Congressman Sherman Statement on Iran Nuclear Deal
Washington DC - Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), the second ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee issued the following statement. In his first year in office (1997), Sherman identified Iran as the chief threat to American national security and he has been involved in every Congressional effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program for the last 18 years:
No Iranian Official has publicly agreed to the President’s description of the Framework Agreement [Read Framework]. Foreign Minister Zarif criticized the United States for issuing the Framework document [Read Here] and has said it is inaccurate in at least one respect [Read Here]. If Zarif can not publicly present the four page description of the Agreement to the Iranian people and elites, how will he gain approval for perhaps a thousand pages of agreement text and annexes that will be needed for a comprehensive agreement by June 30? Are the contents of the Framework Agreement something both parties have agreed to, or is the document merely for Congressional pacification?
Negotiations may be on track to create a “Temporary Tolerable” Agreement by June 30. Congressional inaction may be our best policy. Even critics of the Framework tacitly admit that it will at least prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon before January 2017, if it results in a final agreement that is adhered to by Iran. Such an agreement would give us some time, and Congressional inaction now leaves all options on the table for a future President or Congress. Of course, Congress will hold hearings and demand answers regarding the ambiguities in the Framework, and to demand that a final accord be as strong as possible. If Congress does not enact a statute now, we allow this and future Congresses and Presidents to abide by, or renounce, any comprehensive agreement.
Also, in the event a final agreement is not working as it should to prevent Iran’s nuclear ambitions in 2017 or beyond, a future Congress or President could renounce it, or threaten to revive and strengthen sanctions, or even threaten to take military action, unless Iran agrees to additional limitations and more intrusive inspections. A future President could also insist that limitations and inspection regimes be continued long after their agreed expiration dates.
This President can periodically waive U.S. sanctions, as can the next President, in order to implement an agreement over the next several years. In fact, the negotiators did not envision any action by Congress – they expect President Obama to veto any new sanctions.
Congressional decisions after the June 30 Agreement: As to the substance of a final accord, there are a host of ambiguities in the Framework which must be resolved specifically and favorably:
Enrichment. The Agreement provides specific limits on 3.67% LEU. We do not know yet if these limits would just apply to LEU stored in gas form, and therefore whether Iran will be able to retain LEU in oxide form. What will happen to Iran’s remaining 20% enriched uranium? The framework Agreement does not seem to specify any limits on mining and milling uranium, yellowcake, or on the amounts that may be converted to uranium hexafluoride. Large stockpiles of these precursors may not shorten the time to Iran’s first bomb, but could help pave the way to bombs 2 through 20.
Inspections. The Agreement says “Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites.” On this, we will need immediate access. In 2007, the MEK revealed credible evidence of undeclared nuclear activity at Fordow, and Iran was in fact secretly pursuing its nuclear program there. However, the IAEA was not given access to Fordow until 2009.
“Our Middle East allies have not been so angered by the Agreement that they have announced actions unacceptable to the Administration. In response to the agreement, Israel has not threatened military action. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have not announced plans for massive new nuclear efforts. The final Agreement must be sufficiently strong to cause Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to abstain from moving toward a nuclear weapon. Preventing a breakdown of the Non Proliferation Treaty is a major objective of the Agreement.”