Congress need not endorse Iran deal
On coming to Congress in 1997, I said on the House floor that Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons represented the “greatest threat to the physical security of Americans.” I’ve been working to stop that threat for 19 years.
The Iran deal includes the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In the first year, we get the good with the bad. Whether one outweighs the other is a matter for conjecture, but in any case, this deal will be implemented for the next year; we will get the good with the bad. The deal gets ugly during the next decade — and we need to do everything to be in a position to modify the deal before it gets ugly.
First the Good: Iran gives up 97 percent of the low-enriched uranium stockpile, and two-thirds of its centrifuges. Iran has also agreed to modify a nuclear reactor located at Arak so that it cannot produce significant quantities of plutonium, the other fuel used in nuclear bombs.
Now the Bad: Iran is getting at least $56 billion of its own money unfrozen and available for expenditure. Shortly after implementation, Iran will be allowed to export every drop of oil it can get out of the ground. Even at todayFs low oil prices, this will mean another windfall measured in the tens of billions.
How will Iran use the money? Development, graft and terrorism. Iran will buy social peace by spending on its own people. Billions will evaporate because of graft and corruption. Finally, Iran will support Syria’s Bashar Assad regime, Hamas, the Houthis, Hezbollah and terrorism around the world. Remember this regime helped militants in Iraq and Afghanistan kill hundreds of American troops.
The Ugly occurs when the 10- and 15-year restrictions end. Iran can then have as many centrifuges as it wants. It can build plutonium-producing reactors and the facilities needed to extract the plutonium in the spent fuel (do not be fooled by the language that Iran “never intends” to build such facilities — it is not a meaningful commitment). Even President Barack Obama admitted in an NPR interview that IranTs breakout time will be reduced to near zero.
So we’ve discussed the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Now, the mediocre: the inspection regime. Proponents tell you, we get 24/7 inspection. Yes, but only at the “declared sites” — at which Iran has announced it’s conducting nuclear activities. If we have a rumor that Iran is violating the deal at a particular “undeclared site,” it’s a 24-day process. Much of the research the deal is designed to prohibit does not involve uranium and would be impossible to detect after 24 days.
What should one Congressmember do?
The media ask, “Sherman, is it a good deal? Is it a bad deal? What grade do you give the president? Could somebody else have gotten a better deal?” These are questions for historians. We don’t vote in Congress on what grade to give the president.
The real question is: What should Sherman do within Congress, knowing that Congress will not override a presidential veto?
The president has the votes to implement the deal during the next year and a half. So we’re going to get the Good and the Bad. My objective is to prevent the Ugly. In future years, American presidents must demand that this deal be modified. I’m not saying the deal must be vilified or shredded, but we do need to extend its safeguards. After all, Iran expects sanctions relief to continue. Well, how about requiring that the inspections and nuclear limitations continue as well?
One of the impediments is a belief among the American people: The president signed the deal; Congress voted on the deal; we have no right to change the deal unless we can prove that Iran is cheating on the deal. (My expectation is that Iran will at least appear to be in compliance.)
My job is to do all I can to prevent Americans from believing that this deal is morally binding on future administrations. A substantial bipartisan vote against the deal will not tie this president’s hands, and it will give the future presidents the greatest possible freedom of action.
As we focus on Iran’s nuclear program, we cannot ignore Iran’s support for the brutally murderous regime in Syria that is killing thousands of people every month. Nor can we ignore Iran’s support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and the Houthi rebels. Nor can we forget about the four American hostages Iran is holding. No matter what the status of the nuclear agreement, Congress must adopt sanctions designed to force Iran to change its “non-nuclear” behavior — to stop supporting Assad and terrorist groups, and to free the American hostages. Next month I will introduce legislation to impose sanctions on Iran designed to change its non-nuclear behavior.
Under the deal, it is clear that Congress can impose additional sanctions designed to change Iran’s behavior in areas other than nuclear research. The bill I submit will not use a feigned concern for Iran’s non-nuclear activities to simply re-enact the old sanctions abated under the nuclear deal. Rather, it will contain new sanctions and be targeted to specific non-nuclear behavior.
I look forward to working in the months to come to force Iran to release our hostages and stop support for terrorists. And I look forward to working in the years to come to force changes in this deal — before it gets ugly.
To read Congressman Sherman’s detailed speech on the Iran Nuclear Agreement delivered at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino CLICK HERE