“Remaining part of the nuclear accord in its current form is not in the U.S. national security interest. I look forward to working with the Trump Administration in ensuring that the Islamic Republic is verifiably and permanently prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons capability.
“A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to our nation. We must take all steps to prevent one of the world’s most dangerous regimes from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapon.”
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Minority Leader
“I had a great deal of misgivings about the Iran nuclear deal. I voted against it but now we ought to see, give it time to work.”
“The worst things Iran is doing now are not within the nuclear deal but outside of it… funding terrorists, particularly Hezbollah, which has huge amounts of rockets in Lebanon.”
The “proper compromise” is to increase sanctions on Iran for those “non- nuclear areas.”
—Oct. 15, 2017, after a press conference via the New York Post
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
“According to all assessments, including those of senior Trump Administration officials, the Iran deal is achieving its intended purpose – namely halting Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. If President Trump walks away from the deal it could be a costly, strategic mistake that would end strong international consensus on the issue and leave the United States isolated from our allies and partners.”
—Oct. 3, 2017 statement
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee
“Iran must never have a nuclear weapon. To ensure that, we must strictly enforce the nuclear deal, work to lengthen its sunset provisions, and hold Iran's feet to the fire on the regime's other bad behavior.
“The President’s plan doesn't make sense. Negotiating additional terms to the nuclear deal requires a coalition of international partners, not unilateral congressional action. And while we must crack down on Iran's other destabilizing actions—ballistic-missile development, sponsorship of terrorism, human-rights abuses, and support for the Assad Regime—Congress already passed tough sanctions against Iran, Russia, and North Korea last August, which the President grudgingly signed. But the Administration seems unwilling to enforce this new law.
“Failing to certify the deal is a risky gamble. It’s the first step toward withdrawing from the agreement keeping Iran from building the bomb. Our allies and adversaries alike will see this as a signal that the United States doesn't live up to our commitments, making the United States a source of uncertainty instead of a force for solving serious problems. I have to ask: what major power will trust our word on potential North Korean nuclear negotiations, given how Trump is undermining the agreement with Iran?
“Iran is a threat to global security. We need a smart strategy that builds an agenda with partners around the world. Instead, the President has offered a confused approach that harms American leadership and threatens international stability.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
“We need to work with allies and partners on a shared agenda that holds the regime in Iran accountable, not dividing America from our closest friends across the globe”
—Oct. 11, 2017 statement in a hearing
“Today I believe America’s interests are best served by living up to our commitments in the deal, aggressively enforcing it, cracking down on Iran’s other dangerous behavior, and continuing to look for ways to make the nuclear agreement stronger.”
“I am concerned that an abrupt American withdrawal from the JCPOA would harm our national security. Iran has already seen windfalls from the deal, so walking away would turn sanctions relief into a giveaway. If the United States wants to prevent Iran from rushing to a bomb and fomenting further instability in the region, then we must work with our allies to build support for a shared agenda. If we walk away from the nuclear deal, we lose our leverage. This would be a serious miscalculation.”
—Oct. 10, 2017, in a USA Today op-ed
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“I strongly disagree with the President’s reckless, political decision and his subsequent threat to Congress. At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the President has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners, compromising our ability to employ a diplomatic surge on the Korean Peninsula. Despite his assertions to the contrary, the President’s rhetoric and actions today directly threaten U.S. national security and damage our credibility and reputation on the world stage.
“The Administration should have been working with Congress since January to develop and implement a comprehensive Iran policy. A serious policy would keep the JCPOA in place, demand rigorous enforcement of the agreement, and take steps to push back on Iran’s troubling, non-nuclear aggression. It should include a plan for building coalitions to respond to Iran’s violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, its support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and its activities that are destabilizing U.S. partners across the Middle East and threatening Israel.
“Unfortunately, the President has failed to implement the sanctions on Iran passed overwhelmingly by Congress in July and has chosen a path that makes addressing all other elements of a comprehensive Iran policy more difficult by imposing self-inflicted international isolation on the United States.
“At a time when the world should be united in focusing on Iran’s bad actions, instead the President has opened up the United States to international criticism and challenge.
“Not even one year into his Presidency, this is one of the most dangerous and consequential decisions the President has made imperiling U.S. national security.
“I also have concerns related to the termination of Iran’s obligations under the JCPOA and the regime’s non-nuclear aggression. But the lead for addressing these concerns is the President and the executive branch of our government. Instead, he is abdicating his leadership role to Congress, just like with Dreamers and just like with affirming and strengthening our health care system. It is a troubling pattern. We will not buy into the false premise that it is Congress’ role to legislate solutions to problems of his own making.
“Moving forward, I am ready to work with my colleagues to ensure that U.S. national security is protected despite the President’s dangerous announcement today. It is now up to Congress to show the world that there is bipartisan support for the United States to uphold its commitments, including the JCPOA. We must move forward with the recognition that we have a President who is not concerned about America’s reputation, not committed to its relationships, and is willing to gamble with America’s national security.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
—Oct. 13, 2017, in remarks to the press
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD)
“The President's action today to decertify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA is unjustified by the facts. It runs counter to the broad consensus – including the clearly stated view of the President’s own foreign policy team – that Iran has, in fact, complied with the terms of the agreement.
"It is the policy of the United States that a nuclear-armed Iran – now or at any time in the future – is unacceptable. It is appropriate for the Congress to act to support and encourage international efforts, in conjunction with our European allies, to further that policy. However, as long as Iran is in compliance, such efforts should not violate the terms of the JCPOA.
"There is agreement among Congress, the President, and the international community that the Iranian regime continues to violate international law, support terrorism, destabilize the region, and undermine the human rights of its people. We must work with our allies to confront and end these illegal and dangerous actions.
"Among other steps, the President should enforce the Iran sanctions passed by Congress in July to counter Iran’s malevolent behavior. Furthermore, the President ought to work with our allies to strictly enforce the JCPOA and take steps to ensure the conflict in Syria does not lead to an Iranian military presence on Israel’s borders.
"Unfortunately, today’s action may make confronting Iran’s nuclear ambitions and other threatening behaviors more difficult."
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee
“The President of the United States has a responsibility to exercise leadership when it comes to crucial national security issues such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. He should let the facts inform him and bear the burden of making the right decisions to safeguard our country’s interests. Instead, President Trump is abdicating his responsibility and kicking the question to Congress, in what appears to be a cravenly political attempt to have it both ways. That is as juvenile as it is dangerous.
“Congress must now act responsibly on this issue. Reneging on our obligations under the JCPOA by snapping back sanctions would seriously harm the national security interest of the United States. It could result in war or a nuclear-armed Iran. It would leave the United States isolated from our allies and partners who continue to support the JCPOA. It would undermine our global diplomatic efforts by sending a signal that the United States does not keep its commitments. And it would further destabilize the Middle East. We cannot afford to trigger any of those outcomes, especially at a time when we are confronting so many other grave national security crises.
“As the President’s decision not to decertify based on noncompliance implicitly admits, the Iranian government has not failed to deliver on its obligations under the JCPOA, whose terms are limited to the development of nuclear weapons. We have other methods of countering Iran’s malign activities—such as missile launches and terrorist activity—that fall outside the scope of the agreement. We should apply them vigorously to contain and counter Iranian actions that threaten our national security. But we should not take actions that violate our commitments under the JCPOA when adhering to its terms is the best option available, and when the alternatives would invite disaster.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
“We need the help of this international coalition to keep up the pressure on Iran for its other malign activities outside of the JCPOA – its support for terrorism, its gross human rights violations, and its ballistic missile weapons program.”
“If President Trump decertifies Iranian compliance without clear evidence of Iranian violations, it will jeopardize this united front against Iran.”
—Oct. 4, 2017 in a statement
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Member of House Armed Services Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee
The Iran deal is far from perfect, and it falls far short of reconciling the enormous differences and innumerable grievances between the United States and Iran, but the Iran nuclear deal was about preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon and preventing an all-out war with Iran - which is exactly what it has done. A common misconception is that upholding the deal will somehow prevent us from confronting Iran on other non-nuclear issues such as development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. This is not true. Despite its flaws, the Iran nuclear deal set a high water mark for diplomacy with a nation we otherwise do not have diplomatic ties with. We must continue to address these issues with Iran, outside of the construct of the nuclear deal. In our mission of nuclear non-proliferation, the agreement proves that diplomacy is our best option if we want to avoid yet another costly, destructive war.
The consequence of breaking our agreement and backing out of the deal, will likely cause Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program, and will spark a nuclear arms race across the region, beginning with countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, escalating the Shia-Sunni conflict to extremely dangerous levels.
In addition, our ability to successfully negotiate with countries like North Korea to ultimately denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, depends on our ability to abide by the agreement we promised to uphold with Iran.
—Oct. 12, 2017, in an op-ed for The Hill
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Member of House Foreign Affairs Committee
“Withdrawing from the deal would damage U.S. credibility in the eyes of our allies and adversaries and weaken our leverage to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements with Iran or other states. The leaders of all parties to the agreement, except the United States, maintain that Iran is in compliance, and the Trump administration has offered no evidence of Iranian violations.”
“The deal is accomplishing a critical national security priority — preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. If we withdraw, not only can Iran immediately restart its nuclear program, but we are left with only military options to combat Iranian nuclear proliferation. The last thing the world needs right now is an additional nuclear front.”
“Zero evidence has been provided to Congress concerning Iranian noncompliance, despite the fact that President Trump has reportedly already made his decision regarding recertification. If the president decertifies, the United States will have zero credibility on nonproliferation matters, zero partners to negotiate a better or more comprehensive deal, and zero diplomatic options to avert a nuclear-armed Iran.”
—Oct. 5, 2017 in an op-ed for The Hill
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“Ripping up the Iran Deal would be a catastrophic self-inflicted wound for America, putting Iran on a course to get a nuclear weapon and pushing the United States even farther away from our allies. Keeping Connecticut families safe and protecting our national security is my number one priority. After studying the issue, I came out in support of the Iran Deal because I concluded it was the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon that would threaten the United States and our allies, especially Israel.
“Now it's up to Congress to signal to the world that we are not backing out of the deal. Using the President’s decertification as an excuse to exit the agreement would shred America’s credibility at the exact moment we are trying to defuse a nuclear crisis with North Korea. We will never convince Kim Jong Un to voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons if we have a track record of going back on agreements that were painstakingly negotiated with all the major world powers. If the Iran agreement falls, war will become much more likely – both in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula – and American lives will be put at risk. We cannot allow that to happen.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
“There is a clear cause-and-effect relationship: Republicans would cast a vote that would set Iran back on a path to a nuclear weapon. I just can’t understand why any Republican would want that on their conscience, or would want that politically.”
—Early October 2017, in remarks to Politico
“The President is about to impose on himself and this country a dramatic self-inflicted wound because by pulling out of this agreement, Iran will go back onto a path to develop a nuclear weapon.”
—Oct. 8, 2017, in a CNN interview
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee
"If the United States Congress were to re-impose sanctions on Iran, that would lead to significant damage to the Iran Deal," Coons said. "I don't think this is the time for us to abandon the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and, while the Trump administration is making a very fine distinction between a de-certification that is a report to Congress rather than leaving the deal, I'm concerned that the distinction will be lost on our allies and adversaries, and that it will be incorrectly reported that he's de-certifying the JCPOA or trying to leave the JCPOA."
—Oct. 10, 2017 in a statement
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“Most importantly, a U.S. withdrawal could send Iran’s nuclear program back into full swing. A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel, destabilize the Middle East and contribute to an international nuclear arms race.”
“The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran might be the single biggest risk we face. According to every assessment, that risk is currently contained. Mr. President, let’s keep it that way; don’t walk away from the nuclear agreement.”
—Oct. 11, 2017, in an op-ed for The Huffington Post
Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), member of House Committee on Financial Services and Committee on Science, Space and Technology
As the only PhD physicist in Congress, I supported the Iran Deal after a review of its technical enforceability and its ability to functionally dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It has succeeded in every aspect of what was agreed to and has made the world safer thanks to the broad international coalition that made this deal a reality.
Despite President’s Trump’s acknowledgement that Iran is in full compliance with the terms of the agreement, he announced today that he will refuse to certify that compliance to Congress on the grounds that he personally does not believe that the deal is in our national interest. Furthermore, he threatened to unilaterally withdraw from the deal any time he wants. This sort of irresponsible behavior undermines the credibility of the U.S. as a stable and reliable negotiating partner and undercuts our efforts to negotiate agreements to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world.
There is no doubt among the scientific and diplomatic community that the deal successfully rolled back Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon. This deal gave us the ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear capability, so Iran no longer has the capability to produce a nuclear weapon without our knowledge. Iran has disconnected, removed, and placed in IAEA-monitored storage, two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, reduced their stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, removed all fissile material, centrifuges, and enrichment infrastructure from the underground facility at Fordow. The calandria - the core of Iran’s heavy water nuclear reactor - has been removed and filled with concrete so it is now permanently inoperable. All these actions will be reversed if President Trump walks away from the deal.
There remains a long list of Iranian misbehaviors in the non-nuclear arena. They were never covered by the deal, because the international coalition that brought Iran to the negotiating table was focused only on the prevention of a nuclear Iran. This fact does not provide justification for Trump’s announcement today.
Fortunately, as long as Congress acts responsibly and refuses to take Trump’s bait, President Trump’s announcement today will have no direct effect on the Iran Nuclear Deal.
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a press release
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Democratic Whip
“Thanks to the Agreement and its inspectors, Iran is further away from a nuclear weapon than at any point in more than a decade. It has agreed to never pursue a nuclear weapon and to continue intrusive inspections around the clock. That’s good for America’s security and the security of our allies in the Middle East.
“President Trump belittling these security gains, over the objection of our critical European allies, risks returning the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran to the U.S. and Israel.
“Pulling out of the Agreement would only empower Iran’s hardliners and weaken America’s standing with our allies—allies we depend on to face down growing threats in other parts of the world, like a nuclear-armed North Korea.
“America and the world do not need another nuclear threat. Playing fast and loose with nuclear weapons invites disaster. Make no mistake, President Trump’s bad faith move alienates the United States and makes other countries—friend and foe alike—less likely to trust America’s word in the future. He alone will own the results.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
It’s a simple question: Do we want Iran to have a nuclear weapon or not? pic.twitter.com/QGEPcGRhqS— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) October 17, 2017
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)
“I am dismayed by recent reports suggesting President Trump will refuse to again certify that the Iran nuclear deal is in our country’s national security interest. He has threatened to do so even while Iran is in compliance with the deal. I urge the president to reconsider before making this rash and dangerous decision.”
—Oct. 10, 2017, in a press release
"Iran is upholding its end of the nuclear deal, demonstrating that limited engagement with Iran can advance significant U.S. national security goals rather than undermining them," Carper said in a statement. "President Trump and his administration should move quickly to recertify the agreement so that we can build on the progress we've made and avoid the alternative: a United State that is at odds with its allies, has lost credibility as an honest partner and is undermining a deal that prevents a nuclear armed Iran."
—Oct. 10, 2017, in a statement
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
The choice we face right now is between sticking with an agreement that has cut off Iran’s pathways to a bomb or allowing Iran to push forward with a nuclear weapons program. It’s between maintaining U.S. credibility and leadership in the world or empowering our adversaries. It’s between diplomacy or increasing the risk of war. And if Trump kills this deal, it will make it nearly impossible to negotiate a resolution to other critical issues, like the North Korean nuclear crisis. Who will ever enter into an agreement with a country that walks away from its commitments?
—Oct. 10, 2017 in a statement
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
“There is no question we must crack down on Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, including its support for terrorism—which is exactly why Congress enacted tough new sanctions this summer. The President should use those sanctions, instead of leading us down a path toward unraveling the Iran nuclear agreement, which his own Defense Secretary has said would not be in our national interest.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a tweet
Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)
“President Trump’s action is destructive, irresponsible and highlights his utter lack of experience in crafting foreign policy. There is a big difference between governing and campaigning and today’s announcement yet again demonstrates President Trump’s desire to react to situations without taking into account the magnitude of what such actions mean to the lives of Americans. I recognize how complex the Iran Nuclear Deal is, but it is important to remember this is not 2015; we cannot go back in time. We need to ask ourselves not whether we like or agree with the Iran Nuclear Deal, but whether our nation is better off without it. President Trump’s decision leaves our nation isolated internationally because our allies will not also re-impose sanctions in order to force Iran to renegotiate the deal. The President has demonstrated that he’s not ready for prime-time, and proven once again that he cannot see the bigger picture – if we leave the Iran Nuclear Deal, why should countries like North Korea believe that we can be trusted to keep our word? President Trump has no plan once the United States leaves the deal. He is risking our security in order to fulfill a campaign promise. Foreign policy is not a game of golf or a reality TV show. It’s time for President Trump to do what is best for the American people and start acting like a world leader.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)
“President Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal – absent evidence of any violations – will isolate us from our allies, weaken our standing in the world and undermine our credibility in future diplomatic efforts. That’s why independent experts, Members of Congress in both parties and even high-level officials within the Trump Administration have warned against decertifying the deal.
“There is no question that Iran has continued its unacceptable behavior of expanding its ballistic missile program and financing international terrorism, but by all indications it has abided by the JCPOA – which aims to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. At a time of increased instability around the world, including rising tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea, the President should be working with Congress and our international partners on diplomatic efforts to crack down on Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism while preserving the agreement that prevents another hostile state from obtaining nuclear weapons. I call on my colleagues in Congress to put diplomacy first and not to follow President Trump down this dangerous path.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in statement
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
“President Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran Deal represents an all-time high in recklessness and stupidity. Every week the president’s Twitter tantrums put the world on edge. Decertifying the Iran Deal will add to this volatility by sending a chilling message across the globe that the United States is abandoning our leadership and our commitments on nuclear non-proliferation.
“With clear consensus by experts that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remains the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, President Trump’s failure to certify the agreement is dangerous and alarming. Ehud Barak, the former prime minister and defense minister of Israel and a strong critic of Iran, is among a growing group of world leaders who said it would be a mistake for President Trump to decertify the deal.
“We must be clear: The Iran Deal is working and making us safer. It set up the toughest international monitoring regime ever enacted. And thanks to the agreement, all of Iran’s potential pathways to obtaining nuclear weapons remain blocked. Walking away from the agreement would cripple America’s credibility on the world stage and endanger any prospects for negotiating with North Korea or other countries. And let me also be perfectly clear, despite what President Trump and Secretary Tillerson appear to assert, Congress cannot unilaterally change the terms of the JCPOA.
“President Trump decertifying the Iran Deal, as well as adding other poorly-conceived unilateral sanctions and conditions against Iran, would put America’s national security at risk and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran back on the table. Americans deserve better from their leaders. I urge President Trump to reconsider this dangerous move and put the safety of the American people first by reversing this terrible decision.”
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
“Trump’s refusal today to recertify the historic nuclear agreement with Iran is an affront to peace and diplomacy across the globe, weakens the U.S. role with our allies, emboldens North Korea, and makes a nuclear-armed Iran more likely—if not inevitable.
“Iran has complied with the agreement. It has removed thousands of centrifuges from service, halted enrichment beyond 3.67 percent, limited the size of its enriched uranium stockpile, and filled the core of its heavy-water nuclear reactor with cement. Without the framework in place, the amount of time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon could go from one year to mere weeks.
“Even his own Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, agreed last week that keeping this agreement intact is critical to our national security.
“Further, Trump’s proposals to ‘renegotiate’ and attach new conditions to ‘get a better deal’ demonstrate a total lack of understanding of how diplomacy works. All sides have made compromises to get this agreement. If we renege, Iran will be free to walk away with the money it received when international sanctions were lifted and the right to develop its own nuclear weapons. We will also not be able to marshal the international community to help negotiate and enforce any future deal.
“One of the most devastating consequences of his decision will be the damage to American leadership. The announcement indicates to our allies that the United States will not keep its promises and that it doesn’t take nuclear nonproliferation seriously. I met with Former Secretaries Kerry and Moniz and Ambassadors from the UK, EU, France, and Germany earlier this week. They all agree it would be a tragic mistake for the United States to weaken the agreement. If we walk away while Iran has kept its end of the bargain, America will be on its own.
“Trump’s disdain for this carefully crafted framework also sends a clear signal to North Korea that it makes no sense to negotiate with the United States. If he turns his back on an agreement that Iran has upheld, why should North Korea ever come to the negotiating table?
“Now, Congress has 60 days to decide whether it will act to reinstate the sanctions that were lifted under the nuclear deal. Sadly, already the damage to our reputation and credibility has been inflicted. Trump has empowered Iranian hardliners, isolated our European partners, and undermined global confidence in the United States. It is said credibility takes a lifetime to build and only moments to destroy. So it is with our country’s reputation. These damaging actions will not be easily reversed. Why hand Iran this victory?”
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
“By undercutting the Iran Deal, President Trump is gambling with the safety of the American people. His actions are reckless, illogical and, above all, dangerous.
“Withholding certification for the Iran Deal will isolate the United States and alienate our allies. It could also bring the United States back to the brink of war, undoing years of diplomatic efforts. In Congress, I will continue to advocate for preserving the Iran Deal and work to prevent any legislative action that undermines this goal.”
—Oct. 13, 2017 in a statement
Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)
“President Trump’s announcement decertifying Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA nuclear agreement—in defiance of eight compliance reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the assessment of his own Secretary of Defense—is yet another act of cynicism and deeply reckless political theater. Like his recent unilateral decisions to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, the Clean Power Plan, and the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump once again showcases his willingness to put millions of lives at risk to score cheap political points in undoing the achievements of his predecessor.”
“We must not mince words: by rejecting overwhelming evidence of Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, President Trump is putting us on a disastrous path of confrontation and escalation with Iran. Congress needs to reassert its constitutional authorities and serve as a check to a totally erratic and dangerous executive who has already threatened to ‘totally destroy’ another country. We urge our colleagues to vote to reject any re-imposition of sanctions against Iran that result from President Trump’s decision today. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, reflecting the will of tens of millions of Americans who have advocated for peace, diplomacy, and stability, will strongly oppose any legislative or executive effort that seeks to undermine the JCPOA or needlessly ratchets up tensions with Iran, which would also threaten America’s credibility to peacefully resolve tensions with North Korea using diplomacy.”
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement
More than 180 Democratic House members led by David E. Price and Ted Deutch
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to urge that you do not withhold certification on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) absent credible evidence of a material breach by Iran. Some of us voted for, and some against, the nuclear agreement with Iran. Nonetheless, we are united in our belief that enforcing this agreement to the fullest extent will provide the United States with more leverage to stop a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and push back on Iran's destabilizing activities.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) requires the President to provide to Congress credible evidence of Iranian noncompliance should violations of the JCPOA occur. We have received no such information to date. On the contrary, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and career U.S. military and intelligence officials continue to verify that Iran has honored its obligations under the agreement, and we remain unaware of any material change in Iranian activity since you last certified compliance to Congress on July 17.
Absent credible and accurate information confirming a material breach, we are concerned that withholding certification of Iran's compliance or walking away from the JCPOA would harm our alliances, embolden Iran, and threaten U.S. national security. We are further concerned that non-certification based on justifications beyond the scope of the nuclear agreement would threaten global non-proliferation efforts and send exactly the wrong message to North Korea at the moment we are trying to diplomatically defuse that crisis. Countries should know that unless Iran commits a material breach of the JCPOA, the United States will keep its word.
We share concerns about Iran's activities in the region, including its ballistic missile development, support for proxies and terror groups, violations of the human rights of its people, and backing of the Assad regime. That is why the Congress took the step of passing the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which provides new tools to counter Iran's malign activities.
We remain hopeful that with strong U.S. leadership, we can ensure vigorous enforcement of the JCPOA, as well as implementation of non-nuclear and multilateral sanctions, including CAATSA, to keep the American people secure and safeguard American interests.
David E. Price Ted Deutch
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Signatories include the following Members of the U.S. House of Representatives:
Barragan, Nanette Diaz
Beyer Jr., Donald S.
Bishop, Jr., Sanford D.
Blunt Rochester, Lisa
Bordallo, Madeleine Z.
Capuano, Michael E.
Carbajal, Salud O.
Cicilline, David N.
Clarke, Yvette D.
Clay, William Lacy
Cleaver, II., Emanuel
Clyburn, James E.
Coleman, Bonnie Watson
Connolly, Gerald E.
Conyers, Jr., John
Cummings, Elijah E.
Davis, Danny K.
DeFazio, Peter A.
Delaney, John K.
DeLauro, Rosa L.
Engel, Eliot L.
Eshoo, Anna G.
Fudge, Marcia L.
Grijalva, Raul M.
Gutiérrez, Luis V.
Hastings, Alcee L.
Hoyer, Steny H.
Jackson Lee, Sheila
Johnson, Eddie Bernice
Keating, William R.
Kelly, Robin L.
Kennedy, III, Joseph P.
Kihuen, Ruben J.
Kuster, Ann McLane
Lieu, Ted W.
Lujan Grisham, Michelle
Luján, Ben Ray
Lynch, Stephen F.
Maloney, Carolyn B.
Maloney, Sean Patrick
McEachin, A. Donald
McGovern, James P.
Meeks, Gregory W.
Norton, Eleanor Holmes
Pallone Jr., Frank
Pascrell Jr., Bill
Payne Jr., Donald
Peters, Scott H.
Price, David E.
Rush, Bobby L.
Sablan, Gregorio Kilili Camacho
Sánchez, Linda T.
Scott, Robert C. "Bobby"
Serrano, José E.
Slaughter, Louise M.
Suozzi, Thomas R.
Thompson, Bennie G.
Tonko, Paul D.
Torres, Norma J.
Visclosky, Peter J.
Wasserman Schultz, Debbie
Wilson, Frederica S.
—Oct. 5, 2017, in a letter
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
“President Trump’s speech today was the latest in a series of rash and reckless moves that make Americans less safe. By refusing to re-certify the Iran nuclear agreement, President Trump ignored the public statements of his own national security officials. Last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford and Secretary of Defense Mattis affirmed to the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran is meeting its commitments under the agreement and that staying in the agreement is in the national security interests of the United States.
"Trump’s decision also isolates the United States from some of its most important allies. France, the U.K. and Germany all continue to support the agreement and have consistently said that it is in their own national security interests.
"Breaking the Iran agreement would not only free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America’s ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States if they knew that a reckless president might simply discard that agreement a few years later?
"If we are genuinely concerned with Iran’s behavior in the region, as I am, the worst possible thing we could do is undermine this nuclear deal. It would make addressing all of these other problems harder. Unfortunately, I heard no strategy from Trump today, just a lot of bluster.
"Ultimately we must seek a better relationship with the Iranian people and a more constructive role for Iran in the region. Trump’s bellicose rhetoric today made achieving those things harder. It will alienate Iran’s people and strengthen the regime’s hardliners, who are much more comfortable dealing with a hostile America than with a reasonable, peace-seeking one.
"Now that this decision has been put in Congress’ hands, it’s up to us to stop this drift toward war. We should listen to what virtually the entire national security community is saying – that this deal is working – and protect it."
—Oct. 13, 2017, in a statement