United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

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Contrast in US-Iran Public Opinion on Deal

The nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers appears to be significantly more popular among Iranians than Americans when comparing two recent surveys. A new poll of Iranian public opinion found that 76 percent of respondents approved of the agreement. Some 21 percent disapproved and about three percent expressed no opinion, according to the survey conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland in conjunction with the Program for Public Consultation. It was administered August 8-18 and had a sample size of 1,000.

 
If Iran and the P5+1 do reach a deal, how likely do you think it is that the United States will lift sanctions in accordance to the requirements of the deal? Is it:
 
 
May 2015
August 2015
Very likely
13 percent
20 percent
Somewhat likely
47
45.8
Not very likely
25.9
23.7
Not likely at all
11.3
6.2
Don’t know/No answer
2.9
4.3
 
In stark contrast, just 21 percent of Americans approved of the deal, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted September 3-7. Support was down 12 percent compared to July. In September, some 49 percent disapproved, and 30 percent expressed no opinion.
 
 
Respondents also had much less confidence in Iran's leaders than Iranians had in the United States to fulfill their respective obligations under the deal. Some 42 percent of Americans had no confidence at all in Iranian leaders while 28 percent had “not too much.” Some 18 percent had a fair amount of confidence and 2 percent had a “great deal.”
 
 
The poll, conducted September 3-7, had a sample size of 1,004 adults.
 
Click here for more information.
 
Recent polls of U.S. public opinion, however, have differed in their findings. Many surveys conducted soon after the July 14 announcement of an agreement found that a majority of Americans supported the deal. But since then they have varied widely. This is a compilation of major polls.
 
CNN / ORC International Poll
 
A poll conducted September 4-8 found that some 49 percent of Americans thought Congress should reject the deal. But the results also showed that support for the deal was up six percent compared to August, when the same questions were posed to random sample. In September, some 47 percent of respondents thought Congress should approve the agreement and four percent had no opinion.
 
As you may know, the U.S. Congress must approve the agreement the United States and five other countries reached with Iran that is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons before it can take effect. Do you think Congress should approve or reject the deal with Iran?
 
 
Sept. 4-8
Aug. 13-16*
July 22-25
Approve
47
41
44
Reject
49
56
52
No opinion
4
2
5
*Asked of half sample
 
 
 
 
Suppose such an agreement is approved and Iran violates its terms. If that happens, do you think the United States should or should not take military action against Iran?
 
 
Sept. 4-8
Apr. 16-19
Should take military action
64
61
Should not take military action
34
36
No opinion
2
3
 
If the agreement is approved, how likely do you think it is that Iran will violate the terms of the agreement?
 
 
Sept. 4-8
Extremely likely
37 percent
Very likely
23 percent
Somewhat likely
30 percent
Not at all likely
10 percent
No opinion
*
 
The poll, conducted September 4-8, had a sample size 1012.
 
Click here for more information.
 
University of Maryland/ Voice Of the People
 
A poll released on September 1 showed that 55 percent of registered voters think the United States should approve the deal. Although the participants were concerned about the agreement’s terms, a majority did not see a better alternative. They gave their final recommendation after evaluating critiques of the deal’s terms, including rebuttals, as well as pros and cons of alternative courses of actions. The survey was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC) and its Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM). It was co-sponsored by CISSM and Voice Of the People.
 
What do you think would be best for the United States to do?
 
 
Approve of the agreement
Ratchet up sanctions, until Iran gives up enrichment
Renew negotiations
Use or threaten the use of military force
Don’t know
National
55 percent
23 percent
14 percent
7 percent
2 percent
Republican
3
36
20
9
4
Democrat
72
14
8
6
<1
Independent
61
18
15
4
2
 
Would you recommend that your Members of Congress APPROVE or NOT APPROVE the agreement that limits Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium to the low level necessary for nuclear energy, requires it to accept intrusive inspections, and lifts sanctions on Iran once it deeply reduces its stockpile of enriched uranium and its number of operating centrifuges?
 
 
Approve
Not Approve
Refused/Don’t know
National
52 percent
47 percent
1 percent
Republican
30
69
1
Democrat
69
32
 
Independent
60
39
1
 
These are some of the key questions that the poll posed with the responses.
 
Here is an argument saying that it [the deal] will increase the chances [of Iran getting a nuclear weapon]:
 
This deal increases the chance that Iran will end up with a nuclear weapon. The deal does not fully remove Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Most of the centrifuges will simply be stored away. More important, limiting Iran’s enrichment to the 3.67% level does not mean that its progress toward a nuclear weapon will be completely stopped. They will be able to continually refine their know-how on enrichment and do other types of research and development. After eight and a half years they will also be able to produce some more advanced centrifuges. Thus, should Iran decide to break out of the agreement, it will be able to simply kick out the UN inspectors, restart its centrifuges and move toward getting a nuclear weapon even faster than it could now.
 
 
Very convincing
Somewhat convincing
Total convincing
Somewhat unconvincing
Very unconvincing
Total unconvincing
Refused/
Don’t know
National
38 percent
30 percent
68 percent
18 percent
12 percent
30 percent
3 percent
Republican
57
27
84
9
4
13
4
Democrat
23
34
57
26
16
42
1
Independent
31
29
60
20
16
36
5
 
Here is a rebuttal:
 
This deal reduces the chances that Iran will end up with a nuclear weapon. It puts in place a permanent intrusive inspection regime so we will know exactly what the Iranians are doing, and it blocks all their paths to a nuclear weapon. It reduces their stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% and their number of centrifuges by two-thirds. If Iran sticks with the deal, we’ll know they aren’t making a nuclear weapon. If they try to break out of the deal, with more intrusive inspections, we will have much better means to spot it immediately, and it will be so completely clear that we will be better able to mobilize the world against them. Either way we come out ahead of where we are now.
 
 
Very convincing
Somewhat convincing
Total convincing
Somewhat unconvincing
Very unconvincing
Total unconvincing
Refused/
Don’t know
National
25 percent
31 percent
56 percent
17 percent
24 percent
41 percent
2 percent
Republican
12
25
37
25
37
62
2
Democrat
42
35
77
9
11
20
2
Independent
18
35
53
18
25
43
5
 
Another debate is about whether the US should hold out for a better deal with Iran. Here is an argument saying that it should have: Surely, the US could have gotten a better deal. When the deal was reported in Tehran, people were cheering in the streets. Clearly they feel that they got the better of us and were relieved at the possibility of the sanctions coming off. They need this deal more than we do. If we had simply walked away from the table the Iranians would have begged us to come back, and they would have been ready to make more concessions.
 
 
Very convincing
Somewhat convincing
Total convincing
Somewhat unconvincing
Very unconvincing
Total unconvincing
Refused/
Don’t know
National
23 percent
31 percent
 54 percent
 24 percent
 20 percent
44 percent
2 percent
Republican
35
37
 72
 15
 10
25
4
Democrat
13
26 
 39
 32
 28
60 
 <1
Independent
21 
29 
 50
 24
 23
47 
 2
 
Here is a rebuttal:
 
It is always an appealing fantasy that with a little more pressure one could get a better deal. In Tehran, some Iranians are also complaining that Iran could have gotten a better deal. Though many average people in Tehran were cheering, the hardliners were not happy with the deal and the Supreme Leader seems to have come around only begrudgingly. When we put more pressure on them in earlier negotiations, they did not come back with more concessions, but rather, greatly accelerated their nuclear program.
 
 
Very convincing
Somewhat convincing
Total convincing
Somewhat unconvincing
Very unconvincing
Total unconvincing
Refused/
Don’t know
National
21 percent
34 percent
55 percent
 23 percent
 20 percent
43 percent
1 percent
Republican
33
39 
 31
 28
59
2
Democrat
37 
38 
75
 15
 10
25 
Independent
19 
31 
50 
 25
 24
49 
The poll, conducted August 17-20, had a sample size of 702.
 
Click here for more information.
 
 
Reuters Poll
 
A Reuters poll conducted August 20-27 showed an increase in Republican opposition to the nuclear deal. Some 54 percent of Republicans said they oppose the agreement, compared to 45 percent in July. Democratic opposition remained the same from July to August at 16 percent. But Democratic support for the deal fell to 46 percent from 52 percent.
 
All respondents:
• Oppose the deal: 31 percent
• Support the deal: 29.9 percent
• Don't know: 39.1 percent
• Some 63 percent of Americans said Iran could not be trusted to fulfil its obligations under the agreement.
 
Republicans
Oppose the deal: 54 percent
Support the deal: 19 percent
• Some 71 percent of Republicans said they would be less likely to vote for their representative in Congress if he or she supported the deal.
 
Democrats
Oppose the deal: 16 percent
Support the deal: 46 percent
• Some 17 percent of Democrats said they would be less likely to vote for their representative in Congress if he or she supported the deal.
 
The poll, conducted August 20-27, had a sample size of 2,015.
 
Click here or here for more information.
 
 
Quinnipiac University National Poll
 
A poll conducted August 20-25 showed that 55 percent of American voters opposed the nuclear deal.
 
Do you support or oppose the nuclear deal with Iran?
 
 
Total
Republican
Democrat
Independent
Support
25 percent
4 percent
46 percent
24 percent
Oppose
55
87
25
59
Don’t know/No answer
20
9
 
17
The poll was conducted from August 20 to 25 and had a sample size of 1,563.
 
Click here for more information.
 
 
CNN / ORC International Poll
 
A poll conducted August 13-16 showed that Americans were split on how they view the nuclear deal. Some 50 percent favored an agreement that would ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran’s acceptance of major restrictions on its nuclear program. About 46 opposed such an agreement. But 56 percent thought Congress should reject the final deal.
 
As you may know, the U.S. and other countries have imposed strict economic sanctions against Iran while that country has nuclear facilities which could eventually allow it to produce its own nuclear weapons. Do you favor or oppose an agreement that would ease some of those economic sanctions and in exchange require Iran to accept major restrictions on its nuclear program but not end it completely and submit to greater international inspection of its nuclear facilities?*
 
Favor: 50 percent
Oppose: 46 percent
No opinion: 4 percent
 
As you may know, the U.S. Congress must approve the agreement the United States and five other countries reached with Iran that is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons before it can take effect. Do you think Congress should approve or reject the deal with Iran?**   
          
Approve: 41 percent
Reject: 56 percent
No opinion: 2 percent
 
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the U.S. relationship with Iran?
 
Approve: 38 percent
Disapprove: 60 percent
No opinion: 3 percent
 
*Results based on 500 interviews
**Results based on 501 interviews

The poll, conducted August 13-16, had a sample size of 1,001. The sample also included 897 registered voters.
 
Click here for more information.
 
 
Public Policy Polling Survey
 
A survey conducted July 23-24 found that 54 percent of Americans strongly supported or somewhat supported the deal. A slight majority also though Congress should allow the agreement to be implemented.
 
Q: The US and other countries have reached an agreement to place limits on Iran’s nuclear program in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. In exchange for limiting its nuclear program, Iran would receive gradual relief from US and international economic sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency would monitor Iran’s facilities and if Iran was caught breaking the agreement, the current economic sanctions would be imposed again. Would you say you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program?
 
  • Strongly support: 35 percent
  • Somewhat support: 19 percent
  • Somewhat oppose: 6 percent
  • Strongly oppose: 32 percent
  • Not sure: 8 percent
 
Q: Do you think your members of Congress should vote to allow this agreement to go forward and closely monitor how the agreement is being implemented, or do you think your members of Congress should vote to block the agreement and prevent it from being implemented?
 
  • Members of Congress should vote to allow the agreement to go forward and closely monitor how the agreement is being implemented: 54 percent
  • Members of Congress should block the agreement and prevent it from being implemented: 39 percent
  • Not sure: 7 percent
 
The poll was conducted July 23-24 on behalf of Americans United For Change. The sample consisted of 730 registered voters.
 
Click here for more information.
 
 
Washington Post-ABC News Poll
 
A poll conducted from July 16 to 19 found that found that a majority, 56 percent, of Americans supported the deal. But nearly two thirds were not confident that the agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
 
Q: The U.S. and other countries have announced a deal to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons. International inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would be imposed again. Do you support or oppose this agreement?
 
  • Support: 56 percent
  • Oppose: 37 percent
  • No opinion: 7 percent
 
Q: How confident are you that this agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?
 
  • Very confident: 6 percent
  • Somewhat confident: 29 percent
  • Not so confident: 22 percent
  • Not at all confident: 42 percent
  • No opinion: 1 percent
The poll, conducted July 16-19, had a sample size of 1,002. 
 
Click here for more information.
 
 
YouGov Poll
 
A poll conducted July 14-16 found that 43 percent of Americans supported the deal while 30 percent opposed it. Some 26 percent were undecided.
 
Q: Several world powers, including the United States, have reached an international agreement that will limit Iran’s nuclear activity in return for the lifting of major economic sanctions against Iran. Do you support or oppose this agreement?
 
  • Support: 43 percent
  • Oppose: 30 percent
  • Not sure: 26 percent
 
Q: How confident are you that the agreement will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?
 
  • Very confident: 5 percent
  • Somewhat confident: 18 percent
  • Not so confident: 27 percent
  • Not confident at all: 32 percent
  • Don’t know: 18 percent

The poll, conducted July 14-16, had a sample size of 1,000.
 
Click here for more information.
 
 
LA Jewish Journal Survey
 
A poll conducted July 16-20 found that that 49 percent of American Jews supported the deal, while 31 percent opposed it.
 
Q: As you may know, an agreement was reached in which the United States and other countries would lift major economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons. Do you support or oppose this agreement, or don’t know enough to say?
 
 
American Jews
All Americans
Support
49 percent
28 percent
Oppose
31 percent
24 percent
 
The survey, conducted July 16-20, had a sample that included 505 non-Jewish interviews and 501 Jewish interviews.
 
Click here for more information.
 
 
J Street Poll
 
A poll conducted July 21-23 found that 60 percent of American Jews either strongly supported or somewhat supported the deal. J Street used the same question wording as an earlier Washington Post-ABC News Poll, which found that 56 percent of Americans supported the deal.
 
Q: The U.S. and other countries have announced a deal to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons. International inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would be imposed again. Do you support or oppose this agreement?
 
  • Strongly support: 18 percent
  • Somewhat support: 42 percent
  • Somewhat oppose: 16 percent
  • Strongly oppose: 24 percent
The poll, conducted July 21-23, had a sample size of 1,000.
 
Click here for more information.
Tags: Reports

Obama Administration on Congressional Vote

On September 10, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the move by Senate Democrats to block a Republican-led effort to reject the Iran nuclear deal. Four Democrats sided with Republicans. But a procedural vote on the resolution ultimately fell two short of the 60 necessary to break a Democratic filibuster. The following are remarks from administration officials.  

 
President Barack Obama
 
"Today, the Senate took an historic step forward and voted to enable the United States to work with our international partners to enable the implementation of the comprehensive, long-term deal that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world. For nearly two years, we negotiated from a position of strength to reach an agreement that meets our core objectives. Since we concluded these negotiations, we have had the most consequential national security debate since the decision to invade Iraq more than a decade ago. Over the last several weeks, the more members studied the details of this deal, the more they came out in support. Today, I am heartened that so many Senators judged this deal on the merits, and am gratified by the strong support of lawmakers and citizens alike. Going forward, we will turn to the critical work of implementing and verifying this deal so that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon, while pursuing a foreign policy that leaves our country - and the world - a safer place."
—Sept. 10, 2015, in a statement
 
"Today’s vote in the House of Representatives is the latest indication that the more members have studied the historic deal that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the more they have come out in support of it. As we conclude the most consequential national security debate since the decision to invade Iraq, I am gratified that the lawmakers, led by Democratic Leader Pelosi, who have taken care to judge the deal on the merits are joining our allies and partners around the world in taking steps that will allow for the implementation of this long-term, comprehensive deal. Now, we must turn to the critical work of implementing and verifying this deal so that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon. In doing so, we’ll write the latest chapter of American leadership in the pursuit of a safer, more hopeful world."
—Sept. 11, 2015, in a statement
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
 
"Today’s vote by the U.S. Senate is an important step forward toward the United States and its international partners implementing the agreement reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  This agreement, when implemented, will make the United States, our friends and allies in the Middle East, and the entire world safer.
 
"I am grateful to the Members of the Senate who carefully reviewed the agreement and deliberated on its provisions.  I know that for many of my former colleagues, this decision was extremely difficult, but I am convinced that the benefits of the agreement far outweigh any potential drawbacks.  The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action includes the most extensive verification and transparency provisions ever negotiated; it mandates strict cutbacks and enduring limits on Iran’s nuclear activities; and it prohibits Iran from developing a nuclear weapon forever. 
 
"Going forward, the State Department and the entire Administration will be fully committed to implementing and verifying this agreement to ensure that Iran lives up to the commitments it has made.  We will also continue to work closely with our partners and allies in the region to deepen our security cooperation, and to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its support for terrorism."
—Sept. 10, 2015 in a statement


White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
 
“They essentially had 60 days to play the spoiler. Congress' opportunity to play that role will expire next week. And that will be good news and it will mean the international community can move forward with implementing the agreement.”
—Sept, 10, 2015, in a press briefing
 
 
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz
 
(Remarks from press gaggle hours before the Senate vote)
 
Question:  On the Iran vote, there’s some debate among Republicans as to whether to delay the vote, whether that 60-day period should have actually started or not because of the so-called side deals, whether or not once those are disclosed, the 60-day period would actually begin.  What’s your position on that?
 
MR. SCHULTZ:  Sounds like a plan hatched up at Tortilla Coast on a Tuesday night.  I have seen some press reports on the internal Republican strife.  Our belief is that Congress, through much debate, set up their own oversight mechanism for this deal. You all covered that process extensively.  I think that was a debate about the debate.  And our view has been that according to their own design, they can play the spoiler in this deal, and that would be by passing and, if necessary, overturning a resolution of disapproval.  
 
We’ve been gratified that over the past few weeks, as more lawmakers learn and study this complicated deal, the passing or overturning a veto on a resolution like that has become less and less likely. ...
 
Thankfully, many in Congress who have taken the time to review the deal have concluded, as the President has, that diplomacy is the best way to cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.  I expect we’ll hear a lot of the same arguments today as we’ve heard for the past few months, but I don’t expect them to carry any more sway than they already have.
Question:  Republicans are discussing the idea of a lawsuit against the administration over the so-called side agreement between the IAEA and Iran.  Do you have any reaction to that tactic to try to stop this deal?
 
MR. SCHULTZ:  Well, I don’t know if they don’t like how the results are shaping up, or maybe they’re just getting second thoughts about casting a vote to put us on the road to another military conflict.  But, Toluse, I think anyone who reads the Corker legislation will see explicitly that if Congress does not vote, this agreement goes into effect.  It’s as simple as that.
 
Question: They also say that that legislation indicates that any side deal should be disclosed to Congress, and that’s the grounds that they were going to sue on.  Do you all have a -- I’m sure you don’t agree with that, but can you give your rationale for why the side agreement is a part of this legislation?
 
MR. SCHULTZ:  To be clear, there’s no side agreement.  But the document to which you’re referring has been briefed extensively to any member of Congress who wishes to learn more about it.  That includes both in classified settings and also more generic settings.  And I think you all have observed the robust outreach this administration has done to members of Congress.  That includes both White House officials all the way up to the President of the United States, but also includes officials at relevant agencies, like the Department of State, the Department of Defense, Department of Treasury and Department of Energy.
 
So we’ve made clear that we will brief any member of Congress who asks about these aspects.  But it seems like those calling for this are also those who made up their minds about this deal before it was even announced.
—Sept. 10, 2015, at a press gaggle aboard Air Force One
 

Iran Public Opinion on Deal, Rouhani & US

An overwhelming majority of Iranians said that they approve of the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Some 76 percent of respondents approved of it while 21 percent disapproved, according to a new poll conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland in conjunction with the Program for Public Consultation. Three-quarters of Iranians said the outcome of negotiations made their opinion of President Hassan Rouhani either much better (35 percent) or somewhat better (40 percent). His favorability rating was 89 percent, up from 85 percent in July 2014.
 
The wide ranging questions also covered public opinion on domestic politics, U.S-Iran relations, the economy, and more. The following is a rundown of key questions and results.


Nuclear Deal
 
 
 
 
 
Domestic Politics
 
  
 
 
 
 U.S.-Iran Relations
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Economy
 
 

The survey, administered August 8-18, had a sample size of 1,000.

Click here for more information.

 

15 GOP Governors Oppose Nuclear Deal

On September 8, 15 Republican governors sent a letter to President Obama voicing their opposition to the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. They also declared their intention to “ensure that the various state-level sanctions that are now in effect remain in effect.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released a statement in support of the signatories, who included four presidential candidates. The following is the full text of the governors’ letter and Boehner’s statement.

 
Dear Mr. President:
 
We write today to express our opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, generally referred to as the Iran nuclear agreement, which your Administration recently negotiated with Iran, the P5+1 and European Union.
 
If implemented, this agreement would lead to the lifting of United States nuclear-related sanctions on Iran without any guarantee that Iran’s drive toward obtaining a nuclear weapon will be halted or even slowed. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and it should not be permitted any pathway toward obtaining a nuclear weapon, now or ever.
 
The lifting of federal sanctions that will result from this agreement will only result in Iran having more money available to fund terrorist groups and attacks. Adam Szubin, acting Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Crimes recently told the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affair that he expects “to continue to see Iran funding Hezbollah and its other violent terrorist proxies.”
 
The people of our states will not be safer as a result of this agreement, much less citizens of countries like Israel which Iran has threatened to destroy.
 
Many of our states have divestment policies for state run pension funds and other state investments, as well as restrictions against state contractors being invested in or doing business with the government of Iran.
 
Paragraph 25 of the Iran nuclear agreement provides that the federal government will “actively encourage” states to lift state-level sanctions such as the divestment and contracting restriction laws. While Secretary Kerry confirmed in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the agreement will not preempt state law because it is not a treaty, we are concerned about what steps your Administration may take to attempt to implement paragraph 25.
 
Therefore, we wish to make it clear to you in advance of any efforts to implement paragraph 25 that we intend to ensure that the various state-level sanctions that are now in effect remain in effect. These state-level sanctions are critically important and must be maintained.
 
Sincerely,

 

Governor Douglas A. Ducey
Arizona
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas
Governor Rick Scott
Florida
Governor Michael R. Pence
Indiana
Governor Bobby Jindal
Louisiana
Governor Phil Bryant
Mississippi
Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey
Governor Jack Dalrymple
North Dakota
Governor John R. Kasich
Ohio
Governor Mary Fallin
Oklahoma
Governor Nikki Haley
South Carolina
Governor Dennis Daugaard
South Dakota
Governor Greg Abbott
Texas
Governor Gary R. Herbert
Utah
Governor Scott Walker
Wisconsin
 
Statement from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
 
“Every governor has a responsibility to help keep Americans safe, and I strongly support those intending to keep state-level sanctions against the dangerous Iranian regime.  Under the president’s deal, we know that Iran will retain a path to a nuclear bomb.  We know that missile and weapons embargoes against Iran will be lifted.  And even President Obama admits the Iranian regime will likely use its windfall of new money to support activities and terror networks that are ‘a threat to us and a threat to our allies.’ 
 
“In the House of Representatives, a bipartisan majority is working to stop a bad deal with Iran.  I urge all governors to closely review the facts of the agreement, and join us in standing strong against the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror.”
 
 

US Elder Statesmen on Iran Deal

Since the nuclear deal was announced on July 14, top foreign policy-makers in seven administrations have commented publicly on the terms. The following are excerpts.

Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush
 
"In my view, the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] meets the key objective, shared by recent administrations of both parties, that Iran limit itself to a strictly civilian nuclear program with unprecedented verification and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council. Iran has committed to never developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon; the deal ensures that this will be the case for at least 15 years and likely longer, unless Iran repudiates the inspection regime and its commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Additional Protocol.
 
"There is no more credible expert on nuclear weapons than Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who led the technical negotiating team. When he asserts that the JCPOA blocks each of Iran’s pathways to the fissile material necessary to make a nuclear weapon, responsible people listen. Twenty-nine eminent U.S. nuclear scientists have endorsed Moniz’s assertions.
 
"If the United States could have handed Iran a “take it or leave it” agreement, the terms doubtless would have been more onerous on Iran. But negotiated agreements, the only ones that get signed in times of peace, are compromises by definition. It is what President Reagan did with the Soviet Union on arms control; it is what President Nixon did with China.
 
"And as was the case with specific agreements with the Soviet Union and China, we will continue to have significant differences with Iran on important issues, including human rights, support for terrorist groups and meddling in the internal affairs of neighbors. We must never tire of working to persuade Iran to change its behavior on these issues, and countering it where necessary. And while I believe the JCPOA, if implemented scrupulously by Iran, will help engage Tehran constructively on regional issues, we must always remember that its sole purpose is to halt the country’s nuclear weapons activities."
—Aug. 21, 2015 in an op-ed for The Washington Post
 
Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State in the Clinton administration
 
"After careful review of its provisions, I have given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action my strong endorsement.
 
"The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran has rightfully earned a place at the top of the long list of threats to global stability. No diplomatic agreement or military action could guarantee that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon, but even most opponents agree this accord puts that goal firmly out of Iran's reach for a decade or more. From any vantage point, that is a positive development, but at a time of great turmoil in the Middle East it is especially welcome.
 
"One of the main criticisms that has been leveled against the JCPOA is that it does not address other abhorrent aspects of Iran's behavior -- its support of terrorism, its jailing of several Iranian-Americans, its rhetoric against the United States and Israel or its other destabilizing activities in the broader Middle East. In theory, the United States could have pursued a comprehensive agreement with Iran covering issues beyond the nuclear file, but experience suggests that such an approach would not have yielded results.
 
"By zeroing in on the nuclear issue, the Obama administration took on the most dangerous threat posed by the Iranian regime and brought together the international community around the issue that most united it in opposition to Tehran.
 
"The completion of the nuclear accord does not preclude progress on these other issues. In fact, it gives the United States new tools to shape Iranian behavior. Going forward, the United States should do so by focusing on three key areas:
 
"First, we must subject the implementation of the JCPOA to the strongest oversight possible. …
 
"Second, we must maintain a robust deterrent in the region, increase our efforts to counter Iranian proxies and further enhance the conventional military capabilities of our allies and partners relative to Iran. …
 
"To that end, the third leg of our approach should involve carefully calibrated engagement with Iran."
—Aug. 31, 2015 in an op-ed for CNN
 
Dick Cheney, Vice President in the George W. Bush administration and Secretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration
 
“[T]his agreement will give Iran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland. I know of no nation in history that has agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction will be in the hands of another nation, particularly one that is hostile. What President Obama is asking the United States Congress to do is unique-historically and dangerously unique. The results may be catastrophic. ... It is not, as President Obama claims, the only alternative to war. It is madness.”
—Sept. 8, 2015 in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute (as prepared)
 
"Nearly everything the president has told us about his Iranian agreement is false. He has said it will prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, but it will actually facilitate and legitimize an Iranian nuclear arsenal. He has said this deal will stop nuclear proliferation, but it will actually accelerate it, as nations across the Middle East work to acquire their own weapons in response to America’s unwillingness to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
 
"President Obama told us he would never accept a deal based on trust. Members of his administration, including his secretary of energy and deputy national-security adviser, said the nuclear deal would be verifiable with “anywhere, anytime” inspections. Instead, the Obama deal provides the Iranians with months to delay inspections and fails to address past clandestine work at military sites. Inspections at these sites are covered in secret deals, which is historic, though not in the way the president claims. Under the reported provisions of the secret deals, the Iranians get to inspect themselves for these past infractions. Inevitably these provisions will be cited by the Iranians as a precedent when they are caught cheating in the future.
 
"The president has tried to sell this bad deal by claiming that there is no alternative, save war. In fact, this agreement makes war more, not less, likely. In addition to accelerating the spread of nuclear weapons across the Middle East, it will provide the Iranians with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which even the Obama administration admits likely will be used to fund terror. The deal also removes restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program; lifts the ban on conventional weapons sales; and lifts sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, on the Quds Force, and on Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. Under Mr. Soleimani’s leadership, the Quds Force sows violence and supports terror across the Middle East and has been responsible for the deaths of American service members in Iraq and Afghanistan."
 
"The Obama nuclear agreement with Iran is tragically reminiscent of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s Munich agreement in 1938. Each was negotiated from a position of weakness by a leader willing to concede nearly everything to appease an ideological dictator. Hitler got Czechoslovakia. The mullahs in Tehran get billions of dollars and a pathway to a nuclear arsenal. Munich led to World War II. The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
—Aug. 28, 2015 in an adapted book excerpt featured in The Wall Street Journal from “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America,” co-authored with Liz Cheny  
 
Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger, National Security Advisor to President Bill Clinton
 
“I think the agreement is a strong agreement. I think it prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for at least 10, probably 15 years. I don’t think it depends on trust. I think it’s verifiable. If they cheat, we can go to the U.N. I think Jim [James Woolsey] is wrong about the way of reimposing the sanctions. The way the agreement is written, Russia, China and Iran cannot stop us from reimposing the sanctions.
 
“If we or our allies believe Iran is cheating, and we go to the U.N., we cannot be blocked by Russia, China and Iran alone or in combination. That’s a pretty strong provision. And I think it’s essential to the fabric of this agreement. We’re not relying upon anything other than our own judgment as to whether or not they’re cheating on this agreement.”
—July 14, 2015 on PBS News Hour
 
“We’re not giving them [Iranians] a nickel. Let’s understand what this is. This is a return of their money, which is being held in Chinese banks, European banks, during the sanctions. That money was being held. The sanctions were for the purpose of getting them to the table and negotiate an agreement. They have done that now. And so the money comes back. Now, having said that, it’s not $100 billion. It’s probably less than that. They don’t get it until they’ve done everything that they’re obligated to do under the agreement. So we’re not writing a check for Iran.”
—Aug. 12, 2015 on CNBC
 
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense in the Ford administration and the George W. Bush administration
 
 
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration and the Obama administration
 
“We must now face the reality that there are serious consequences to voting down the agreement or pulling out of it. I think we swallow hard, acknowledge our negotiators got out-negotiated, and that we have a flawed deal, and make the best of it. ... The agreement rests on the overly optimistic belief, the hope really, that [removing] sanctions will lead Iran over time, in effect, to become a normal country. We should harbor no illusions about the regime we are dealing with. ... Once the sanctions are lifted, it will be nearly impossible to get them reimposed by the United Nations, by Russia and China especially, despite the administration’s assurance of snap-back provisions.”
—Aug. 5, 2015 in remarks to state legislators in Seattle
 
Colin Powell, Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration and National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan
 

 
“I think it is a good deal. I’ve studied the, very carefully, the outline of the deal and what’s in that deal, and I’ve also carefully looked at the opposition to the deal, and my judgement after balancing those two sets of information is that it’s a pretty good deal. Now, I know that there are objections to it, but here is why I think it is a good deal.
 
“One of the great concerns that the opposition has is that we are leaving open a lane for the Iranians to go back to creating a nuclear weapon in 10 or 15 years. But we’re forgetting the reality that they have been on a super highway for the last 10 years to create a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program, with no speed limit. And in the last 10 years, they’ve gone from 136 centrifuges up to something like 19,000 centrifuges. This agreement will bring them down to 5,000 centrifuges. These will be under IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) supervision, and I think this is a good outcome. This that, they had a stockpile of something in the neighborhood of 12,000 kilograms of uranium. This deal will bring it down to 300 kilograms. It’s a remarkable reduction. I’m amazed that they would do this, but they have done it. And with respect to their plutonium effort, the plutonium reactor at Arak, which is now starting to operate, it’s going to be shut down, except for minor parts of it. And concrete will be poured into the reactor core vessel. And so these are remarkable changes, and so we have stopped this highway race that they were going down, and I think that’s very, very important. Now, will they comply with it? Will they actually do all of this? Well, they get nothing until they show compliance, and that’s the important part of the arrangement.”
—Sept. 6, 2015 on NBC’s “Meet the Press”  
 
Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter
 

 
“Ultimately, the basic implication is war or peace... This agreement involves a compromise by Iran, a significant compromise, in the sense that it has abandoned many of the things that it has valued and sought. Rightly or wrongly. But it has abandoned them at least provisionally by signing this agreement. But secondly, it achieves something even more important. A degree of cooperation between – substantive cooperation between the United States and China in the present circumstances with Russia. This is not trivial. This is very important. It affects, first of all, the region, to which it applies, and help, maybe, to stabilize it. And secondly, it affects our relations with China and Russia in different ways, point perhaps, and I don’t want to sound naïve, but pointing perhaps to the possibility of more serious reconstructive dialogue between us and Russia regarding Ukraine.”
—July 15, 2015 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe
 
“My feeling is that this agreement is different from many, I would even say most agreements. Most agreements in international affairs are like pacts. You do this, we do this, we agree, we do it. This is a process. This agreement is a process. And I want to repeat that. This agreement is a process. In other words, there are a series of reciprocal actions over a longer period of time in which we move forward, there is reciprocity, we then move forward, then there is agreement, there is a look at it, investigation, perhaps additional side negotiations. It is a process designed to change an incredibly complex relationship into a more positive one in which the domestic evolution of public attitudes towards each other, I’m talking of America and Iran, takes time. But there is the real possibility that if it succeeds, Iran rejoins the international community and becomes a force of good. If it doesn’t, and especially if it doesn’t because war is abetted from the outside, we’re going to have a mess on our hands in the Middle East like none that we have known before.”
—Aug. 18, 2015 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe
 
William Cohen, Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration
 
“I think once we decided that Iran would be allowed to go forward with an enrichment program on its own soil, then I think we were just negotiating from behind the curve at that particular point. You may remember that Russia, at one point early in the game, said “We will do the enrichment of the uranium on Russian soil and then we’ll transfer it to you so you can have enriched uranium to the right level for commercial purposes. And Iran said no. And we didn’t really come out strong enough, I don’t think, at that time. Once we said, “No, no, you have a right to enrich.” Well, then the question is how much do you need, what percentage do you need. And of course they went up to 20 or 25 percent, which is closer to purposes for making a nuclear weapon as opposed to you know building a pharmaceutical plant. So I think that we were behind the curve on that one and conceded too much up front. And as a result of that we’ve been negotiating, I don’t think, from a position of strength, but one from weakness.
 
“[T]his is a deal you’ve got, unless there are major holes that we can point to saying this is not verifiable, they’re not removing this type of equipment, they’re not putting it in safe storage, they’re going to be able to constitute it within a very short period of time. Unless you can show that, I think the deal is going to go remain in force and we’ll have to hope that 10 years from now or 15 years from now, when the restrictions run out, that Iran will have become so embedded into the international system as a welcome partner that they’ll forego trying to build a nuclear weapon. I remain skeptical about that, but that is the hope at this point.”
—July 14, 2015 on Bloomberg television  
 
William Perry, Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration
 
“We applaud the announcement that a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program. We congratulate President Obama and all the negotiators for a landmark agreement unprecedented in its importance for preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.
 
“This JCPOA will put in place a set of constraints and monitoring measures that will help to assure that Iran's nuclear program will be for peaceful purposes only. Major U.S. objectives have been achieved: uranium enrichment limited to 3.67% and only at the Natanz plant; the Arak reactor will be re-designed to minimize the amount of plutonium produced and Iran is barred from separating plutonium and all spent fuel will be removed from Iran; a 98% reduction in Iran's stockpile of low enriched uranium for 15 years; unprecedented surveillance of nuclear activities and control of nuclear related imports; a two-thirds reduction in the installed centrifuges for ten years; constraints on research and development of advanced centrifuges. The agreement will set up a highly effective multilayered program to monitor and inspect every aspect of Iran's nuclear supply chain and fuel cycle, including continuous monitoring at some sites for 20-25 years, and permit inspections on short notice. We have followed carefully the negotiations as they have progressed and conclude that the JCPOA represents the achievement of greater security for us and our partners in the region.
 
“We acknowledge that the JCPOA does not achieve all of the goals its current detractors have set for it. But it does meet all of the key objectives. Most importantly, should Iran violate the agreement and move toward building nuclear weapons, it will be discovered early and in sufficient time for strong countermeasures to be taken to stop Iran. No agreement between multiple parties can be a perfect agreement without risks. We believe without this agreement, the risks to the security of the U.S. and its friends would be far greater. We have also not heard any viable alternatives from those who oppose the implementation of the JCPOA.”
—July 20, 2015 in a statement released by a bipartisan group of 60 national security leaders
 
Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration
 
“[T]he Iran deal provides the United States with an opportunity to define a policy of strength, not ambivalence, in the Middle East. The administration need only make clear that the fundamental purpose of the nuclear deal is not just to constrain Iran's nuclear ambitions but to build a strong coalition that will confront both Iran and terrorism in the future. ..
 
“With the Iran deal, President Obama has taken the right first step in seeking to limit Iran's ability to obtain a nuclear weapon. As of this week, he has the votes to veto potential congressional disapproval. Rather than sending a message of a divided America, Congress should support the deal. What should sell it to those who still object is this: The agreement opens the door to a larger U.S. strategy to advance peace and stability in the Middle East. That makes the Iran deal not just a gamble but an opportunity for a safer world.”
—Sept. 4, 2015 in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times
 
“The key to this deal, indeed the key to any arms control deal, is in the inspection and verification protocol. The most important question Congress will ask will be whether the inspectors can visit any site, talk to anybody, and review any document. Vigilance is the only thing that will ensure this deal is a success.”
—July 16, 2015 in a post for TIME
 
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State in the Obama administration
 

 
“Here’s how I see it – either we move forward on the path of diplomacy and seize this chance to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, or we turn down to a more dangerous path leading to a far less certain and riskier future. That’s why I support this deal. I support it as part of a larger strategy toward Iran.
 
“By now, the outcome in Congress is no longer in much doubt. So we’ve got to start looking ahead to what comes next – enforcing the deal, deterring Iran and its proxies and strengthening our allies. …
 
“Some have suggested that we just go back to the negotiating table and get a better, unspecified deal. I can certainly understand why that may sound appealing. But as someone who started these talks in the first place and built our global coalition piece by piece, I can assure you it is not realistic.
 
“Plus, if we walk away now, our capacity to sustain and enforce sanctions will be severely diminished. We will be blamed. Not the Iranians. So if we were to reject this agreement, Iran would be poised to get nearly everything it wants without giving up a thing. No restrictions on their nuclear program. No real warning if Tehran suddenly rushes toward a bomb. And the international sanctions regime would fall apart. So no more economic consequences for Iran either.
 
“Those of us who have been out there on a diplomatic frontline know that diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection. It’s the balancing of risks. And on balance, the far riskier course right now would be to walk away. ...
 
Question: Madam Secretary, you talked about how you would use American muscle to contain Iran. Can you tell us how you might use the new diplomatic channel to engage Iran on issues, whether it’s support for extremist groups or specifically dealing with the crisis in Syria? Would you be willing to use that diplomatic channel to engage Iran?
 
Clinton: “Yes, I would…and I would because I think that we have to attempt to do that. You know, when I first went to Oman in January of 2011, we didn’t know whether any effort at some kind of secret channel would pay off. We still had the P5+1 [negotiation process] that was going on and we knew that eventually whatever the United States did would have to merge into the international approach.
 
“But we had to begin to explore it and we did. And we explored it over that summer. That’s when we had the first visit to discuss whether anything could be possible.
 
“It takes a while…to figure out who’s at the table, what the conversation is about, how seriously it’ll be taken, who’s backing you up. And so then when the talks actually started just in the Iranian-American channel with Bill Burns and Jake Sullivan and Bob Einhorn was also involved, it was exploratory and it laid down some of the ground rules that we were looking for. And then it was eventually merged into the larger P5+1 once there was a change in government in Iran and there was some real seriousness of effort.
 
“So with respect to the other issues, I have very clearly in the public arena seen the Iranians at the highest levels reject any such discussion. They don’t want to talk about Yemen. They don’t want to talk about anything than other the nuclear agreement.
 
“Now, that was a strategic decision we made back then. You know, number one, it appeared to us in the early discussion with them trying to figure out how to proceed, they wanted to talk about everything as a way to get some items on the table to trade off for the nuclear agreement so that they would not have to make perhaps as many concessions as we were expecting them to make. That’s why we kept very focused on just the nuclear program.
 
“We also had the continuing challenge and it would be even in this instance of our friends in the Gulf not wanting us to talk about anything that affected them in a bilateral channel with the Iranians. And you can understand why. I mean, if they weren’t going to be at the table, they didn’t want the United States talking about Yemen or talking about anything else of interests, vital interests, in their views to them.
 
“So if there were a way to construct such a channel, I would be open to it. But I’m just laying out some of the difficulties of us being able to do that on this suite of other issues that are complex and touch many of the region’s vital interests.
 
“And I think when it comes to Syria, we have historically not wanted to talk to Iran about Syria because we knew Iran was basically the principal supporter – propper-up if you will – of Assad. And we wanted to get the rest of the international community in harness to have a set of expectations and demands we brought Iran in. So you know, we have to readjust this all the time.
 
“Just as I said diplomacy is a balancing of risks, it’s also the constant evaluation of where the opportunities are, where the openings are, what possibly could happen now that didn’t happen before. So I’m open, but I am very sober about how it would have to be constructed and what it would actually cover and who would have to be either at the table or in the first chair behind so that they didn’t feel that they were being left out or negotiated over.”
—Sept. 9, 2015 in an address at the Brookings Institution
 
“We have to treat this as an ongoing enforcement effort, which I certainly strongly support and as President would be absolutely devoted to ensuring that the agreement is followed… This does put a lid on the nuclear program, but we still have a lot of concern about the bad behavior and the actions by Iran which remains the largest state sponsor of terrorism which does go after and undermine governments in the region, that poses an existential threat to Israel, that unfairly, unlawfully confines and tries Americans on trumped up charges. That bad behavior is something we have to address.”
—July 14, 2015 in remarks to reporters
 
“Do I trust the Iranians? Absolutely not.” The deal’s critics, she said,  have “a respectable argument… No one should be deluded about the continuing threat that Iran poses to the region.”
—July 16, 2015 in remarks to supporters and the press
 
“I'm hoping that the agreement is finally approved and I'm telling you if it's not, all bets are off.” Rejecting the deal, she said, would be a “very bad signal to send in a quickly moving and oftentimes dangerous world… The Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, they're gonna say we agreed with the Americans, I guess their president can't make foreign policy. That's a very bad signal to send.”

—Aug. 10, 2015 to supporters

 

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