United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

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

 

Where US Senators Stand on Iran Deal

In July and August, U.S. Senators 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.
 
As of September 9, 42 Senators had indicated that they planned to support the deal - more than the 34 needed to prevent a veto override - while 49 said that they planned to vote to disapprove it. The remaining 9 had not declared how they planned to vote. The following is a rundown of U.S. Senators on the deal.
 
Supporters of the Deal
Opponents of the Deal
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
 
“Today I am gratified to say to my fellow Americans, our negotiating partners, and our allies around the world: This agreement will stand. America will uphold its commitment and we will seize this opportunity to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."
Sept. 8, 2015, in a speech
 
 
Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL)
 
"This Iran agreement is our opportunity to test diplomacy, and I invite Israel, our friends and allies in Israel, to join us in holding Iran to the letter of the law in this agreement.
—August 5, 2015, in a hearing

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
 
"It’s critical that we prevent Iran from developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon. This agreement is the only viable option to achieve that goal." 
—August 14, 2015 in a statement
 
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
 
 
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
 
 
Al Franken (D-MN)
 
"After careful review, I have decided that I will vote in support of the agreement the United States and our international partners reached with Iran last month."
—August 13, 2015, in a statement
 
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
 
“I’ve concluded that this is the best available option we have for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. When this agreement comes to the Senate floor in September, I intend to support it.”
—August 6, 2015, in a statement

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
 
“I will support this international agreement because it will best serve America’s national security interests and it is built on verification with a robust inspections and compliance regime that will cut off all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon.”
—August 7, 2015, in a statement
 

Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
 
“Our goal has been, and remains, to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We have far more ability to achieve that outcome if we approve this deal‎.”
—August 6, 2015, in a statement
 
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
 
 
Angus King (I-ME)
 
“I have concluded that the terms of this agreement are preferable to the alternatives and that it would be in the best interest of the United States to join our partners in approving it.”
—August 5, 2015, in a statement
 
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
 
“While the agreement is by no means perfect, I have concluded that it is our best available option to put the brakes on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon and that is why I will support it.”
—August 10, 2015, in a statement
 
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
 
"The hasty critics of this agreement are long on scorn but short on alternatives."
—August 5, 2015, in a statement
 
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
 
“I am optimistic this accord is in the best interest of our nation and our allies.”
—July 30, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
 
 
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
 
"Unless there is an unexpected change in the conditions and facts before the vote is called in September...I will support the nuclear agreement."
—August 4, 2015, according to the press
 
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
 
“If Iran moves toward a nuclear weapon, all available options remain on the table. I think it is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed. That is why I will support the agreement.
—August 7, 2015, in a statement
 
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
 
“Iran must never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, and that is why I support this agreement. This is the best possible way to deny Iran from acquiring the bomb.”
—August 10, 2015, in a statement
 
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
 
“Those who oppose this deal…have presented no realistic alternatives. Because I believe that this deal is our best available option, I support it.”
—August 4, 2015, according to the press
 
Tom Udall (D-NM)
 
“I urge my colleagues to support this agreement. We have a choice between this deal and no deal. I do not believe we will get another chance.”
—July 30, 2015, in a hearing
 
Jon Tester (D-MT)

Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

"This agreement is the best option to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon program."
—Aug. 17, 2015, in a statement

Jack Reed (D-RI)

“I support the JCPOA because it cuts off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and gives international inspectors unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and supply chains."
—Aug. 18, 2015, in a statement

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

"I’ve decided to support the P5+1 agreement with Iran, not because it assures anything on its own, but because -- with persistent watchfulness and effort -- it could open a new doorway in the precarious Middle East."
—Aug. 18, 2015, in a statement 

Ed Markey (D-MA)

“I have concluded that diplomacy remains our best tool to secure a nuclear-weapon-free Iran. That’s why I intend to support the Iran nuclear agreement when it comes before Congress in September.”
—Aug. 19, 2015, in a statement

Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

"Despite having questions about Iran’s intentions, I am willing to give this agreement the opportunity to succeed."
—Aug. 19, 2015, in a press release

Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

“I have become convinced that it is more dangerous to Israel, America and our allies to walk away [from this agreement] in the face of unified world wide support.”
—Aug. 20, 2015, in a statement

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

"I have determined that the imminent threat of Iran having a nuclear weapon outweighs any flaws I see in the international agreement. For this reason, I must support the agreement.”
—Aug. 24, 2015, in a statement
 
Patty Murray (D-WA)
 
 
Tom Carper (D-DE)
 
"Most Iranians want a better relationship with America and the world. They’re ready to take yes for an answer. We should, too. This is a good deal for America and our allies, including Israel, one of our closest allies. And, oh yes. It beats the likely alternative – war with Iran – hands down.”
—Aug. 28, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
 

"The agreement offers us better prospects for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and more tools and leverage to ensure that outcome.Therefore, when the Senate debates the Iran agreement after Labor Day, I will vote to support it."
—Aug. 30, 2015, in a statement

Bob Casey (D-PA)

"This agreement will substantially constrain the Iranian nuclear program for its duration, and compared with all realistic alternatives, it is the best option available to us at this time."
—Sept. 1, 2015, in a statement

Chris Coons (D-DE)

"We are better off trying diplomacy first."
—Sept. 1, 2015, in an interview with The Washington Post

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

“I have concluded that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb. For these reasons, I will vote in favor of this deal."
—Sept. 2, 2015, in a
statement

Cory Booker (D-NJ)

“We have now passed a point of no return...leaving our nation to choose between two imperfect, dangerous and uncertain options. Left with these two choices, I nonetheless believe it is better to support a deeply flawed deal, for the alternative is worse.”
—Sept. 3, 2015, in a statement

Mark Warner (D-VA)

“On balance, I have determined this international agreement is an improvement over the status quo."
—Sept. 3, 2015, in a statement

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

"It isn’t a perfect deal, but it is a good one. Americans deserve to see this deal through."
—Sept. 3, 2015, in a statement

Michael Bennet (D-CO)

"Our primary objectives are to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, make sure Israel is safe and, if possible, avoid another war in the Middle East. This agreement represents a flawed, but important step to accomplish those goals."
—Sept. 4, 2015, in a statement

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

"This agreement reflects the best path available now to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran using diplomacy, not other means."
—Sept. 8, 2015, in a press conference

Gary Peters (D-MI)

"(A) rejection of this agreement will damage the international credibility of the United States."
—Sept. 8, 2015, in a statement

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

"This vote will hardly be the end of the Senate’s consideration of Iranian malfeasance...With that in mind, I will vote to support the agreement."
—Sept. 8, 2015, in a statement

Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

"I have decided to support the agreement because this agreement pushes Iran further away from a nuclear weapons threshold."
—Sept. 8, 2015, in a statement

 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
 
"I think it's a terrible deal for America."
August 25, 2015, according to the press
 
Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX)
 
“This deal is getting worse with inspection and review."
July 24, 2015, in a statement
 
Democratic Policy Committee Chair Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
 
“I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change.”
—August 6, 2015, in a statement
 
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
 
"This is a close call, but after a lengthy review, I will vote to disapprove the deal."
—Sept. 4, 2015 in an op-ed
 
Bob Corker (R-TN)
 
"This deal...leaves the United States vulnerable to a resurgent Iran wealthier and more able to work its will in the Middle East. Congress should reject this deal and send it back to the president."
—August 17, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
 
"I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto."
—Aug. 18, 2015 in a speech
 
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
 
“If Congress doesn't stop this bad deal, the American people will be left with a nuclear Iran and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Congress can and should insist on a better deal.”
— July 20, 2015 in an op-ed
 
John McCain (R-AZ)
 
"We hope the American people realize this deal should be rejected and will weigh in to have their voice heard.”
— Aug. 5, 2015, in a statement
 
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
 
“In 10 years, in 12 years, when Iran has a nuclear weapon and we can’t target them, people are going to remember this vote that’s coming up and this deal as what laid the groundwork for it, and I keep hearing this notion that there is no other alternative and no other way forward, but I disagree.”
—July 30, 2015, in a hearing
 
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
 
 

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

“While I have supported the negotiations that led to the JCPOA from the beginning, I cannot vote in support of this deal."
—August 15, 2015, in a statement
 
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
 
“The president’s deal with Iran failed to meet the only standard that ensures the future safety of America and its allies, which is the complete dismantling of Iran’s capability to build a nuclear bomb.”
—July 14, 2015 in a statement
 
Tom Cotton (R-AR)
 
“No one understands the horrors of war more than a soldier who has fought one. That’s why I’m opposed to the President's deal.”

 

Thom Tillis (R-NC)

“The old American alliances are collapsing, and the only answer the Administration seems to have is a clear path to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
— July 22, 2015 in a floor statement
 
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
 
 
 
David Perdue (R-GA)
 
“This is a bad deal. It does not achieve what the President himself said he wanted, and that is to preclude Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
—August 7, 2015, according to the press
 
Rand Paul (R-KY)
 
 
Roy Blunt (R-MO)

“This deal undermines the security of our friends and allies and legitimizes Iran’s unapologetic sponsorship of terrorism throughout the Middle East.”
—July 14, 2015, in a statement
 
Jim Risch (R-ID)
 
“To be able to walk away from this and say that this is a good deal was ludicrous. With all due respect, you guys have been bamboozled, and the American people are going to pay for that.”
—July 23, 2015 in an exchange with Secretary of State John Kerry during a Senate hearing
 
Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
 
“I think there’s plenty of better alternatives to this. And, you know, there’s this idea that it’s this agreement or war, and I just simply don’t accept that.”
—July 29, 2015 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe
 
David Vitter (R-LA)
 
“This agreement is a really, really bad deal for America, for Israel, and for freedom.”
— July 14, 2015 in a statement
 
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
 
“I think this is a bad deal for the American people, it’s a bad deal for our allies in the Middle East, and it has bipartisan opposition.”
— Aug. 10, 2015 on 710 KNUS’s “Kelley and Company
 
Ben Sasse (R-NE)
 
 
John Hoeven (R-ND)
 
“I oppose the deal with Iran because it will not make our nation safer and does not prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the first and foremost requirement of any agreement.”
—Aug. 23, 2015, in an op-ed       
 
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
 
“The administration claims this deal makes the world a safer place, but I have grave doubts. As such, I will vote against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action when it comes before the Senate in September.”
—Aug. 21, 2015, in a statement

Pat Toomey (R-PA)
 
“I will actively support and vote for the Resolution of Disapproval to strike down the agreement.”
—Aug. 3, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
 
“When you’re dealing with somebody, you consider the past conduct of who you’re negotiating with … the people in charge of Iran have shown no indication that they’re trustworthy.”
—Aug. 18, 2015, according to the press
 
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
 
“Given Iran's track record, the deal fails to implement the tough and timely verification and inspections regime necessary to compel and confirm Tehran's compliance."
—Aug. 5, 2015, after a Senate hearing
 
Richard Burr (R-NC)
 
“I will not support this agreement and…I will continue my efforts to ensure that we fully understand Iran’s capabilities and intentions.”
—Aug. 5, 2015, in a statement
 
Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
 
"Relaxing the sanctions gives Iran the resources and ability to buy (long-range) missiles or secure technology to build them.”
—Aug. 12, 2015, in an interview
 
Dan Coats (R-IN)
 
“Congress should reject this bad deal.”
—July 30, 2015, in a statement
 
Steve Daines (R-MT)
 
“It is a mistake to not push for better deal that can be supported by more than just one segment of one political party.”
Aug. 18, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Joni Ernst (R-IA)
 
"I see this as a pathway to nuclear armament, not getting rid of it.”
July 30, 2015, according to the press
 
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
 
“This isn’t a good deal…and the administration has the support of Congress to work for a better deal.”
Aug. 12, 2015, according to the press
 
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
 
“If [Iran was] being hurt by sanctions, keep the sanctions on so you can get what you want. I’m not sure we had to give up anything.”
Aug. 21, 2015, according to the press
 
Tim Scott (R-SC)
 
 
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
 
“For the security of my country and my grandchildren, we should say ‘no’ to this Iran deal.”
Aug. 19, 2015, in a statement
 
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
 
“I just think this is a really bad deal.”
Aug. 26, 2015, according to the press
 
James Lankford (R-OK)
 
“There are aspects of the agreement that I think push us closer to war rather than further away from it.”
Aug. 15, 2015, according to the press
 
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
 
"I'm convinced more than ever the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration is damaging to our country's national security.”
July 30, 2015, according to the press
 
Rob Portman (R-AR)
 
“[The agreement] does not do what all of us want on a bipartisan basis.”
Aug. 6, 2015, according to the press
 
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
 
“The agreement takes the pressure off Iran at a time when pressure is likely to succeed.”
Aug. 31, 2015, according to the press
 
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
 
"The agreement concedes too much and secures too little."
July 28, 2015, in a statement
 
John Barrasso (R-WY)
 
"The president...should sit down with Congress and figure out a way to strike a better deal that actually meets the goals he set from the start."
—Sept. 3, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
 
"I cannot gamble our security, and that of our allies, on the hope that Iran will conduct themselves differently than it has for the last 36 years."
—Sept. 8, 2015, in a statement
 
Susan Collins (R-ME)
 
"The agreement is fundamentally flawed because it leaves Iran as capable of building a nuclear weapon at the expiration of the agreement as it is today.”
—Sept. 8, 2015, in a statement
 
John Boozman (R-AR)
 
“We shouldn’t be doing business with people that we don’t trust. (Iran) has lied and cheated in every deal they have been involved.”
—Aug. 27, 2015, according to the press
 
John Thune (R-SD)
 
"A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the United States, and an agreement that allows Iran to retain all the components necessary to build a nuclear bomb is not a good deal for America and should be rejected."
—July 24, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
 
"I don't support this treaty and I don't think it's going to work."
—Aug. 11, 2015, according to the press
 
Undeclared
 
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
 
 
 

Where the House Stands on Iran Deal

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

Supporters of the Deal
Opponents of the Deal
 
Leadership
 
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
 
 
Leadership
 
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

Iran’s Nuclear Chess: After the Deal

The following is the executive summary from a newly updated monograph by Robert Litwak, vice president for scholars at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former director for nonproliferation on the National Security Council staff in the first Clinton administration.

The nuclear agreement—the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA)—concluded on July 14, 2015, between the world’s major powers (the P5+1) and Iran is a deal, not a grand bargain. As a “deal,” the nuclear accord is transactional (addressing a discrete urgent national security challenge), not transformational (affecting the character of the Iranian regime).
 
The JCPOA permits Iran to retain a bounded nuclear program in return for assurances that it is not masquerading for a weapons program. That reaching this agreement required protracted negotiations and has generated such sharply divergent political reactions reflects the persisting nature of the debate over this proliferation challenge. In both Iran and America, the nuclear issue remains a proxy for a more fundamental question.
 
In Iran, the nuclear issue is a surrogate for the defining debate over the country’s future relationship with the outside world—whether, in former President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s words, the Islamic Republic is a “revolutionary state” or an “ordinary country.” The embedded, proxy status of the nuclear question within this broader political context is a key determinant of whether nuclear diplomacy can prove successful.
 
In America, Iran’s nuclear challenge—concern that a weapons program is posing as a civilian program—has also been a proxy for a more fundamental debate about the threat posed by “rogue states” in the post-9/11 era. The Obama administration dropped the Bush-era “rogue” moniker in favor of “outlier.” This shift reframed the Iranian nuclear issue—from a unilateral, American political concept, in which threat is linked to the character of “rogue” regimes, to a focus on Iranian behavior that contravenes international norms. Yet the tension between the competing objectives of regime change and behavior change continues to roil the U.S. policy debate.
 
President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatic centrist, campaigned on a platform of resolving the nuclear issue to end the country’s isolation and the punishing international sanctions that have weakened the economy. While acquiescing to Rouhani’s revitalized nuclear diplomacy in the wake of his June 2013 electoral mandate, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, remained the final arbiter of any prospective agreement. His decision, based on a strategic calculus that has regime stability as its paramount objective, hinged on his management of the unresolved tension in Iran’s competing identities—revolutionary state/ordinary country. In short, Khamenei’s dilemma was whether the political costs of an agreement—alienating hardline interest groups, especially the Revolutionary Guard, upon which the regime’s survival depends—outweigh its economic benefits.
 
The dilemma of the Iranian nuclear challenge is that Iran has mastered uranium enrichment: centrifuges that spin to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) for nuclear power reactors can keep spinning to yield highly enriched uranium (HEU) for bombs. Since nuclear diplomacy with Iran is focused on bounding, not eliminating, Iran’s uranium enrichment program, the regime will retain the option—a hedge—for a nuclear weapon. A U.S. prerequisite for any comprehensive nuclear agreement was that this “breakout” period for converting a latent capability into a weapon should be long enough (12 months) for the United States to have sufficient strategic warning to mobilize an international response.
 
Iran’s nuclear program is determined and incremental, but is not a crash program to acquire a weapon in the face of an existential threat. From a national security perspective, a nuclear hedge is Iran’s strategic sweet spot—maintaining the potential for a nuclear option, while avoiding the regional and international costs of actual weaponization. A hedge strategy that keeps the nuclear option open is not incompatible with a nuclear agreement that would bring the tangible benefits of sanctions relief.
 
President Obama has argued that “the pressure of crippling sanctions…grinding the Iranian economy to a halt” presents the Tehran regime with the opportunity to make a “strategic calculation” to defer a decision to weaponize. Sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and crucially affected the Supreme Leader’s decision to accept a comprehensive agreement that meaningfully bounds Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
 
The “better deal” advocated by JCPOA critics would aim to dismantle large parts of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and significantly extend the constraints on Iran’s access to fissile material beyond the current 10-15 year period. Critics argue that if tough sanctions brought Iran to the table, still tougher sanctions pursued longer could have compelled (and still could compel) Iran to make such major concessions. Supporters reject the notion that increased coercive economic pressure on Iran could be mounted to extract better terms should the United States seek a return to the negotiating table. In the words of a British diplomat, multilateral sanctions had already passed “their high water mark” and would be difficult to sustain in the event of a diplomatic impasse or breakdown.
 
A breakdown in diplomacy should the JCPOA not be implemented would not inherently push Iran into a nuclear breakout. Iran has no immediate national security imperative to acquire nuclear weapons. President Obama has declared that the U.S. objective is “to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” By drawing this red line—preventing weaponization—the president has signaled that the United States would not undertake preventive military action to deny Iran any nuclear hedge option.
 
That Obama’s “red line” on weaponization pushes off a decision on the use of force is a reflection of how unattractive the option would be. That openly debated option “on the table”—what would be the most telegraphed punch in history—runs up against major liabilities: it would delay, not end, the program; could escalate into a U.S.-Iranian war; carries a significant risk of collateral damage to the environment and civilian population; and could well generate a nationalist backlash within Iran with the perverse consequence of bolstering the clerical regime.
 
The challenge of determining whether Iran has crossed the “red line” of weaponization is compounded by the Tehran regime’s hedge strategy, which cultivates ambiguity about its nuclear capabilities and intentions. Iran has made progress along the technological continuum toward weaponization but is unlikely to make a dramatic move—such as conducting a nuclear test or withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—that would openly cross the red line of weaponization.
 
The disavowal of “containment” is a reflection of the meaning the term has taken on in the contemporary U.S. debate—that is, acquiescing to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and then deterring their use through the retaliatory threat of U.S. nuclear weapons. That connotation is an unfortunate departure from George Kennan’s concept of containment—keeping regimes in check until they collapsed of their own internal weakness. An updated version of Kennan’s strategy for Iran would decouple the nuclear issue from the question of regime change and rely on internal forces as the agent of societal change.
 
The nuclear accord with Iran is transactional, but is embedded in the broader issue of the Islamic Republic’s societal evolution. The dilemma is that these critical timelines are not in sync—the nuclear challenge is immediate, while the prospects for societal change are indeterminate. Amidst that uncertainty, U.S. policymakers must make a judgment about how best to manage risks—and reasonable people can disagree. Obama and Khamenei are each making a tacit bet. Obama is defending the deal in transactional terms (that it addresses a discrete urgent challenge), but betting that it will empower Iran’s moderate faction and put the country on a more favorable societal trajectory. Khamenei is making the opposite bet—that the regime can benefit from the transactional nature of the agreement (sanctions relief) and forestall the deal’s potentially transformational implications to preserve Iran’s revolutionary deep state. For Obama, the tacit transformational potential of this transactional deal is a hope; for Khamenei, it is a fear.
 
Click here for the full text.
 

Europe Reaches Out to Iran

After the final nuclear deal was announced on July 14, European officials began reaching out to Iran with several high-profile phone calls and visits. The following is a rundown of European outreach since the deal.

Austria
 
Austrian President Heinz Fischer visited Tehran from September 7 to 9, accompanied by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, and Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner. Fischer said that he expected bilateral trade between Austria and Iran to reach $335 million in 2015.
 
Fischer met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani during his visit. Khamenei praised Austria for not complying with "the United States' hostile policies towards Iran."
 
Fischer had spoken to Rouhani by phone on July 15, following the announcement of the final nuclear deal. Rouhani said the deal “will lay the groundwork for the expansion of ties between Tehran and Vienna.”
 
 

Spain

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo met with Iranian officials in Tehran from September 7 to 9. He was accompanied by Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister Jose Manuel Soria, Public Works and Transport Minister Ana Maria Pastor Julian, and a delegation of business officials.

Following a meeting with Soria, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said the two countries discussed the possibility of exporting crude oil and natural gas to Spain. Additionally, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Garcia-Margallo, and said that Iran and Spain "agreed to negotiate about human rights and refugee issues.”

 

United Kingdom

On August 23, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Tehran to reopen the British Embassy, which had been closed since 2011. The Iranian embassy in London was reopened the same day. In a joint press conference with Hammond, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and Britain had “entered a new phase of relations based on mutual respect.”
 
Hammond was the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Iran in 12 years. He met with Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, and other officials during his visit. Hammond was accompanied by a group of British business leaders hoping to reestablish ties in Iran.
 
 
British Prime Minister David Cameron had called Rouhani to congratulate him on the nuclear deal on July 16. "You (President Rouhani) had a very constructive role in striking this final deal," he said. During the conversation, Rouhani added that “I think there exists the necessary potential to rebuild relations between Iran and Britain.”
 
The British government also relaxed its travel warnings for Iran shortly after the deal was announced. “The risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani's Government,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on July 25.
 

European Union

 
On July 28, E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrived in Tehran for a one-day visit with senior Iranian officials. She was accompanied by deputy E.U. foreign policy chief Helga Schmid. Mogherini said the nuclear deal “has the capacity to pave the ground for wider cooperation between Iran and the West.”
 
After meeting with Mogherini, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and the European Union had agreed to hold talks “over different issues, including energy cooperation…human rights, confronting terrorism, and regional issues.”
 
 
Mogherini’s visit coincided with her op-ed in The Guardian, in which she argued that cooperation between Iran and the West could help defeat ISIS. The following is an excerpt.
 
“The Vienna deal tells us that we all have much to earn if we choose cooperation over confrontation. Making the most out of this opportunity is entirely up to us. But nothing good will happen if we do not work hard for it. We Europeans have a long tradition of cultural and economic relationship with Iran. Before sanctions began in 2005, cooperation between our parts of the world spanned many areas, from energy to trade. But our shared interests go well beyond the economy.
 
“Last week Europe’s foreign ministers tasked me with exploring “ways in which the EU could actively promote a more cooperative regional framework” in the wake of the Vienna deal. Isis (also known as Da’esh) is spreading its vicious and apocalyptic ideology in the Middle East and beyond. There is nothing more worrisome to Isis than cooperation between “the west” and the Muslim world, for it defies the narrative of a clash of civilisations the group is trying to revive. An alliance of civilisations can be our most powerful weapon in the fight against terror.”
—July 28, 2015, in an op-ed published by The Guardian
 
France
 
On July 23, French President Francois Hollande and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed increasing bilateral cooperation in a phone conversation. A statement released by Hollande’s office “expressed the wish for Iran to contribute positively to the resolution of crises in the Middle East.” Hollande also emphasized increasing tourism between the two countries, since it "can play a major role in advancement of cooperation between Iran and France."
 
 
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius visited Tehran on July 29, meeting with Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, and other senior officials. He also extended an invitation for President Hassan Rouhani to visit President Hollande in France in November. "Things will, we hope, be able to change," Fabius said during his visit.
 
 
Germany
 
On July 20, German vice chancellor and economics minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Iran for a three-day visit, hoping to resume “economic contacts with Iran, which were traditionally good.” He was the first high-ranking Western official to visit Iran since the final nuclear deal was announced on July 14.
 
Gabriel also emphasized the need to cooperate with Iran on issues like human rights and its relationship with Israel. "You can't have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don't discuss such issues too and try to move them along,” he said.
 
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced on August 24 that he planned to visit Iran in October.

 

 

Italy
 
On August 4, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi arrived in Iran for a two-day visit, accompanied by Italian businessmen and economic activists. They met with Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh and other officials. Italy, which used to be one of Iran’s major trade partners, has been trying to revive economic ties with Iran. During the visit, investment back Mediobanca, Italy’s development ministry, and export credit agency SACE signed a memorandum of understanding “to facilitate future economic and commercial relations between the two countries.”
 
 
Switzerland
 
Swiss Deputy Foreign Minister Yves Rossier arrived in Tehran on July 21 for a four-day trip to meet with Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and Rouhani’s chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian. “Iran welcomes the expansion of economic and banking relations with Switzerland,” Nahavandian said.
 
On August 12, Switzerland became the first nation to lift sanctions on Iran after the nuclear deal was announced.
 
Serbia
 
Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic arrived in Tehran on August 3 for a three-day visit. Dacic held a series of meetings with senior Iranian officials and explored opportunities for greater economic cooperation with Iran. Zarif welcomed a proposal by Dacic to hold the 14th Iran-Serbia Joint Economic Committee, adding that an Iranian delegation would visit Belgrade in the future.
 
 
 

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