Senate Majority Leader Lays Out Extensive Case Against Iran Nuclear Deal
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday regarding the President’s deal with Iran:
“Before the Senate is a resolution that would disapprove of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed to by the United States, China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“I’ve long said that the Senate should assess this deal by employing a simple standard: Will it further or harm the national security interests of the United States and her allies?
“By that measure, I believe Senators must vote to disapprove of the deal.
Related coverageSeptember 19, 2016 6:24 am
“I wish that weren’t the case.
“But it’s a predictable outcome when you consider the mindset with which the administration appeared to approach these negotiations.
“The President’s overall foreign policy has long been guided by policies and desires to withdraw forward-deployed conventional military power from operational theaters, to reduce America’s commitments and capabilities, and to rely upon international organizations to uphold international order.
“That’s the type of mindset that guided the Administration’s negotiations on this deal, and it’s resulted in a flawed deal that a majority of Congress and a broad swathe of the American people now seem poised to reject.
“The American people were led to believe that negotiations with Iran would be about ending its nuclear program. But that’s not what the deal before us would do.
“Instead, the president’s deal would bestow international recognition upon Iran’s nuclear program by the most powerful nations on Earth. There’s no question that Iran’s nuclear program is designed to develop a nuclear weapon, not peaceful nuclear energy.
“And yet, the president’s deal would leave Iran as a nuclear-threshold state, forever on the edge of developing a nuclear weapon. It would allow Iran to maintain thousands of centrifuges— 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges in Fordow, and 5,060 centrifuges at Natanz — as well as an advanced research and development program.
“The president’s deal with Iran will also give the regime access to billions of dollars.
“The president himself has acknowledged that at least some of that cash windfall is likely to be used to support terrorism.
“It’s already clear that Iran is meddling in Bahrain, in Yemen, in Lebanon, and in Afghanistan, and the president’s deal will only strengthen terrorist proxies like Hezbollah, the Houthi insurgents in Yemen, and the Assad regime in Syria.
“Iran is working to prop up and protect Assad’s regime in Damascus, and it’s working with Shia militias in Iraq to expand its influence further — just as Iran once supplied Iraq’s Shia militias with the weapons to maim and kill our soldiers and Marines.
“Iran has a long history of employing terrorism as a tool for defending the regime. Not just against its neighbors, not just against Israel, but also against Americans.
“On September 20, 1984, with support and direction from Iran, the Shi’a militants of Hezbollah carried out a suicide car bombing against the American embassy in Beirut.
“Two-dozen people died that day: among them, Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Welch of the U.S. Army.
“His son, Brian, has lived with that loss ever since.
“He’s here in Washington with us today.
“I ask my colleagues: How could we support a deal that would not only strengthen terrorist groups like Hezbollah, but would also effectively subsidize the activities of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, a group that’s been accused of helping Shi’ite militias attack and kill American soldiers in Iraq?
“The $100 billion Iran is expected to reap from this deal is also certain to be invested in Iran’s war economy for defense of the regime, and will undoubtedly strengthen the hand of the Revolutionary Guards.
“The Council on Foreign Relations has referred to the group as the regime’s ‘money machine’ because of its varied business interests within Iran. As the Council noted in a 2013 backgrounder, the Guards were estimated to have ties to more than 100 companies controlling about $12 billion in construction and engineering capital, and one of its fellows, Ray Takeyh, has linked the group to ‘university laboratories, weapons manufacturers, and companies connected to nuclear technology.’
“The administration has attempted to make light of the benefits to Iran’s economy, military, and terrorist arms from the lifting of sanctions.
“Secretary Kerry observed that $100 billion is ‘nothing compared to what gets spent’ in the region.
“‘Iran’s military budget is $15 billion,’ he said, while ‘the Gulf states’ military budget is $130 billion.’
“But what is lost on Secretary Kerry is the fact that Iran and its proxies have pursued asymmetric capabilities against the United States, not to mention Israel and our moderate Sunni allies.
“Iran has carefully studied the tactics and capabilities brought to bear by our forces in Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and other campaigns. And because it has, the regime has decided to invest in anti-access and area-denial capabilities, cyber warfare-capabilities, espionage, and other means to avoid fighting directly against our strengths.
“The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, in an assessment of the nuclear deal with Iran, expanded on the point:
“Iran has acquired and developed various capabilities to execute this asymmetric strategy, including anti access/area denial…it possesses the region’s largest arsenal of short and medium ballistic missiles, as well as a growing arsenal of cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, to target military and energy installations throughout the Gulf, including U.S. ships. It also has a sizable fleet of fast attack craft, submarines and large numbers of torpedoes and naval mines for choking off Hormuz and attacking aforementioned targets. The S-300 air defense systems could stymie U.S. air operations around the Gulf, in addition to complicating any strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“There’s another worrying aspect of the cash windfall from this deal too.
“It will also serve to advance Tehran’s efforts to divide the United States from the very allies who helped us bring Iran to the table in the first place.
“As Iranian trade expands with the other P5+1 countries, they will grow ever more reluctant to hold Iran accountable for the inevitable violations of the deal.
“We need not have ended up here.
“The president had the opportunity to declare a firm policy to end Iran’s nuclear program, and to enact additional sanctions while Iran’s war economy was ailing.
“But that’s not what he did.
“Instead, the Administration attempted to rely on the ambiguity of its military policy by claiming at every stage that it sought to keep ‘all options on the table.’
“But that was never a policy, it was a talking point.
“A talking point was not going to deter Iran.
“As I alluded in a speech delivered at AIPAC a few years ago, the only way the administration was going to be able to persuade Iran to cease its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and to dismantle its enrichment capability if it was prepared to make the Supreme Leader of Iran believe that the survival of his regime was at stake.
“In other words, the only way the Iranian regime could have been expected to negotiate to preserve its own survival — rather than simply delay as a means to pursue nuclear weapons — is if the administration had imposed the strictest sanctions while concurrently enforcing a firm declaratory policy that reflected a commitment to a potential use of force, if that became necessary.
“But the administration chose to pursue negotiations and sanctions consecutively rather than simultaneously, as it also failed to articulate a clear consequence for the crossing of red lines.
“Thus, while the president had an opportunity to exercise political leadership and work with the Congress to craft a stronger policy toward Iran that would have better served our national security, he chose the path of concessions instead.
“And indeed, the administration allowed for a series of concessions throughout the negotiations.
“Rather than anytime/anywhere inspections, the deal creates a process within which Iran can delay inspections for at least 24 days.
“Rather than dismantle Iran’s enrichment capability, some centrifuges will be put in storage, enrichment will continue, and research and development will go on — all legitimized by the president’s deal.
“At the end of the 10 and 15 year milestones, Iran’s breakout time will be reduced to nearly zero.
“Concessions were made on the conventional weapons ban and ballistic missile technology embargo too.
“And, despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in 2011 that ‘Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device,’ the administration made further concessions regarding the Possible Military dimensions of Iran’s program.
“Assessing this deal strategically, it can only be understood as part of a broader strategy to concede a larger sphere of influence to the Iranian regime while weakening our commitment to our moderate Sunni allies and Israel.
“That’s fitting with the overall administration view of reducing America’s overseas commitments, its reliance upon international organizations, and its seeming determination to withdraw our forward deployed presence.
“But in terms of our traditional strategy, it makes no sense, as Iran’s capability and power will be stronger in every regard.
“Writing in The Wall Street Journal in April, two former secretaries of state noted that Iran’s representatives remain committed to a revolutionary, anti-Western concept of the international order. They observed that:
Absent any linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony. They will increasingly look to create their own nuclear balances and, if necessary, call in other powers to sustain their integrity.
Does America still hope to arrest the region’s trend toward sectarian upheaval, state collapse and the disequilibrium of power tilting toward Tehran, or do we now accept this as an irremediable aspect of the regional balance?
“Regrettably, it appears that the administration’s has traded the appearance of nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony.
“The president famously suggested that if countries like Iran were willing to unclench their fist, they’d find an extended hand.
“From that hand the Iranians took concession after concession.
On enrichment, on U.N. Security Council resolutions, on centrifuges, on missiles, on the conventional arms embargo, and on sanctions.
“Under the president’s deal with Iran, nearly every aspect of Iran’s national power will be strengthened: economic power, diplomatic power, espionage power, conventional-warfare power, and the power Iran derives from supporting proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, and the Assad regime.
“When supporters of this flawed deal ask ‘What is the alternative?,’ there is a simple answer: Political leadership. It is the next president and the next Congress that will have to deal with the consequences of this deal, and if we are united in ending Iran’s nuclear program we can make clear to the Iranians that their weapons program is unacceptable.
“Remember: It was the sanctions enacted by Congress — against the objections of President Obama — that caused sufficient concern within the regime to compel the supreme leader to allow negotiations in the first place.
“That’s why, throughout the previous Congress and the beginning of this Congress, I attempted to pass additional sanctions and made a commitment to a strong declaratory policy against Iran — an idea some of our colleagues may now deem necessary to pursue through legislation given the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran.
“But the Congress alone cannot provide presidential leadership.
“It can provide for the defense capabilities required to contain and combat threats like Iran. It can reassure regional allies, like Israel, that this executive deal is not a treaty and can be revisited.
“And when Iran cheats on this deal, we can resolve to use the tools available to us to stop its nuclear weapons program.
“In short, Congress can lay the groundwork for the next president. But America needs real presidential leadership, too.
“Just this morning, we saw reports that Iran’s supreme leader had ruled out any real rapprochement with the U.S. after this nuclear deal.
“We saw the Supreme Leader state his desire to see Israel cease to exist in the coming years.
“And against that backdrop, we now have the president’s deal with Iran before us.
“Any objective net assessment of this deal must conclude that it will strengthen the supreme leader’s regime.
“Any objective assessment must also conclude that America and her allies will be made less safe by the President’s deal with Iran.
“This is the conclusion I’ve reached as well.
“This is the conclusion many Democrats have reached.
“This seems to be the conclusion the American people are reaching too.
“I wish this was a deal I could support. But it isn’t. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for the resolution of disapproval.”