United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Where the House Stands on Iran Deal

In July and August, members of the House of Representatives began indicating how they plan to vote on the final nuclear deal. Lawmakers have until September 17 to review the agreement, and if the majority disapprove, they can pass a resolution to block the deal from being implemented. President Obama, however, has said he will veto any efforts to block the deal. Congress would need a two-thirds majority to override the veto.

The following is a rundown of U.S. Representatives on the deal.


Supporters of the Deal
Opponents of the Deal
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
"This is a diplomatic masterpiece."
—Aug. 6, 2015, according to the press
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
"Although it was a difficult choice, I have decided to oppose a resolution of disapproval, albeit with serious concerns."
—Sept. 9, 2015, in a statement
Foreign Affairs Committee
Brian Higgins (D-NY)
"This agreement will do more than any plausible alternative to accomplish America’s objective of blocking Iran’s pathway to a bomb in a way that we can verify."
—Sept. 3, 2015, in a statement
Gerald Connolly (D-VA)
“[The JCPOA] is the product of earnest diplomacy, and Congress should support it.”
 —Aug. 6, 2015, in a statement
Robin Kelly (D-IL)
"This agreement blocks a nuclear-armed Iran, achieving the goal of strengthening global security without conflict. It is important that we now come together as a nation in support of our shared goal of peace."
—Sept. 3, 2015, in a statement
Armed Services Committee
Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA)
"I have decided to support this agreement because I believe it ends the otherwise unmonitored and unrestricted continuation of the Iranian nuclear program and it halts the surely destructive effects of a nuclear Iran in the Middle East."
—Sept. 1, 2015, in a statement
Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Also a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence
“After careful review, I have concluded that this agreement accomplishes the difficult objective we have been working towards for years: a verifiable way to halt Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”
—Aug. 14, 2015, in a statement
Joe Courtney (D-CT)
“Like any agreement negotiated among several parties, the JCPOA is not perfect – but it is very strong and deserves support.”
—Aug. 6, 2015, in a statement

Seth Moulton (D-MA)
“It is not a perfect deal, and it is easy to point out the many ways in which it could theoretically be stronger. That being said, it is by far the best viable option before us.”
—Aug. 1, 2015, in a statement

Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
“This deal is not perfect and it is not without risk…But it is the best option before us, and I will support it because it improves the safety of our country and that of our allies.”
—July 31, 2015, in a statement
Niki Tsongas (D-MA)
“I do not believe Congress should reject this agreement, and I will oppose any effort in Congress to block its implementation.”
—Aug. 12, 2015, in a statement
Scott Peters (D-CA)
"After weeks of careful study, it is clear to me the JCPOA is our best tool to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon for at least the next 15 years. I will vote to support the agreement."
—Aug. 27, 2015, in an op-ed
Rick Larsen (D-WA)
"While the agreement is not perfect, it is a major step in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
—Sept. 3, 2015, in a statement
Pete Aguilar (D-CA)
"I support the JCPOA because the national security of the United States, Israel, and the entire international community would be at risk should Iran ever obtain a nuclear weapon." 
—Sept. 2, 2015, in a statement
John Garamendi (D-CA)
“We are in a situation where we are a whole better off with this deal than without this deal and that is how we ought to move forward.”
—July 27 ,2015, in a statement
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence 
Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA)
“In the absence of a credible alternative, Congress should accept the deal and work with the Administration to strengthen its impact.”
—Aug. 3, 2015, in a statement
André Carson (D-ID)
“For our national security and international stability, it is critical that we accept the agreement.”
—Aug. 4, 2015, in a statement
Jim Himes (D-CT)
Also a member of the Financial Services Committee
“After careful thought, I have decided to support the JCPOA.”
—Aug. 13, 2015, in a statement
Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
“I have concluded this agreement is the best available opportunity for a nuclear-weapon-free Iran.”
—Aug. 13, 2015, in an op-ed
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
The nuclear agreement with Iran is good for America, crucial for Israel, and an important step toward a more peaceful Middle East.”

—July 29, 2015, in an op-ed

Patrick Murphy (D-FL)

"The deal on my desk is flawed, but after searching my own soul and conscience, I have decided I will support this agreement as the best available option to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
—Aug. 31, 2015, in a statement
Financial Services Committee 
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
“I clearly prefer diplomacy over warfare, and if we don’t do this deal, I don’t see how we can avoid military conflict.”
—July 22, 2015, in an interview
Daniel Kildee (D-MI)
“After careful review and consultation, I will support the nuclear agreement with Iran.”
—July 30, 2015, in a statement
Nydia Valazquez (D-NY)
"I will support the agreement when it comes before the House for a vote.”
—Aug. 31, 2015, in a statement
Other Committees
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Chair of the Democratic National Committee
"After a thorough and careful review of the facts and deep, personal reflection and soul searching, I will vote to support moving the Iran agreement forward and to sustain the President's veto if necessary."
—Sept. 6, 2015, in a statement
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
“It is far better...to make the agreement work, monitor and enforce, and build on this international partnership.”
—Aug. 4, 2015, in a statement
Lois Capps (D-CA)
“I have decided to support the JCPOA because it is the best way forward to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and advance the national security interests of the United States and our allies.”
—Aug. 11, 2015, in a statement
Katherine Clark (D-MA)
“After studying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), I am convinced that it is our best opportunity to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and provide for the safety of the United States, Israel and the world.”
—Aug. 13, 2015, in a statement
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
“Through my intense study of this agreement, I am convinced that it is the most effective way to ensure Iran cannot build a nuclear weapon.”
—Aug. 19, 2015, in a statement
Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
“I have decided that the agreement is the best option that the global community has to ensure that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon and I will lend it my full support when it comes to the House of Representatives for consideration.”
—Aug. 5, 2015, in a statement
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
"I support the efforts of Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz to secure this agreement, which I believe meets the goal of our negotiations to deny a dangerous Iranian regime access to a nuclear weapon.”
—Aug. 5, 2015, in a statement
Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
“In the face of a legitimate threat of immense magnitude from a nuclear-capable Iran, I believe this agreement is the right path forward.”
—Aug. 3, 2015, in a statement
Sam Farr (D-CA)
“After two decades in Congress, this is the first time I will be able to vote for peace, not just against war.”
—Aug. 13, 2015, in a statement
Sander Levin (D-MI)
“I believe that Israel, the region, and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon. I believe the Agreement is the best way to achieve that.”
—July 30, 2015, in a statement
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
“I firmly believe that the consequences of walking away from this deal are greater than the risks of accepting it.”
—Aug. 11, 2015, in a statement
James McGovern (D-MA)
“Above all else, this deal must be judged on its merits and whether it is the strongest available option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I firmly believe that it is.”
—Aug. 5, 2015, in a statement
Donald Payne (D-NJ)
“This nuclear agreement is a historic opportunity to permanently block a nuclear-armed Iran and bolster our national and global security. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this deal.”
—Aug. 6, 2015, in a statement
Mark Pocan (D-WI)
“I firmly believe we now have the opportunity to verifiably prevent a nuclear Iran by supporting and implementing this deal.”
—Aug. 5, 2015, in a statement
David Price (D-NC)
“I am confident that this deal will verifiably prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and make the world a safer place.”
—July 30, 2015, in a statement
Mark Takano (D-CA)
“I believe that our nation is safer with this deal than without it, and I will oppose any effort in Congress to block its enactment.”
—Aug. 11, 2015, in a statement
Mike Thompson (D-CA)
“This deal is in the best interest of the United States and our allies, Israel included. I will support the deal when it comes before Congress for a vote.”
—Aug. 5, 2015, in a statement
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
"Because a bad deal threatens the security of the American people, we're going to do everything possible to stop it.”
—July 22, 2015, according to the press
Foreign Affairs Committee 
Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
Also a member of the Financial Services Committee
“By granting sweeping sanctions relief, we have lessened our ability to challenge Iran’s conduct across the board. As Iran grows stronger, we will be weaker to respond.”
—Aug. 4, 2015, in a press release

Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY)
“I’m grateful for the tireless efforts by President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, Secretary Lew, and Undersecretary Sherman…Unfortunately, I cannot support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”
—Aug. 6, 2015, in a statement
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Also a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence
"That is a dangerous gamble for us to make with U.S. national security, and it is not a gamble I or any of us should be willing to take. And that is why we must reject this deal."
—July 28, 2015, in a press release
Mo Brooks (R-AL)
Also a member of the Armed Services Committee
“It makes no sense that America would enter into an agreement that helps arm Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, when, as Secretary Kerry confirms, Iran’s history suggests they are likely to use those weapons against us.”

—July 28,2015, at a hearing

Paul Cook (R-CA)
Also a member of the Armed Services Committee

“If this deal becomes law, we’ll face an even tougher struggle to prevent Iran’s nuclear capability, while Iran grows stronger economically and entrenches their disruptive influence on their neighbors."
—July 21, 2015, in a statement

Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Also a member of the Financial Services Committee
“A strong Congressional vote against the Agreement is the best way to make it clear that the Agreement is not binding on Congress, the American people or future administrations.”
—Aug. 7, 2015, in a statement
Ted Deutch (D-FL)
“Too many issues I have long raised as essential to any nuclear deal with Iran are not adequately addressed in this agreement. I will vote against it when Congress reconvenes in September.”
—Aug. 4, 2015, in an op-ed
Grace Meng (D-NY)
“I strongly believe the world could and should have a better deal than that set forth in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which I will therefore oppose.”
—July 29, 2015, in a statement
Albio Sires (D-NJ)
“I am opposed to the current proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, I do not feel the agreement will prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
—July 31, 2015, in a statement
Ron DeSantis (R-FL)
“We must forcefully reject this fatally flawed nuclear deal with Iran.”
—July 30, 2015, in an op-ed
Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)
“I have been in all the hearings and seen all the classified documents and I see no reason why we should be pursuing this deal. I think it’s good for Iran and bad for America.”
—Aug. 21 , 2015, according to the press
Daniel Donovan (R-NY)
"I don't see how anyone can support this disastrous agreement."
—Aug. 20, 2015, according to the press
Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
“When the time comes to vote on the Iranian nuclear accord, I intend to vote against the deal, and strongly encourage my esteemed colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same.”
—July 26, 2015, in an op-ed
Armed Services Committee 
Brad Ashford (D-NE)
“If that’s what we get to vote on, I’m not going to vote for it the way it is."
Aug. 20, 2015, according to the press
Bradley Byrne (R-AL)
I believe Congress can stand united and defeat this bad agreement. 
July 20, 2015, in a statement 
Chris Gibson (R-NY)
I want to see us reject this agreement and go back to the negotiating table.”  
Aug. 12, 2015, in a statement 
Joe Heck (R-NV)
I believe this deal is bad for America and our allies in the region, especially Israel. 
July 29, 2015, in a statement
Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
"It is a horrible deal. Obama gave away the store and got very little in return. Iran is the world's largest supporter of state-sponsored terrorism and is getting a signing bonus of up to $150 billion, without any requirement they change their behavior in any way." 
Aug. 16, 2015, according to the press 
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Also a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence
"This deal falls far short from warranting my support. 
July, 29, 2015, in a statement
Martha McSally (R-AZ)
“The final agreement includes provisions dangerous to Americans and our allies. It should be rejected, and the administration should be directed back to the negotiating table. 
—Aug. 22, 2015, in an op-ed
Richard Nugent (R-FL)
"I cannot look the people I represent in the eye and say this deal makes us safer. I can’t tell them that the world will be more secure. 
—July 25, 2015, in a statement 
Steve Russell (R-OK)
"We have to scuttle itIt's terrible for our national security. It's terrible for international security." 
Aug. 5, 2015, according to the press
Bill Shuster (R-PA)
"I think it is a bad deal and I think no deal is better than a bad deal.” 
—July 31, 2015, in a statement 
Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)
“It is far less than adequate and the notion of no deal to me is actually more adequate than the deal that is on the table.”  
—Aug. 3, 2015, in a statement 
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Peter King (R-NY)
Also a member of the Financial Services Committee
"It is definitely my intention to vote no on this deal with Iran."

—July 22, 2015, according to the press

Mike Pompeo (R-KS)

“This agreement is the worst of backroom deals."
—July 21, 2015, in a press release
Financial Services Committee 
Luke Messer (R-IN)
“I’ll be voting against the Iran deal because it doesn’t make America safer and it doesn’t make the rest of the world safer."
Aug. 23, 2015, according to the press 
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)
“Among its many flaws, President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran requests that the United States and the other negotiating nations help develop, modernize and protect Iran’s nuclear program. This is unacceptable.”
—July 29, 2015, in a press release
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
“It is the wrong thing for security and stability in the Middle East. Doing nothing is better than doing this something.”
—Aug. 29, 2015, in a press release
Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)
“It is not a good deal for the US, it is a really good deal for Iran.”
—Aug. 25, 2015, in a statement 
Steve Pearce (R-NM)
"I don't understand the basis for the agreement, I can't see how we got anything out of it.”
—Aug. 3, 2015, according to the press
Dennis Ross (R-FL)
“I will vote against this dangerous deal, and I call on my colleagues to do the same."
—Aug. 7, 2015, in an op-ed
Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) 
“I firmly disagree with President Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action."
—Aug. 28, 2015, in a press release
Other Committees 
Ralph Abramson (R-LA)
“As details about the Iranian nuclear deal emerge, it is clear to me that Congress must prevent the deal from becoming policy.”
—July 30, 2015, in a press release
Brian Babin (R-TX)
"I’ll be leading the charge to expose and defeat this terrible deal to protect the safety and security of the American people.”
—July 21, 2015, in an opinion piece
Lou Barletta (R-PA)
“I cannot support the nuclear agreement with Iran, which I fear was rushed into existence with visions of Nobel Peace Prizes dancing in the heads of our negotiators.  I plan to vote against it on the floor of the House.”
—July 29, 2015, in a press release
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
“After careful review, I have decided that I cannot support this deal.”
—Aug. 13, 2015, in a statement
Nita Lowey (D-NY)
“I remain hopeful that the Administration and Congress, in concert with our P5+1 and regional allies, can prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, I cannot support this agreement before Congress.”
—Aug. 4, 2015, in a statement
Kathleen Rice (D-NY)
“I hope that history will ultimately prove President Obama right in his gamble on diplomacy and social progress in Iran. But for me, it is a risk I cannot support.”
—Aug. 3, 2015, in an op-ed

Photo credit: Capitol Dome via Wikimedia Commons

Khamenei: Parliament Must Review Deal

On September 3, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that lawmakers must weigh in on the nuclear deal. Khamenei announced his decision one day after President Barack Obama gained enough votes in the Senate to prevent opponents of the agreement from scuttling it. “I have no advice to Parliament regarding review of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and approval or disapproval of it. The representatives of the nation must decide about it,” the supreme leader told members of the Assembly of Experts.

President Hassan Rouhani’s administration had long argued that the agreement was not a treaty, and therefore it did not require parliamentary approval. In August, lawmakers selected 15 members for a panel to review the deal. Rouhani's government has yet to submit a bill for approval. But Khamenei’s latest remarks ensure that parliament will rule on it. “I have told the president that it is not in our interest to not let our lawmakers review the deal,” he said.
The supreme leader also warned that the deal would be off if sanctions are not totally removed. “We urged removal, not suspension, of sanctions,” he said. The following are excerpts from Khamenei’s remarks posted on his Twitter account.
Nuclear Deal
The United States and the West

Iran: A Done Deal

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

President Obama today won the riskiest gamble of his presidency. He now has enough support in the Senate to ensure that the Hill cannot kill the White House deal with Iran. Some will still try. Cheney has joined the noisy opposition and will give a big speech next week. Trump, Cruz and Glenn Beck have scheduled a "Stop the Deal" rally on Capitol Hill next week. The debate still to come - as Congress goes through the motions - will be (memorably) nasty. But Obama has now basically ensured that the Iran deal will be the centerpiece of his foreign policy legacy.

Click here to read the full article in The New Yorker.

The Final Pitch: New Appeal to Congress

On September 2, Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter to U.S. Senators and Members of Congress emphasizing the Obama administration's commitment to support its Gulf partners and Israel. "We will continue to provide Israel and our GCC partners the robust assistance and support they need to deter and combat Iranian destabilizing activity in the region," he wrote. The following is the full text of the letter.

As Congress continues to review the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that will peacefully and verifiably cut off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, important questions have been raised concerning the need to increase security assistance to our allies and partners in the region and to enhance our efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. We share the concern expressed by many in Congress regarding Iran’s continued support for terrorist and proxy groups throughout the region, its propping up of the Asad regime in Syria, its efforts to undermine the stability of its regional neighbors, and the threat it poses to Israel. We have no illusion that this behavior will change following implementation of the JCPOA. That is precisely why we have been so focused on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon – because it stands to common sense that any country with a nuclear weapon presents a different challenge than a country without one.
As we and our partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreed in Doha in August, “once fully implemented, the JCPOA contributes to the region’s long-term security, including by preventing Iran from developing or acquiring a military nuclear capability.” But it is far from the only action we are undertaking to address regional security concerns. I want to detail key steps the Administration has taken and will continue to take to enhance our support for and commitments to the security of Israel and our Gulf state partners.
The President has made clear that he views Israel’s security as sacrosanct, and he has ensured that the United States has backed up this message with concrete actions that have increased U.S. military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel to their highest levels ever. Our assistance ensures that Israel can better meet its security challenges and protects Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME). The Departments of State and Defense regularly engage at the highest levels with our Israeli counterparts to ensure Israel has the capabilities it needs. Since 2009, with bipartisan congressional support, the United States has provided over $20.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance to Israel. Currently, our assistance averages approximately some $8.5 million per day in FMF alone. In addition, we provide Israel with access to some of the most advanced military equipment in the world, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and penetrating munitions. Israel’s first F-35 aircraft will be delivered in 2016, making it the only country in the region with a U.S. fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
We have also provided vital funding – an additional $3 billion – for Israel’s life-saving missile defense systems. This includes $1.3 billion for the Iron Dome system, which saved hundreds of Israeli lives in 2014. In addition, we recently offered Israel a $1.89 billion munitions resupply package that will replenish Israel’s inventories and will ensure its long-term continued access to sophisticated, state-of the-art precision-guided munitions.
We are prepared to further strengthen our security relationship with Israel. First, we will continue talks with Israel on a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on FMF that would cement for the next decade our unprecedented levels of military assistance. Second, the Administration is prepared to enhance the already intensive joint efforts underway to identify and counter the range of shared threats we face in the region, as well as to increase missile defense funding so that Israel and the United States can accelerate the co-development of the Arrow-3 and David’s Sling missile defense system. Third, our governments should identify ways to accelerate the ongoing collaborative research and development for tunnel detection and mapping technologies to provide Israel new capabilities to detect and destroy tunnels before they could be used to threaten Israeli citizens. Fourth, President Obama has proposed to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we begin the process aimed at further strengthening our efforts to confront conventional and asymmetric threats. President Obama and this Administration firmly believe we have an opportunity now to build on and fortify the United States’ historic and enduring commitment to Israel’s security.
The United States has been partnering with the countries of the Arabian Peninsula for nearly eight decades. These relationships will remain at the core of our regional security strategy. We are actively expanding the strong foundation of defense cooperation with the GCC countries, building on the $129 billion in authorized sales of advanced military systems since 2009. Out of the Camp David Summit in May, the Departments of State and Defense and our GCC partners have created working groups to strengthen our security cooperation with Gulf partners. As part of this effort, our arms transfer working group is working to expedite the delivery of capabilities needed to deter and combat regional threats, including terrorism and Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. In July, we formally notified to Congress proposed major sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that will provide long-term strategic defense capabilities and support for their ongoing operations.
Our security initiatives with the GCC states span a range of issues, reflecting our comprehensive approach to bolstering our partners’ ability to deter and counter threats from Iran and regional terrorist groups. Additional U.S.-GCC working groups are focused on counterterrorism, military preparedness, cyber security, maritime security (including interdiction of illicit arms transfers), and the critical goal of building political support for multilateral U.S.-GCC ballistic missile defense (BMD) cooperation. BMD is a strategic imperative and an essential component to deterring Iranian aggression against any GCC member state. We have already made significant progress and are working with the GCC to propose a robust BMD early warning architecture to meet our partners’ needs. As part of our expanded counterterrorism cooperation, we are increasing our information sharing to ensure we and our GCC partners remain postured effectively to counter new threats. To continue the momentum from our August 3 meeting in Doha, the GCC foreign ministers and I will meet again in September in New York to review the progress we have made in enhancing our security cooperation.
I would also point out that under this deal, the international community and the United States will retain a wide range of other tools to enable us to push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities. These include UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting arms transfers to Iranian-backed Hizballah in Lebanon, Houthis in Yemen, and Shia militants in Iraq, as well as transfers involving North Korea. We will also continue to use the full range of tools at our disposal to counter Iran’s missile program, including the Missile Technology Control Regime, whose guidelines are strongly weighted toward denying transfers of sensitive systems like ballistic missile technology, and the Proliferation Security Initiative, whose more than 100 members are committed to limit missile related imports and exports. We also retain a host of authorities under United States law, including multiple statues and executive orders under which the Administration will continue to impose sanctions to counter missile proliferation. Perhaps our most effective tool, however, will be continued bilateral cooperation with our partners in the region, who work with us to block Iranian access to their territory, air space, and waters for illicit shipments.
Many of our steps we have already taken to reinforce our commitment to the security of Israel and our Gulf partners have been made possible by strong bipartisan support in Congress. Just as Congress is now undertaking an important role in reviewing the JCPOA, we also believe that Congress must play a central role in moving forward with the increased security cooperation outlined above. Accordingly, the Administration stands ready to work with Congress on appropriate legislation that would endorse these measures and provide such authorities and resources as may be necessary. U.S. support for Israel and our Gulf partners has never been a partisan issue, and we believe these proposals would receive wide, bipartisan support.
The Administration negotiated the JCPOA to peacefully and verifiably deny Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon, because the security of the United States, of Israel, and of our Gulf partners demands that Iran not acquire such a capability. At the same time, we will continue to provide Israel and our GCC partners the robust assistance and support they need to deter and combat Iranian destabilizing activity in the region. I welcome your continuing support for these efforts.
John F. Kerry

The Final Pitch: Kerry on the Deal

On September 2, Secretary of State John Kerry made a final pitch to rally support for the nuclear deal, two weeks before the deadline for a Congressional vote on the agreement. The deal "reflects our determination to protect the interests of our citizens and to shield the world from greater harm," he said in a speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA.The following is a transcript of Kerry's remarks.

Two months ago, in Vienna, the United States and five other nations – including permanent members of the UN Security Council – reached agreement with Iran on ensuring the peaceful nature of that country’s nuclear program.  As early as next week, Congress will begin voting on whether to support that plan.  And the outcome will matter as much as any foreign policy decision in recent history.  Like Senator Lugar, President Obama and I are convinced – beyond any reasonable doubt – that the framework that we have put forward will get the job done.  And in that assessment, we have excellent company. 

Last month, 29 of our nation’s top nuclear physicists and Nobel Prize winners, scientists, from one end of our country to the other, congratulated the President for what they called “a technically sound, stringent, and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance … that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.”  The scientists praised the agreement for its creative approach to verification and for the rigorous safeguards that will prevent Iran from obtaining the fissile material for a bomb.
Today, I will lay out the facts that caused those scientists and many other experts to reach the favorable conclusions that they have.  I will show why the agreed plan will make the United States, Israel, the Gulf States, and the world safer.  I will explain how it gives us the access that we need to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains wholly peaceful, while preserving every option to respond if Iran fails to meet its commitments.  I will make clear that the key elements of the agreement will last not for 10 or 15 years, as some are trying to assert, or for 20 or 25, but they will last for the lifetime of Iran’s nuclear program.  And I will dispel some of the false information that has been circulating about the proposal on which Congress is soon going to vote.
Now, for this discussion, there is an inescapable starting point – a place where every argument made against the agreement must confront a stark reality – the reality of how advanced Iran’s nuclear program had become and where it was headed when Presidents Obama and Rouhani launched the diplomatic process that concluded this past July.
Two years ago, in September of 2013, we were facing an Iran that had already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle; already stockpiled enough enriched uranium that, if further enriched, could arm 10 to 12 bombs; an Iran that was already enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent, which is just below weapons-grade; an Iran that had already installed 10,000-plus centrifuges; and an Iran that was moving rapidly to commission a heavy water reactor able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for an additional bomb or two a year.  That, my friends, is where we already were when we began our negotiations.
At a well-remembered moment during the UN General Assembly the previous fall, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had held up a cartoon of a bomb to show just how dangerous Iran’s nuclear program had become.  And in 2013, he returned to that podium to warn that Iran was positioning itself to “rush forward to build nuclear bombs before the international community can detect it and much less prevent it.”  The prime minister argued rightly that the so-called breakout time – the interval required for Iran to produce enough fissile material for one bomb – had dwindled to as little as two months.  Even though it would take significantly longer to actually build the bomb itself using that fissile material, the prime minister’s message was clear: Iran had successfully transformed itself into a nuclear threshold state.
In the Obama Administration, we were well aware of that troubling fact, and more important, we were already responding to it.  The record is irrefutable that, over the course of two American administrations, it was the United States that led the world in assembling against Tehran one of the toughest international sanctions regimes ever developed.
But we also had to face an obvious fact: sanctions alone were not getting the job done, not even close.  They were failing to slow, let alone halt, Iran’s relentless march towards a nuclear weapons capability.  So President Obama acted.  He reaffirmed his vow that Iran would absolutely not be permitted to have a nuclear weapon.  He marshaled support for this principle from every corner of the international community.  He made clear his determination to go beyond what sanctions could accomplish and find a way to not only stop, but to throw into reverse, Iran’s rapid expansion of its nuclear program.
As we developed our strategy, we cast a very wide net to enlist the broadest expertise available.  We sat down with the IAEA and with our own intelligence community to ensure that the verification standards that we sought on paper would be effective in reality.  We consulted with Congress and our international allies and friends.  We examined carefully every step that we might take to close off each of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb.  And of course, we were well aware that every proposal, every provision, every detail would have to withstand the most painstaking scrutiny.  We knew that.  And so we made clear from the outset that we would not settle for anything less than an agreement that was comprehensive, verifiable, effective, and of lasting duration.
We began with an interim agreement reached in Geneva – the Joint Plan of Action.  It accomplished diplomatically what sanctions alone could never have done or did.  It halted the advance of Iran’s nuclear activities.  And it is critical to note – you don’t hear much about it, but it’s critical to note that for more than 19 months now, Iran has complied with every requirement of that plan.  But this was just a first step.
From that moment, we pushed ahead, seeking a broad and enduring agreement, sticking to our core positions, maintaining unity among a diverse negotiating group of partners, and we arrived at the good and effective deal that we had sought.
And I ask you today and in the days ahead, as we have asked members of Congress over the course of these last months, consider the facts of what we achieved and judge for yourself the difference between where we were two years ago and where we are now, and where we can be in the future.  Without this agreement, Iran’s so-called breakout time was about two months; with this agreement it will increase by a factor of six, to at least a year, and it will remain at that level for a decade or more. 
Without this agreement, Iran could double the number of its operating centrifuges almost overnight and continue expanding with ever more efficient designs.  With this agreement, Iran’s centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds for 10 years. 
Without this agreement, Iran could continue expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is now more than 12,000 kilograms – enough, if further enriched, for multiple bombs.  With this agreement, that stockpile will shrink and shrink some more – a reduction of some 98 percent, to no more than 300 kilograms for 15 years. 
Without this agreement, Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak would soon be able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium each year to fuel one or two nuclear weapons.  With this agreement, the core of that reactor will be removed and filled with concrete, and Iran will never be permitted to produce any weapons-grade plutonium.
Without this agreement, the IAEA would not have assured access to undeclared locations in Iran where suspicious activities might be taking place.  The agency could seek access, but if Iran objected, there would be no sure method for resolving a dispute in a finite period, which is exactly what has led us to where we are today – that standoff.  With this agreement, the IAEA can go wherever the evidence leads.  No facility – declared or undeclared – will be off limits, and there is a time certain for assuring access.  There is no other country to which such a requirement applies.  This arrangement is both unprecedented and unique. 
In addition, the IAEA will have more inspectors working in Iran, using modern technologies such as real-time enrichment monitoring, high-tech electronic seals, and cameras that are always watching – 24/7, 365.  Further, Iran has agreed never to pursue key technologies that would be necessary to develop a nuclear explosive device. 
So the agreement deals not only with the production of fissile material, but also with the critical issue of weaponization.  Because of all of these limitations and guarantees, we can sum up by saying that without this agreement, the Iranians would have several potential pathways to a bomb; with it, they won’t have any. 
Iran’s plutonium pathway will be blocked because it won’t have a reactor producing plutonium for a weapon, and it won’t build any new heavy-water reactors or engage in reprocessing for at least 15 years, and after that we have the ability to watch and know precisely what they’re doing.
The uranium pathway will be blocked because of the deep reductions in Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity, and because for 15 years the country will not enrich uranium to a level higher than 3.67 percent.  Let me be clear:  No one can build a bomb from a stockpile of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched only 3.67 percent.  It is just not possible. 
Finally, Iran’s covert pathway to a bomb will also be blocked.  Under our plan, there will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities.  As soon as we start the implementation, inspectors will be able to track Iran’s uranium as it is mined, then milled, then turned into yellow cake, then into gas, and eventually into waste.  This means that for a quarter of a century at least, every activity throughout the nuclear fuel chain will receive added scrutiny.  And for 20 years, the IAEA will be monitoring the production of key centrifuge components in Iran in order to assure that none are diverted to a covert program.
So if Iran did decide to cheat, its technicians would have to do more than bury a processing facility deep beneath the ground.  They would have to come up with a complete – complete – and completely secret nuclear supply chain: a secret source of uranium, a secret milling facility, a secret conversion facility, a secret enrichment facility.  And our intelligence community and our Energy Department, which manages our nuclear program and our nuclear weapons, both agree Iran could never get away with such a deception.  And if we have even a shadow of doubt that illegal activities are going on, either the IAEA will be given the access required to uncover the truth or Iran will be in violation and the nuclear-related sanctions can snap back into place.  We will also have other options to ensure compliance if necessary.
Given all of these requirements, it is no wonder that this plan has been endorsed by so many leading American scientists, experts on nuclear nonproliferation, and others.  More than 60 former top national security officials, 100 – more than 100 retired ambassadors – people who served under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, are backing the proposal – as are retired generals and admirals from all 5 of our uniformed services.  Brent Scowcroft, one of the great names in American security endeavors of the last century and now, served as a national security advisor to two Republican presidents.  He is also among the many respected figures who are supporting it.  Internationally, the agreement is being backed, with one exception, by each of the more than 100 countries that have taken a formal position.  The agreement was also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on a vote of 15 to nothing.  This not only says something very significant about the quality of the plan, particularly when you consider that 5 of those countries are permanent members and they’re all nuclear powers, but it should also invite reflection from those who believe the United States can walk away from this without causing grave harm to our international reputation, to relationships, and to interests. 
You’ve probably heard the claim that because of our strength, because of the power of our banks, all we Americans have to do if Congress rejects this plan is return to the bargaining table, puff out our chests, and demand a better deal.  I’ve heard one critic say he would use sanctions to give Iran a choice between having an economy or having a nuclear program.  Well, folks, that’s a very punchy soundbite, but it has no basis in any reality.  As Dick said, I was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when our nation came together across party lines to enact round after round of economic sanctions against Iran.  But remember, even the toughest restrictions didn’t stop Iran’s nuclear program from speeding ahead from a couple of hundred centrifuges to 5,000 to 19,000.  We’ve already been there.  If this agreement is voted down, those who vote no will not be able to tell you how many centrifuges Iran will have next year or the year after.  If it’s approved, we will be able to tell you exactly what the limits on Iran’s program will be.
The fact is that it wasn’t either sanctions or threats that actually stopped and finally stopped the expansion of Iran’s nuclear activities.  The sanctions brought people to the table, but it was the start of the negotiating process and the negotiations themselves, recently concluded in Vienna, that actually stopped it.  Only with those negotiations did Iran begin to get rid of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  Only with those negotiations did it stop installing more centrifuges and cease advancing the Arak reactor.  Only then did it commit to be more forthcoming about IAEA access and negotiate a special arrangement to break the deadlock. 
So just apply your common sense:  What do you think will happen if we say to Iran now, “Hey, forget it.  The deal is off.  Let’s go back to square one”?  How do you think our negotiating partners, all of whom have embraced this deal, will react; all of whom are prepared to go forward with it – how will they react?  What do you think will happen to that multilateral sanctions regime that brought Iran to the bargaining table in the first place?  The answer is pretty simple.  The answer is straightforward.  Not only will we lose the momentum that we have built up in pressing Iran to limit its nuclear activities, we will almost surely start moving in the opposite direction.
We need to remember sanctions don’t just sting in one direction, my friends.  They also impose costs on those who forego the commercial opportunities in order to abide by them.  It’s a tribute to President Obama’s diplomacy – and before that, to President George W. Bush – that we were able to convince countries to accept economic difficulties and sacrifices and put together the comprehensive sanctions regime that we did.  Many nations that would like to do business with Iran agreed to hold back because of the sanctions and – and this is vital – and because they wanted to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  They have as much interest in it as we do.  And that’s why they hoped the negotiations would succeed, and that’s why they will join us in insisting that Iran live up to its obligations.  But they will not join us if we unilaterally walk away from the very deal that the sanctions were designed to bring about.  And they will not join us if we’re demanding even greater sacrifices and threatening their businesses and banks because of a choice we made and they opposed.
So while it may not happen all at once, it is clear that if we reject this plan, the multilateral sanctions regime will start to unravel.  The pressure on Iran will lessen and our negotiating leverage will diminish, if not disappear.  Now, obviously, that is not the path, as some critics would have us believe, to a so-called better deal.  It is a path to a much weaker position for the United States of America and to a much more dangerous Middle East.
And this is by no means a partisan point of view that I just expressed.  Henry Paulson was Secretary of Treasury under President George W. Bush.  He helped design the early stages of the Iran sanctions regime.  But just the other day, he said, “It would be totally unrealistic to believe that if we backed out of this deal, the multilateral sanctions would remain in place.”  And Paul Volcker, who chaired the Federal Reserve under President Reagan, he said, “This agreement is as good as you are going to get.  To think that we can unilaterally maintain sanctions doesn’t make any sense.”
We should pause for a minute to contemplate what voting down this agreement might mean for Iran’s cadre of hardliners, for those people in Iran who lead the chants of “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and even “Death to Rouhani,” and who prosecute journalists simply for doing their jobs.  The evidence documents that among those who most fervently want this agreement to fall apart are the most extreme factions in Iran.  And their opposition should tell you all you need to know.  From the very beginning, these extremists have warned that negotiating with the United States would be a waste of time; why on Earth would we now take a step that proves them right?  
Let me be clear.  Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran; it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend.  After all, they’ve listened as we warned over and over again about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program.  They’ve watched as we spent two years forging a broadly accepted agreement to rein that program in.  They’ve nodded their heads in support as we have explained how the plan that we have developed will make the world safer.
Who could fairly blame them for not understanding if we suddenly switch course and reject the very outcome we had worked so hard to obtain?  And not by offering some new and viable alternative, but by offering no alternative at all.  It is hard to conceive of a quicker or more self-destructive blow to our nation’s credibility and leadership – not only with respect to this one issue, but I’m telling you across the board – economically, politically, militarily, and even morally.  We would pay an immeasurable price for this unilateral reversal.  
Friends, as Dick mentioned in his introduction, I have been in public service for many years and I’ve been called on to make some difficult choices in that course of time.  There are those who believe deciding whether or not to support the Iran agreement is just such a choice.  And I respect that and I respect them.  But I also believe that because of the stringent limitations on Iran’s program that are included in this agreement that I just described, because of where that program was headed before our negotiations began and will head again if we walk away, because of the utter absence of a viable alternative to this plan that we have devised, the benefits of this agreement far outweigh any potential drawbacks.  Certainly, the goal of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon is supported across our political spectrum and it has the backing of countries on every continent.  So what then explains the controversy that has persisted in this debate?  
A big part of the answer, I think, is that even before the ink on the agreement was dry, we started being bombarded by myths about what the agreement will and won’t do, and that bombardment continues today.
The first of these myths is that the deal is somehow based on trust or a naive expectation that Iran is going to reverse course on many of the policies it’s been pursuing internationally.  Critics tell us over and over again, “You can’t trust Iran.”  Well, guess what?  There is a not a single sentence, not a single paragraph in this whole agreement that depends on promises or trust, not one.  The arrangement that we worked out with Tehran is based exclusively on verification and proof.  That’s why the agreement is structured the way it is; that’s why sanctions relief is tied strictly to performance; and it is why we have formulated the most far-reaching monitoring and transparency regime ever negotiated.  
Those same critics point to the fact that two decades ago, the United States reached a nuclear framework with North Korea that didn’t accomplish what it set out to do.  And we’re told we should have learned a lesson from that.  Well, the truth is we did learn a lesson.  
The agreement with North Korea was four pages and only dealt with plutonium.  Our agreement with Iran runs 159 detailed pages, applies to all of Tehran’s potential pathways to a bomb, and is specifically grounded in the transparency rules of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which didn’t even exist two decades ago when the North Korea deal was made because it was developed specifically with the North Korea experience in mind.  Lesson learned.
The reality is that if we trusted Iran or thought that it was about to become more moderate, this agreement would be less necessary than it is.  But we don’t.  We would like nothing more than to see Iran act differently, but not for a minute are we counting on it.  Iran’s support for terrorist groups and its contributions to sectarian violence are not recent policies.  They reflect the perceptions of its leaders about Iran’s long-term national interests and there are no grounds for expecting those calculations to change in the near future.  That is why we believe so strongly that every problem in the Middle East – every threat to Israel and to our friends in the region – would be more dangerous if Iran were permitted to have a nuclear weapon.  That is the inescapable bottom line.
That’s also why we are working so hard and so proactively to protect our interests and those of our allies. 
In part because of the challenge posed by Iran, we have engaged in an unprecedented level of military, intelligence, and security cooperation with our friend and ally Israel.  We are determined to help our ally address new and complex security threats and to ensure its qualitative military edge. 
We work with Israel every day to enforce sanctions and prevent terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah from obtaining the financing and the weapons that they seek – whether from Iran or from any other source.  And we will stand with Israel to stop its adversaries from once again launching deadly and unprovoked attacks against the Israeli people. 
Since 2009, we have provided $20 billion in foreign military financing to Israel, more than half of what we have given to nations worldwide. 
Over and above that, we have invested some 3 billion in the production and deployment of Iron Dome batteries and other missile defense programs and systems.  And we saw how in the last Gaza War lives were saved in Israel because of it.  We have given privileged access to advanced military equipment such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to which the United States has sold this fifth-generation aircraft.  The President recently authorized a massive arms resupply package, featuring penetrating munitions and air-to-air missiles.  And we hope soon to conclude a new memorandum of understanding – a military assistance plan that will guide our intensive security cooperation through the next decade. 
And diplomatically, our support for Israel also remains rock solid as we continue to oppose every effort to delegitimize the Jewish state, or to pass biased resolutions against it in international bodies.  
Now, I understand – I understand personally there is no way to overstate the concern in Israel about Iran and about the potential consequences that this agreement – or rejecting this agreement – might have on Israel’s security.  The fragility of Israel’s position has been brought home to me on every one of the many trips I have made to that country.
In fact, as Secretary of State, I have already traveled to Israel more than a dozen times, spending the equivalent of a full month there – even ordering my plane to land at Ben Gurion Airport when commercial air traffic had been halted during the last Gaza War; doing so specifically as a sign of support.
Over the years, I have walked through Yad Vashem, a living memorial to the 6 million lost, and I have felt in my bones the unfathomable evil of the Holocaust and the undying reminder never to forget.
I have climbed inside a shelter at Kiryat Shmona where children were forced to leave their homes and classrooms to seek refuge from Katyusha rockets. 
I visited Sderot and witnessed the shredded remains of homemade missiles from Gaza – missiles fired with no other purpose than to sow fear in the hearts of Israeli families.
I have piloted an Israeli jet out of Ovda Airbase and observed first-hand the tininess of Israel airspace from which it is possible to see all of the country’s neighbors at the same time.
And I have bowed my head at the Western Wall and offered my prayer for peace – peace for Israel, for the region, and for the world.
I take a back seat to no one in my commitment to the security of Israel, a commitment I demonstrated through my 28-plus years in the Senate.  And as Secretary of State, I am fully conscious of the existential nature of the choice Israel must make.  I understand the conviction that Israel, even more than any other country, simply cannot afford a mistake in defending its security.  And while I respectfully disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the benefits of the Iran agreement, I do not question for an instant the basis of his concern or that of any Israeli.
But I am also convinced, as is President Obama, our senior defense and military leaders, and even many former Israeli military and intelligence officials, that this agreement puts us on the right path to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon.  The people of Israel will be safer with this deal, and the same is true for the people throughout the region. 
And to fully ensure that, we are also taking specific and far-reaching steps to coordinate with our friends from the Gulf states.  President Obama hosted their leaders at Camp David earlier this year.  I visited with them in Doha last month.  And later this week, we will welcome King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Washington.  Gulf leaders share our profound concerns about Iran’s policies in the Middle East, but they’re also alarmed by Iran’s nuclear program.  We must and we will respond on both fronts.  We will make certain that Iran lives up to its commitments under the nuclear agreement, and we will continue strengthening our security partnerships.
We’re determined that our Gulf friends will have the political and the military support that they need, and to that end, we are working with them to develop a ballistic missile defense for the Arabian Peninsula, provide special operations training, authorize urgently required arms transfers, strengthen cyber security, engage in large-scale military exercises, and enhance maritime interdiction of illegal Iranian arms shipments.  We are also deepening our cooperation and support in the fight against the threat posed to them, to us, and to all civilization by the forces of international terror, including their surrogates and their proxies. 
Through these steps and others, we will maintain international pressure on Iran.  United States sanctions imposed because of Tehran’s support for terrorism and its human rights record – those will remain in place, as will our sanctions aimed at preventing the proliferation of ballistic missiles and transfer of conventional arms.  The UN Security Council prohibitions on shipping weapons to Hizballah, the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in Yemen – all of those will remain as well.
We will also continue to urge Tehran to provide information regarding an American who disappeared in Iran several years ago, and to release the U.S. citizens its government has unjustly imprisoned.  We will do everything we can to see that our citizens are able to safely return to where they belong – at home and with their families.
Have no doubt.  The United States will oppose Iran’s destabilizing policies with every national security tool available.  And disregard the myth.  The Iran agreement is based on proof, not trust.  And in a letter that I am sending to all the members of Congress today, I make clear the Administration’s willingness to work with them on legislation to address shared concerns about regional security consistent with the agreement that we have worked out with our international partners.
This brings us to the second piece of fiction: that this deal would somehow legitimize Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  I keep hearing this.  Well, yes, for years Iran has had a civilian nuclear program.  Under the Nonproliferation Treaty, you can do that.  It was never a realistic option to change that.  But recognizing this reality is not the same as legitimizing the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  In fact, this agreement does the exact opposite.  Under IAEA safeguards, Iran is prohibited from ever pursuing a nuclear weapon. 
This is an important point, so I want to be sure that everyone understands:  The international community is not telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon for 15 years.  We are telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon, period.  There is no magic moment 15, 20, or 25 years from now when Iran will suddenly get a pass from the mandates of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – doesn’t happen.  In fact, Iran is required by this agreement to sign up to and abide by the IAEA Additional Protocol that I mentioned earlier that came out of the North Korea experience.  And that requires inspections of all nuclear facilities.
What does this mean?  It means that Iran’s nuclear program will remain subject to regular inspections forever.  Iran will have to provide access to all of its nuclear facilities forever.  Iran will have to respond promptly to requests for access to any suspicious site forever.  And if Iran at any time – at any time – embarks on nuclear activities that are incompatible with a wholly peaceful program, it will be in violation of the agreement forever.  We will know of that violation right away and we will retain every option we now have to respond, whether diplomatically or through a return to sanctions or by other means.  In short, this agreement gives us unprecedented tools and all the time we need to hold Iran accountable for its choices and actions.
Now, it’s true some of the special additional restrictions that we successfully negotiated, those begin to ease after a period – in some cases 10 or 15, in others 20 or 25.  But it would defy logic to vote to kill the whole agreement – with all of the permanent NPT restrictions by which Iran has to live – for that reason.  After all, if your house is on fire, if it’s going up in flames, would you refuse to extinguish it because of the chance that it might be another fire in 15 years?  Obviously, not.  You’d put out the fire and you’d take advantage of the extra time to prepare for the future. 
My friends, it just doesn’t make sense to conclude that we should vote “no” now because of what might happen in 15 years – thereby guaranteeing that what might happen in 15 years will actually begin to happen now.  Because if this agreement is rejected, every possible reason for worry in the future would have to be confronted now, immediately, in the months ahead.  Once again and soon, Iran would begin advancing its nuclear program.  We would lose the benefit of the agreement that contains all these restrictions, and it would give a green light to everything that we’re trying to prevent.  Needless to say, that is not the outcome that we want, it is not an outcome that would be good for our country, nor for our allies or for the world.
There is a third myth – a quick one, a more technical one – that Iran could, in fact, get away with building a covert nuclear facility because the deal allows a maximum of 24 days to obtain access to a suspicious site.  Well, in truth, there is no way in 24 days, or 24 months, 24 years for that matter, to destroy all the evidence of illegal activity that has been taking place regarding fissile material.  Because of the nature of fissile materials and their relevant precursors, you can’t eliminate the evidence by shoving it under a mattress, flushing it down a toilet, carting it off in the middle of the night.  The materials may go, but the telltale traces remain year after year after year.  And the 24 days is the outside period of time during which they must allow access.
Under the agreement, if there is a dispute over access to any location, the United States and our European allies have the votes to decide the issue.  And once we have identified a site that raises questions, we will be watching it continuously until the inspectors are allowed in. 
Let me underscore that.  The United States and the international community will be monitoring Iran nonstop.  And you can bet that if we see something, we will do something.  The agreement gives us a wide range of enforcement tools, and we will use them.  And the standard we will apply can be summed up in two words: zero tolerance.  There is no way to guarantee that Iran will keep its word.  That’s why this isn’t based on a promise or trust.  But we can guarantee that if Iran decides to break the agreement, it will regret breaking any promise that it has made.
Now, there are many other myths circulating about the agreement, but the last one that I’m going to highlight is just economic.  And it’s important.  The myth that sanctions relief that Iran will receive is somehow both too generous and too dangerous.
Now, obviously, the discussions that concluded in Vienna, like any serious negotiation, involved a quid pro quo.  Iran wanted sanctions relief; the world wanted to ensure a wholly peaceful nature of Iran’s program.  So without the tradeoff, there could have been no deal and no agreement by Iran to the constraints that it has accepted – very important constraints.
But there are some who point to sanctions relief as grounds to oppose the agreement.  And the logic is faulty for several reasons.  First, the most important is that absent new violations by Iran the sanctions are going to erode regardless of what we do.  It’s an illusion for members of Congress to think that they can vote this plan down and then turn around and still persuade countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, India – Iran’s major oil customers – they ought to continue supporting the sanctions that are costing them billions of dollars every year.  That’s not going to happen.  And don’t forget that the money that has been locked up as the result of sanctions is not sitting in some American bank under U.S. control.  The money is frozen and being held in escrow by countries with which Iran has had commercial dealings.  We don’t have that money.  We can’t control it.  It’s going to begin to be released anyway if we walk away from this agreement.
Remember, as well, that the bulk of the funds Iran will receive under the sanctions relief are already spoken for and they are dwarfed by the country’s unmet economic needs.  Iran has a crippled infrastructure, energy infrastructure.  It’s got to rebuild it to be able to pump oil.  It has an agriculture sector that’s been starved for investment, massive pension obligations, significant foreign reserves that are already allocated to foreign-led projects, and a civilian population that is sitting there expecting that the lifting of sanctions is going to result in a tangible improvement in the quality of their lives.  The sanctions relief is not going to make a significant difference in what Iran can do internationally – never been based on money.  Make no mistake, the important thing about this agreement is not what it will enable Iran to do, but what it will stop Iran from doing – and that is the building of a nuclear weapon.
Before closing, I want to comment on the nature of the debate which we are currently engaged in.  Some have accused advocates of the Iran agreement – including me – of conjuring up frightening scenarios to scare listeners into supporting it.  Curiously, this allegation comes most often from the very folks who have been raising alarms about one thing or another for years.  
The truth is that if this plan is voted down, we cannot predict with certainty what Iran will do.  But we do know what Iran says it will do and that is begin again to expand its nuclear activities.  And we know that the strict limitations that Iran has accepted will no longer apply because there will no longer be any agreement.  Iran will then be free to begin operating thousands of other advanced and other centrifuges that would otherwise have been mothballed; they’ll be free to expand their stockpile of low-enriched uranium, rebuild their stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, free to move ahead with the production of weapons-grade plutonium, free to go forward with weaponization research.    
And just who do you think is going to be held responsible for all of this?  Not Iran – because Iran was preparing to implement the agreement and will have no reason whatsoever to return to the bargaining table.  No, the world will hold accountable the people who broke with the consensus, turned their backs on our negotiating partners, and ignored the counsel of top scientists and military leaders.  The world will blame the United States.  And so when those same voices that accuse us of scaremongering now begin suddenly to warn, oh, wow, Iran’s nuclear activities are once again out of control and must at all costs be stopped – what do you think is going to happen?  
The pressure will build, my friends.  The pressure will build for military action.  The pressure will build for the United States to use its unique military capabilities to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, because negotiating isn’t going to work because we’ve just tried it.  President Obama has been crystal clear that we will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  But the big difference is, at that point, we won’t have the world behind us the way we do today.  Because we rejected the fruits of diplomacy, we will be held accountable for a crisis that could have been avoided but instead we will be deemed to have created.
So my question is:  Why in the world would we want to put ourselves in that position of having to make that choice – especially when there is a better choice, a much more broadly supported choice?  A choice that sets us on the road to greater stability and security but that doesn’t require us to give up any option at all today. 
So here is the decision that we are called on to make.  To vote down this agreement is to solve nothing because none of the problems that we are concerned about will be made easier if it is rejected; none of them – not Iran’s nuclear program, not Iran’s support for terrorism or sectarian activities, not its human rights record, and not its opposition to Israel.  To oppose this agreement is – whether intended or not – to recommend in its policy a policy of national paralysis.  It is to take us back directly to the very dangerous spot that we were in two years ago, only to go back there devoid of any realistic plan or option.
By contrast, the adoption and implementation of this agreement will cement the support of the international community behind a plan to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire or possess a nuclear weapon.  In doing so it will remove a looming threat from a uniquely fragile region, discourage others from trying to develop nuclear arms, make our citizens and our allies safer, and reassure the world that the hardest problems can be addressed successfully by diplomatic means.
At its best, American foreign policy, the policy of the United States combines immense power with clarity of purpose, relying on reason and persuasion whenever possible.  As has been demonstrated many times, our country does not shy from the necessary use of force, but our hopes and our values push us to explore every avenue for peace.  The Iran deal reflects our determination to protect the interests of our citizens and to shield the world from greater harm.  But it reflects as well our knowledge that the firmest foundation for security is built on mobilizing countries across the globe to defend – actively and bravely – the rule of law.
In September 228 years ago, Benjamin Franklin rose in the great city of Philadelphia, right down there, to close debate on the proposed draft of the Constitution of the United States.  He told a rapt audience that when people of opposing views and passions are brought together, compromise is essential and perfection from the perspective of any single participant is not possible.  He said that after weighing carefully the pros and cons of that most historic debate, he said the following:  “I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”
My fellow citizens, I have had the privilege of serving our country in times of peace and in times of war, and peace is better.  I’ve seen our leaders act with incredible foresight and also seen them commit tragic errors by plunging into conflicts without sufficient thought about the consequences.
Like old Ben Franklin, I can claim and do claim no monopoly on wisdom, and certainly nothing can compare to the gravity of the debate of our founding fathers over our nation’s founding documents.  But I believe, based on a lifetime’s experience, that the Iran nuclear agreement is a hugely positive step at a time when problem solving and danger reduction have rarely been so urgent, especially in the Middle East.
The Iran agreement is not a panacea for the sectarian and extremist violence that has been ripping that region apart.  But history may judge it a turning point, a moment when the builders of stability seized the initiative from the destroyers of hope, and when we were able to show, as have generations before us, that when we demand the best from ourselves and insist that others adhere to a similar high standard – when we do that, we have immense power to shape a safer and a more humane world.  That’s what this is about and that’s what I hope we will do in the days ahead.

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