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Rep. DeFazio Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 3461, the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Sep 11, 2015
Press Release

(For a video of Congressman DeFazio speaking on the House Floor in support of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, please click here.)

Today I stand in proud support of the international agreement reached by the P5+1 nations (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and the United States) that is aimed at preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. Preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is essential to the security of the U.S., Israel, and the larger international community. It is why the U.S. led negotiations on this agreement and why this agreement has the unanimous support of the U.N. Security Council, over 90 nations, our Gulf state allies, and the world’s largest powers.

Under this agreement, Iran has committed to obligations that go far beyond the requirements of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The agreement will block every pathway to a bomb for at least fifteen years. It will require Iran to eliminate 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges that enrich uranium as well as remove all the pipework and infrastructure that connects the centrifuges, and terminate the use of its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium. Iran will be required to fill the core of the heavy water Arak reactor with concrete and repurpose it for peaceful purposes. Additionally the deal directs Iran to ship all spent fuel from the reactor out of the country, and prohibits Iran from building any new heavy water reactors. Experts say that these steps are not easily reversible and it would take Iran anywhere from two to five years to rebuild that infrastructure. Efforts to rebuild it would be detected within a few days.

Under the agreement, Iran’s uranium and plutonium manufacturing capabilities will be both severely limited and strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA will be granted around-the-clock access to Iran’s uranium mills, mines, conversion facilities, centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities, making it nearly impossible for the Iranian government to violate their manufacturing restrictions. The IAEA will also have access to sites of concern where they believe unauthorized production to be taking place. 

If Iran fully complies with this agreement it will be an historic moment not only for the U.S. but for the rest of the world. If Iran violates the agreement, U.S., U.N., and EU sanctions will be snapped back into place. Further, all U.S. sanctions on Iran related to their involvement in terrorism and human rights abuses remain in place. All of the P5+1 partners understand that the U.S. will continue to strongly enforce these sanctions, including sanctions that impact non-U.S. entities.

While I will not question the intentions of my colleagues, since we all have the same goal which is to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, some of the rhetoric in opposition to this agreement has been damaging, unhelpful, and at times absurd. Opponents of the agreement have called into question the integrity of the IAEA and their ability as the world’s foremost independent organization on nuclear non-proliferation to do their work—for example, by claiming that the confidential nuclear safeguards agreement between the IAEA and Iran is a “side deal” and must be made available to the U.S. government. There is too much at stake and this debate merits a serious conversation based on facts. We need to move beyond the irresponsible, heated rhetoric and do what’s necessary to assure that this agreement is successful, will not be violated by Iran, and ensuring that if violations occur there will be serious consequences.

When this agreement is implemented Iran will be further away from the bomb than they are today. It will result in prolonging their timeline for creating a nuclear bomb from a matter of months to at least one year. Without the agreement, Iran would be able to continue their nuclear program unrestrained.  If the U.S. walked away from the agreement, Iran would most likely ramp up their centrifuge production—as they did after the U.S. imposed sanctions—which would surely spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Congress should play a supportive role in ensuring that the president can implement this agreement and provide oversight of Iran’s compliance. Instead, my Republican colleagues are attempting to scuttle and undermine it, damaging U.S. credibility in the international community and creating a potentially dangerous security position for our nation. While I have not always agreed with President Obama’s foreign policy choices I have fully supported his efforts to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy. The conclusion of this agreement demonstrates just how far the U.S. has come in repairing the damage wrought during the Bush administration. It proves that once again the U.S. can be trusted in working with both our allies and adversaries in navigating some of the world’s most challenging security issues. 

The U.S. has nothing to lose by implementing this agreement—all options remain on the table, but we have a lot to lose if we walk away. Rejecting this agreement like some of my colleagues are advocating would take us back to some of the darkest years in U.S. history. Opponents of this agreement are using arguments put forth by Dick Cheney and Benjamin Netanyahu, two leading cheerleaders of the Iraq war—the worst U.S. foreign policy mistake in the history of our nation. Nobody wants to become further entangled in an endless war in the Middle East. The U.S. wasted more than $4 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and spent more money rebuilding Afghanistan than we did on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. What have the results been? Afghanistan is still a mess and Iraq is rife with religious and ethnic strife and partially overrun by ISIS.

Preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon would be a huge step forward in the most unstable and dangerous region of the world. Implementing this agreement is the only option and the best alternative available to taking military action.

Lastly, I'm hopeful that the successful implementation of this agreement will lead to a permanent peaceful resolution to this matter and open up a new chapter in Iranian-U.S. relations. Iran’s future is also at stake and there is a young Iranian population that would like to see better relations with the U.S. and a more open Iran. This agreement should not be viewed as an irreversible capitulation to Iran. It is the first step in what will be a very long and arduous road to resolving critical issues with Iran and ensuring a safer Middle East.