September 10, 2015

In Support of the Iran Nuclear Agreement

As Submitted to the Congressional Record

Congress presently has the heavy responsibility to conduct a thorough and rigorous review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.  After numerous briefings from officials involved in the negotiations, consultation with scientific and diplomatic experts, meetings with Rhode Islanders, and a great deal of personal reflection, I have decided to support the plan.  I do so because it blocks the pathways through which Iran could pursue a nuclear weapon, establishes unprecedented inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and other sites of concern to the international community, and preserves our ability to respond militarily if necessary.  The agreement also ensures the international sanctions regime against Iran can snap back into place if the Iranian government reneges on its commitments. 

This agreement, reached by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia, and Iran, establishes strict and comprehensive monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify compliance and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  The agreement does not take any options off the table for President Obama, or for future presidents.  It ensures no sanctions relief will be provided unless the Iranian government undertakes a series of significant steps to satisfy IAEA requirements. 

This agreement is the product of a joint effort among six sovereign countries, which working together have more force and effect than separated.  I am encouraged that the other countries party to this agreement have committed to enforce this agreement and to ramp up enforcement of other international agreements against Iran’s terror activities.  I have also heard their warnings that if we walk away from this agreement before even giving it a try, the prospect of further multilateral negotiations yielding any better result is “far-fetched.”  Joining with other world powers in this important effort bears a price in the United States’ ability to negotiate unilaterally.  That should be a surprise to no one.  Critics of this agreement fail to acknowledge the leverage and strength behind a unified, international effort to block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and no one has offered a credible alternative that would lead to a nuclear weapons-free Iran. 

This hard-fought bargain is the product of the canny determination of Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary and nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and of many months of hard work on the part of many dedicated American officials.  It is also a testament to President Obama’s steadfast resolve to reach a diplomatic solution to one of the most pressing security challenges of our time. 

As more than 100 former American ambassadors emphasized in their letter to the President endorsing the agreement, “the most effective way to protect U.S. national security, and that of our allies and friends, is to ensure that tough-minded diplomacy has a chance to succeed before considering other more costly and risky alternatives.”

This agreement is also supported by more than two dozen leading American scientists, who found the deal to be “technically sound, stringent, and innovative” in its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and its monitoring and verification of Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

By eliminating Iran’s ability to gain a nuclear weapons capability for at least a decade, the deal allows the U.S. and the international community to focus needed energy and resources on other critical challenges Iran poses to the region, such as its support for Hezbollah and Syrian president Bashir Assad, as well as its human rights abuses. 

Bilateral cooperation between the United States and Israel will be as important as ever as we go forward.  This should include tangible demonstrations of support for Israel through deepened military and intelligence cooperation.  President Obama has already declared his intention to provide “unprecedented” levels of military financing and equipment to Israel, on top of the record support already in place.  

As Former Israeli Deputy National Security Advisor Chuck Freilich has said, “The agreement, a painful compromise, not the one the U.S. or anyone else wanted, but the one it was able to negotiate, serves Israel’s security.”  This conclusion is echoed in the words of officials from our Gulf Cooperation Council partners, like Qatar’s foreign minister Khalid al-Attiyah, who said “This was the best option among other options,” and “we are confident that what they [the negotiators] undertook makes this region safer and more stable.” 

I appreciate the thoughtful input of the many Rhode Islanders with whom I met and who have reached out to me on with opinions on both sides of this issue.  It is, of course, a hallmark of our great democracy that we can openly and civilly debate these important questions.  So too, I believe that through international engagement we can encourage a freer and more liberal society to emerge from the grip of the ayatollahs.  That, with strong multilateral efforts to contain Iran’s continuing mischief in the surrounding Middle East, provides the prospect of this becoming an historic turning point.