Scott Announces Support for Iran Nuclear Agreement

September 3, 2015
Press Release

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) issued the following statement announcing his support for the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear agreement:

“This month, Congress will be voting on a resolution of disapproval of the Iran nuclear agreement, which, if enacted, would deny the President the authority to waive certain sanctions against Iran.  After careful deliberation, I have decided to support the Iran nuclear agreement and will vote against a resolution of disapproval.

“This agreement took years of careful negotiations between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.  It has been heralded as an unprecedented, landmark agreement for nuclear non-proliferation and was immediately endorsed by a unanimous vote of the United Nations Security Council. 

“Opponents of the agreement have suggested that if Congress blocks it, we will be able to go back to the negotiation table to get a better deal.  This idea has been summarily dismissed by our negotiating partners.  British Ambassador Peter Westmacott has called such a scenario ‘far-fetched.’  Philipp Ackermann, Germany’s Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States, has said the ‘option of getting back to the negotiating table is close to zero,’ and ‘it would be a nightmare for every European country if this is rejected.’

“Furthermore, in the unlikely event that we are able to go back and negotiate a new agreement, it would be doubtful that a new agreement would be materially different from the agreement before us now and could even be worse.  Considering the position of our international partners, it could take months to bring them back to the negotiating table.  During that time, Iran would have the opportunity to ramp up its efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, which would put it in an even stronger position to re-negotiate a more favorable deal for itself. 

“If the deal is blocked, opponents have also suggested that international sanctions will continue.  However, that notion has also been rejected by our international partners.  British Ambassador Westmacott has said that sanctions have already reached ‘the high-water mark’ and are likely to erode if this agreement fails.  German Ambassador Peter Wittig has likewise stated ‘if diplomacy fails, then the sanctions regime might unravel.’  And Foreign Policy magazine reported that the Russians have also indicated international sanctions are likely to fall apart if Congress blocks the agreement.

“Without international sanctions, U.S. sanctions alone will be ineffective to prevent the release of Iranian funds because most of those funds are actually held in foreign banks.  We will not be able to coerce our international partners to re-impose sanctions if Congress blocks this agreement.  China, for example, holds trillions of dollars in U.S. securities, so the idea that we can intimidate their banks is dubious.

“So if Congress blocks this agreement, we will not have a better deal, Iran will get sanctions relief, and its nuclear program can continue without the restrictions and inspections required under this agreement.

“Insofar as a better deal is not a realistic possibility, I have spent the last several weeks attending classified briefings, reviewing reports from nuclear and non-proliferation experts, and reading the agreement myself.  During that time, I have focused not on what should have or could have been in this agreement, but rather on how the agreement compares to where we would be with no agreement at all. 

“Without this agreement, Iran will be only weeks or a few months away from having enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon.  The inspections regime that was in effect before these negotiations began will return, denying the international community effective access into Iran’s nuclear sites and the opportunity to uncover clandestine weapons activities.  These ineffective inspections allowed Iran to develop more advanced nuclear technologies, build and install thousands of new centrifuges, and enrich uranium to levels near weapons-grade – putting it at the threshold of having a nuclear weapon.

“And without this agreement, the only viable alternative to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon will be military action – without the support of the international community.  However, even military action has its limitations.  Without effective inspections, which the agreement would provide, we will not have the best intelligence on what sites to target.  And any benefit of targeted military action would be short lived.  Unless we invade and occupy Iran indefinitely, it is likely that military action would only increase Iran’s resolve to defy the international community and develop a nuclear weapon.  Furthermore, there is no evidence that our nation has the political will to unilaterally begin another prolonged war in the Middle East without international support. 

“So where does that leave us if Congress blocks this agreement?  It is unlikely that any of the P5+1 nations will return to the negotiating table any time soon, and if negotiations did begin, those nations would not take our diplomats seriously, because they would reasonably believe that any new deal would be just as likely to be rejected by Congress as this one.  International sanctions against Iran will fall apart.  Iran will be on a faster track towards developing a nuclear weapon.  And the United States loses any moral authority we had to advance diplomatic solutions to confront future challenges elsewhere in the world.

“Compared to the consequences of no agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action does offer a better strategy to prevent Iran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon during the term of the agreement and beyond.

“The agreement establishes long-term and verifiable restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and enhances the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ability to monitor and independently verify Iran’s compliance.  Under the agreement, Iran must alter its Arak heavy water reactor facility, so that no weapons-grade plutonium can be produced.  Iran will be required to reduce its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium.  Iran will also be limited in the number and type of centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium and must refrain from enriching uranium beyond a certain point for at least 15 years.  The agreement also severely restricts Iran’s ability to conduct research and development on more advanced nuclear technologies.    

“To ensure compliance by Iran, the agreement puts in place a strong monitoring and inspections program that covers every aspect of the supply chain from mining and milling to conversion and enrichment to fuel manufacturing, maintaining nuclear reactors, and handling spent fuel to allow international inspectors the ability to catch any suspicious activity.

“Critics of the agreement’s inspections provisions contend that Iran will have an opportunity to conceal its weapons activities.  There is, however, a clear consensus amongst nuclear physicists and non-proliferation experts that this agreement includes sufficiently robust technical inspection and verification provisions to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and to make it extremely difficult for Iran to hide unauthorized activities.

“If the agreement is unsuccessful, the agreement preserves international sanctions by providing mechanisms for them to ‘snap back’ into place should Iran substantially violate the agreement.  And keep in mind that sanctions are more likely to actually snap back with this agreement than without it.

“Finally, if the agreement fails to achieve its goals, we will still have all the options currently available if the agreement is rejected, including military action, but with the important difference that we would have the support of the international community.

“A nuclear-armed Iran would be detrimental to the security of our allies in the region, and negotiators set out to reach an agreement that would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon over the next decade or longer.  After careful deliberation, I am convinced that we are much more likely to achieve that goal with this agreement than we would with no agreement at all.”

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