Rep. Richmond Announces Support for the Iran Nuclear Deal


Date: Sept. 10, 2015
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs

Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02) issued the following statement today on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA):

"Early in my Congressional career, I made it a top priority to visit Israel and personally meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and then-President Peres. My time in Israel confirmed that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said that "Israel's right to exist as a state in security is incontestable.' Over the past 58 days since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was announced on July 14th in Vienna, I have spent countless hours researching and reviewing the agreement. I have attended briefings with President Obama, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Energy, studied the classified and unclassified portions of the JCPOA, held meetings with a variety of passionate constituents on all sides of the issue, thoroughly analyzed the opinions of leading nuclear scientists, non-proliferation experts and think tanks and met with foreign prime ministers and presidents.

"The JCPOA should be analyzed for its merits and shortcomings not in a vacuum, but against other reasonable options. The status quo is unacceptable and dangerous. Prime Minister Netanyahu and nuclear experts estimate that Iran can currently produce enough nuclear material to produce a weapon in just two months. In fact, just this past Sunday, former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell said that Iran has "been on a superhighway for the last ten years to create a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program, with no speed limit.'

"Opponents of the JCPOA have raised many legitimate concerns. The point most often raised is that by rejecting this deal, we can force Iran back to the table and negotiate a better one. I firmly believe that this argument is unrealistic. The JCPOA is the result of painstaking negotiations between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Many of our negotiating partners have made clear that this scenario is unlikely. British Ambassador Peter Westmacott referred to this outcome as "far-fetched.' Philipp Ackermann, Germany's Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States, called the chances of bringing all parties back to the table "close to zero' and the prospect of rejecting the deal "a nightmare for every European country.' From these statements it is clear that rejecting the JCPOA will isolate the United States in the international community and cause the other countries involved to walk away from the table, leaving the world with no deal at all.

"Another objection raised by opponents of the JCPOA is that this deal does not address Iran's other nefarious activities, like supporting terrorism. They are right; this deal does not touch upon these issues. However, U.S. and U.N sanctions aimed at these actions remain in place, and this deal does nothing to prevent any future sanctions or military action to stop Iran's heinous actions.

"Critics have other understandable concerns -- for example, that Iran will be allowed to buy and sell conventional arms after five years and ballistic missiles after eight years, and that Iran will have nuclear capabilities after portions of the deal expire in 15 years. These are real concerns. Even though Iran clearly pledges in the JCPOA that it will never seek to build nuclear weapons, its poor track record invites our distrust and skepticism.

"There are a number of steps that we can take, beyond the JCPOA, to minimize the vulnerabilities that opponents have pointed out. The U.S. can redouble efforts to intercept Iranian imports of conventional arms and ballistic missiles during the period in which they are still forbidden under the agreement. We can increase our efforts to prevent Iran from shipping arms to its terrorist allies, such as Hizbullah, Hamas and the Houthis. We should provide Israel with all relevant intelligence about Iran's compliance with the JCPOA, transfer Israel advanced weapons with which they can attack Iran's nuclear facilities, and work with Israel and our Arab allies in the region to plan in the event that Iran increases aid to its terrorist allies. We must make clear to Iran that no violations of the agreement -- big or small -- will be tolerated, and plan appropriate retribution for all possible infractions. Congress can pass legislation to authorize the use of military force if Iran takes steps towards acquiring a nuclear weapon. In order to guarantee Israel's continued security, I strongly support a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding with Israel that enhances our strong security relationship. I also support an increase in missile defense funding so that the United States and Israel can develop the Arrow-3 and David's Sling defense systems. To ensure that Israel retains its qualitative military edge, I support further military enhancements that are now underway.

"For all of its shortcomings, this deal takes clear and strong steps to ensure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. It forces Iran to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% and cut its number of installed centrifuges by two thirds -- to 5,060. It requires Iran to disable its heavy water reactor at Arak, eliminating its path to plutonium. It strictly curtails research and development, so that even when provisions of the deal expire, Iran will be saddled with old nuclear technology. It also creates the most intrusive system of inspections ever negotiated without war that will allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unprecedented access to every part of Iran's nuclear program -- from uranium mines to enrichment facilities to the sites at which weapons parts are produced.

"This agreement is not built on trust. It is built on distrust, verification, vigilance and enforcement. The Iranian regime will not receive a dime of sanctions relief until the IAEA has certified that they have fulfilled their end of the deal. The deal allows the U.S. to unilaterally reimpose sanctions if Iran cheats. Sanctions not related to Iran's nuclear program will remain in place. The intrusive inspections will ensure that, if military action is ultimately necessary, we have the information we need to make strategic and tactical decisions. Though this deal is far from perfect, I will vote to support the JCPOA.

"I have not reached this decision lightly. This is among the most difficult I have faced during my time in Congress. I have concluded that it is in the best interest of American and Israeli security that the JCPOA be implemented."