Key Question on Iran Nuke Deal: Does it Leave America and Its Allies Safer?

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran:

Two weeks ago, I asked the Obama Administration to step back from the Iran negotiations, press pause, and reexamine the point of having talks in the first place.  

“That would have been the most rational and reasonable approach for the White House to take, especially considering that its own allies in the Senate were using phrases like “deeply worrying” to describe the direction of the talks.

“But instead of taking that time to reexamine basic objectives with its partners and agree on the non-negotiable elements of any deal — things like ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections, complete disclosure of previous military-related nuclear research, and phased relief of sanctions tied to Iranian compliance — the White House acquiesced instead to artificial deadline after artificial deadline and opportunity after opportunity for Iran to press for additional concessions along the way.  

“The result is the comprehensive nuclear agreement announced today.  

“Given what we do know so far, it appears that Republicans and Democrats were right to be ‘deeply worr[ied]’ about the direction of these talks.

“It seems Americans in both parties were right to fear that a deal inked by the White House would further the flawed elements of April’s interim agreement — that it would aim at the best deal acceptable to Iran rather than one that might actually end Iran’s nuclear program.  

“Remember: ending Iran’s nuclear program was supposed to be the point of these talks in the first place; what’s already clear about this agreement is that it will not achieve — or even come close to achieving — that original purpose.

“Instead, the Iranians appear to have prevailed in this negotiation: maintaining thousands of centrifuges and entrenching their threshold nuclear capability instead of ending it, reaping a multi-billion dollar windfall to spend freely on terrorism, dividing our Western allies and negotiating partners — some of whom will now undoubtedly sell arms to Iran — and gaining legitimacy before the world.

“This was an entirely predictable result, in fact the most predictable result, given the Administration’s stance. As I noted in 2012, ‘The only way the Iranian regime can be expected to negotiate to preserve its own survival rather than to simply delay as a means of pursuing nuclear weapons is if the administration imposes the strictest sanctions while at the same time enforcing a firm declaratory policy that reflects a commitment to the use of force.’

“But the Administration never did that. Instead, it relied upon train-and-equip programs instead of forward presence, emphasized special operations forces in economy of force efforts, pursued a drawdown from Iraq and Afghanistan based on timelines not battlefield conditions, and executed a drawdown of our conventional and nuclear forces and a withdrawal of these forces by both attrition and redeployment. Through actions like these, and by eschewing any declaratory policy toward Iran, the President made clear to the world — contrary to his rhetoric — that all options were not on the table. Knowing this, the Iranians never feared for the survival of their regime.

“And so, we have the deal we have today.

“It appears we’ve lost the chance today to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program — and that that will now become a challenge for the next President to confront, regardless of political party.

“But the Senate has yet to receive the final text of the agreement. We will not come a final judgement until we do. The country deserves a thorough and fair review in the Senate.  

“That’s just what we intend to pursue.  

“Committees will be holding hearings.  

“Witnesses will be coming to testify.

“And then, Congress will approve or disapprove of the deal in accordance with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

“The test of the agreement should be this: will it leave our country and our allies safer?  

“There are several things we’ll be looking at in particular as we weigh whether it will. Here are few of them:

• Will the agreement allow for ‘anytime-anywhere’ inspections of military installations and research and development facilities?

• Will the agreement compel the Iranians to disclose the Possible Military Dimensions of their nuclear program?

• Will the agreement make any real impact on Iran’s ability to continue researching and developing advanced centrifuges?

• Will the agreement’s sanctions relief be tied to Iran’s strict adherence to the terms of this deal, and will we have any real way to verify its compliance?

“These parameters will also help us determine just how successful the Iranians have been in extracting concessions from the White House.  

“So we’ll be examining them very closely.  

“I would remind colleagues of the deadly seriousness of the issue at hand.  

“This should not be about some political legacy project.

“It’s not some game either.

“It’s certainly not the time for more tired, obviously untrue talking points about the choice here being between a bad deal and war. No serious person would believe that’s true. Even the people saying these things have to know they’re not true — and they probably know that the very opposite is in fact more likely. So the country doesn’t have time to waste on more White House messaging exercises when the seriousness of the moment calls for intellectually honest debate.

“The choices made today are sure to affect our country for years, and probably decades, to come. The future we leave to our children is at issue too.  

“This Senate should engage in a serious consideration of what faces us in the years ahead. I invite every Democrat and every Republican to join us in that critical conversation. Our country deserves no less.

“What we must decide now is whether this is really the right time to be reducing pressure on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror — and for what in return?

“We already know what the Qods force is capable of under the sanctions regime: what will Iran’s support of terrorism look like with the additional funding obtained from sanctions relief?

“Let’s not forget:  

“Iran is pursuing a full-spectrum campaign to expand its sphere of influence and undermine America’s security and standing in the region. Iran’s continued support of terrorism and its determination to expand ballistic missile and conventional military capabilities should be gravely concerning to each of us. They are to me. They pose significant challenges to our country and President Obama’s successor.

“This comes on top of the many other threats that challenge our country today and into the future: from groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIL to increasingly aggressive regimes in Moscow and Beijing.  

“A bad deal won’t make these threats go away. Pretending otherwise won’t make us safer.  

“A bad deal will only ensure Iran has more funding to threaten us with renewed vigor. It will only ensure that Iran expands its stockpile of missiles and that it strengthens terrorist proxies like Hezbollah, the Houthi insurgents in Yemen, and the Assad regime in Syria. In fact, here’s a Reuters headlines from this morning: Syria's Assad sees more Iranian support after nuclear deal.

“The White House needs to know that the Congress elected by the people is prepared to do anything it can to make Americans safer.

“We want to work collaboratively with the President to advance that goal, but if we have to work against a bad agreement to do so — a flawed deal that threatens our country and our allies — we will.”

Related Issues: Iran Nuclear Deal, Iran