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Bonamici Statement on Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

September 4, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C.Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) released the following statement regarding the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Over the last several weeks I have been carefully considering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that is intended to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. There is no question that preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon is in the best interest of the United States, Israel and the Middle East, and the rest of the world. I favor diplomacy over military action whenever and wherever reasonably possible, and I strongly agree that an engaged and unified international community, led by the United States, is the best option to preserve peace by keeping close watch over a rogue state that seems to respond only when the world’s major powers speak in one voice. It is through this lens, and with these goals, that I approached my analysis of the JCPOA and the potential consequences of Congress accepting or rejecting the agreement. When Congress returns to Washington, DC, next week I will not vote to reject the agreement; I will support it and advocate for vigorous oversight and enforcement.

“To reach this decision, I carefully read the agreement, reviewed classified intelligence materials, and participated in both classified and unclassified briefings. I have spoken with President Obama, and I’ve heard thorough explanations from Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Energy Moniz. Knowledgeable critics of this agreement offered compelling arguments, which I considered in my analysis. I asked questions of the Administration and other experts and evaluated their responses. I have discussed the agreement with people from Iran and Israel, and others with deep ties to both nations. Constituents have offered significant input in letters, emails, phone calls, conversations, and at town hall meetings across Northwest Oregon. As I deliberated, I recalled my time visiting Israel, and always kept in mind my knowledge and understanding of how volatile the region is and what it’s like to live under constant threat.

“Reaching this decision was not easy. The consequences of this agreement will shape the future of the region and the world. The complexity of the agreement, and the questions it raises about the future that cannot be answered irrefutably, contributed to the fervent, well-reasoned, and passionate opinions on all sides. Many people who I know and respect deeply have reached a different conclusion; I acknowledge their concerns but have concluded that rejecting the deal will not diminish the possibility that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon. In my assessment, if Congress rejects the agreement, it could result in a higher likelihood of Iran developing a nuclear weapon while at the same time diminishing the global leadership of the United States.

“Implementing the JCPOA, on the other hand, will preserve the principal role of the United States in dealing with Iran in the future, and it is our best chance to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Right now, without the agreement, the “breakout time” for Iran to acquire fissile material for a nuclear weapon is a mere 2-3 months. Under the JCPOA, the breakout time for at least the next decade will be extended to a year, and there will be no sanctions relief until that breakout time has been extended and Iran has taken multiple required steps and completion of those steps has been verified. These steps include reducing Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium by 97 percent, removing the core of the heavy water reactor and filling it with concrete, and submitting to ongoing inspections and continuous, unprecedented monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran can only enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, a level far below the 90 percent range that is necessary to build a nuclear weapon. Sanctions “snap back” and can be reinstated if there is a violation. The JCPOA does not affect the existing U.S. bans on weapons sales, and, importantly, no option, including military force, is taken off the table.

“Like most negotiated agreements, however, the JCPOA is not perfect. Because of that, some suggest that we should reject the deal and bring the parties back to the table in an effort to make it better. But our negotiating partners agree that this is a deal worth pursuing, and I concur with many experts who say it would be a near impossibility to convince all parties to return to the table. Even then, it is not at all clear that the outcome of future negotiations would be better than the current agreement. Others have argued that the agreement is likely to fail given Iran’s history of noncompliance. Yet throughout this process, no one has suggested that the Iranian government can be trusted. This is not a deal built on trust, but rather on verification. The agreement puts in place a comprehensive inspection regime, some of which is permanent, that will supplement the work of intelligence agencies and provide confidence that Iran could not dash for a nuclear weapon without being caught.

“Rather than reject the agreement, Congress should come together and commit to vigilance in holding Iran to every aspect of the JCPOA and to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which provides that Iran, as a signatory, is never allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. We should make clear—very clear—that anything short of strict compliance will result in the swift reimposition of sanctions. Working together in Congress and with other world leaders will give us the best chance to make sure that Iran complies with its obligations and the best chance to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”