WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers took to the Senate floor this week to raise concerns about the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration with Iran. The deal, announced July 14, is currently being reviewed by Congress for a vote under the bipartisan Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
“My initial review has raised serious questions about whether this agreement forecloses Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, Sen. Orrin Hatch, senior Republican in the Senate, said. “If left unanswered, these concerns lead me to believe that this agreement could end up being a catastrophic mistake.”
Among the issues Hatch raised, he pointed to the $150 billion in frozen Iranian assets that the new agreement makes available to the regime, according to a release issued by his offices. Iran is a prime benefactor of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom pose a threat to Israel. Many are concerned that the Iranian government will use these assets to fund terrorist activities.
“We should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we’ve seen in the region up until now,” President Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, said, according to the release.
Lawmakers are also concerned that the administration may not have achieved the objective of halting Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon and may allow Iran greater access to armaments.
“After eight years, under this agreement, the Iranians will be able to begin building and stockpiling more than 200 advanced centrifuges a year,” Hatch said, also noting that the embargo on ballistic missiles would be lifted under the terms of the agreement.
Hatch’s full speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, throughout the history of the Republic, certain decisive moments have fundamentally altered the national security of the United States. For good or ill, these moments have defined eras of time and changed the course of history.
These landmarks include:
President Roosevelt’s decision to turn the United States into the arsenal of democracy to defeat fascism;
President Truman’s adoption of a strategy to confront Communism and rebuild Europe;
President Nixon’s initiative to open relations with China;
And President Reagan’s policies that led to the fall of the Soviet Union.
Other such moments reflect serious errors in judgment — mistakes that continue to echo today. One recent example is President Obama’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Iraq prematurely. This short-sighted move squandered the gains of the Surge and plunged Iraq into chaos, leading to the rise of the Islamic State.
Another especially instructive example is the Clinton administration’s fumbled attempt to block North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. Back then, I came out strongly against the Agreed Framework with North Korea.
Sure enough, that naive diplomatic effort created barely a speed bump as the fanatical North Korean regime raced ahead in building a nuclear arsenal.
Mr. President, President Obama’s nuclear deal is clearly one such landmark moment in American foreign policy, but the question remains: is it a crowning achievement of American diplomacy, or is it a grave mistake that we will come to regret dearly?
Since the president’s announcement of the agreement, I have endeavored to examine it carefully and thoroughly, and I look forward to the review process led by the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who has promised full and fair scrutiny of the deal.
Nevertheless, my initial review has raised serious questions about whether this agreement forecloses Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. If left unanswered, these concerns lead me to believe that this agreement could end up being a catastrophic mistake.
Time and again, the Obama administration has promised that this agreement will add stability to the region; however, the details lead me to believe that this deal will in fact seriously destabilize the region.
If the deal is implemented, $150 billion in Iranian assets that are currently frozen in the world’s financial institutions will be once again made available to the regime, which is a prime benefactor of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. These terrorist groups continually threaten one of our closest allies, Israel.
The fact that much of this money will be used to promote international terrorism is not even disputed by the Obama Administration.
Just this past weekend, President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice stated: “we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we’ve seen in the region up until now.”
While I am troubled that the administration now uses a term like bad behavior to describe international terrorism, Ms. Rice is undoubtedly right about where this money will go.
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute points out what happened when the European Union previously opened trade with Iran as an incentive for Tehran to moderate its behavior.
Iran’s response was to take “that hard currency windfall and put it disproportionately into its covert nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”
As such, by implementing this agreement the United States will permit the financing of international terrorism — not only against Americans, but also our closest allies, including Israel.
But funding terrorism is just for starters. This agreement also removes the conventional arms embargo against Iran after five years. Reportedly, the Russians were particularly intent upon this clause. They stand to benefit if the Iranians spend some of their $150 billion windfall to buy Russian arms.
In fact, Russia has already committed to sell them its highly sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missile system. This highly capable weapon system could protect Iran’s nuclear sites if the regime violates the agreement. Moreover, this agreement also lifts the ballistic missile embargo against Iran after eight years — an incredibly troubling development.
Mr. President, my examination of the deal also brings into question whether the administration achieved our primary objective: preventing Iran from producing enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon.
For years, the Iranians have stockpiled advanced centrifuges to produce this material, yet this deal does not force them to part with this critical equipment. In fact, after eight years, under this agreement, the Iranians will be able to begin building and stockpiling more than 200 advanced centrifuges a year.
Moreover, the means to deploy a nuclear device were not fully addressed by this deal.
The agreement mentions that Iran will not pursue activities that could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosion device, but it fails to detail most of the specific tools, equipment, materials and components that are necessary to manufacture and fabricate a nuclear explosive device.
Mr. President, this is not a done deal. Eleven weeks ago, 98 Senators voted for the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. While far from perfect, this bipartisan legislation gave Congress a vital say in whether this Iran deal goes forward.
Let us not waste this opportunity.
Those who served before us did not shirk their responsibility to weigh in on the serious foreign policy decisions of their day. I urge all of my colleagues in this great body to stand with me in examining this agreement with great caution about its implications for the security of the United States and our allies in the region.
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