In recent months, I have read the terms and details of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran and listened to the testimony of numerous senior administration officials responsible for crafting and negotiating it. Informed by this information as well as classified intelligence analysis, I believe this proposal falls short of its goal to prevent Iran’s nuclear weapons capability. Back in Kansas during August, conversations with many people from across the state have only reinforced my conviction that the world can and must do better than this potentially dangerous deal.
Kansans are not alone in their opposition to this nuclear gamble. Concerns about the shortcomings and consequences of this international agreement — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — have only grown since the deal was announced in July. In both chambers of Congress, there is bipartisan opposition to the deal. Moreover, the opposition is not merely partisan or limited to Congress. Many retired military leaders and former top Obama Administration foreign policy officials have joined the diverse chorus voicing concern about the unaddressed risks presented by the JCPOA: excessive sanctions relief, weak enforcement mechanisms, diluted inspection scrutiny and an accelerated expirations of restrictions on Iran.
Worry is widespread this nuclear deal concedes too much and secures too little. The JCPOA fails to adequately dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure while rewarding a government that finances terror and proudly threatens America and our allies. It relinquishes America’s negotiating leverage such that we are in a far inferior position if Iran ever resumes its nuclear dream.
The proposal has frightening costs. The result of its full implementation would make Iran a legitimized and enriched nuclear power — a state sponsor of terror on a direct path to nuclear weapons capability. The Obama administration claims this deal is good enough because if Iran plays by the rules, their nuclear weapons development is restricted for a few years.
If implemented, the JCPOA also would result in hundreds of billions of dollars flowing to Iran while lifting restrictions like the conventional weapons and ballistic missile embargoes. Meanwhile, the deal permits Iranian development of an industrial-scale nuclear enrichment program, priming Iran’s nuclear program for breakout once restrictions are lifted, if not sooner.
But it remains unclear whether or not international inspectors will be able to effectively determine if Iran attempts to make a bomb in secret, as tried in the past. The critical yet secret side agreements struck between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran appear to be dangerously weak, allowing Iran excessive flexibility that might prevent inspectors from gaining appropriate access to military sites where covert development may take place.
Despite calls for a serious review process, debate about the proposed nuclear agreement has taken an unfortunate turn toward the ugly. In an effort to accrue support for a weak deal that the majority of Americans oppose, President Obama has resorted to name-calling and fearmongering. The president has gone so far as to say the only alternative to this deal is war. This wild claim represents a disturbing conflict with previous statements administration officials made throughout the negotiations process. The Obama administration was either misleading us then or has since changed its story to justify their new messaging push. In any case, the specter of military conflict should never be used as a tool to manipulate public opinion.
Congress has a responsibility to serve the interests of the United States, not the United Nations. We should reject any deal that fails to enhance American national security or further American interests around the world. This deal not only delays addressing the Iran nuclear problem for a decade, but puts our country in a far weaker relative position and Iran in a far stronger absolute position in any future diplomatic engagement with Iran.
The Obama Administration’s stance that the JCPOA’s current form is the only available diplomatic option represents a troubling departure from precedent. Congress has rejected or altered hundreds of international agreements throughout American history. The refusal to consider any alternatives is an attempt by the administration to negate the role of Congress and muzzle the voice of the American people. We must not accept this.
Given the importance of nuclear non-proliferation and the terrible costs of yet another foreign policy failure in the Middle East, both Congress and the executive branch must be allowed to fully participate in this process. Congress will do its part in the coming weeks to continue to highlight outstanding questions and vigorously inspect this defective proposal. If our goal is to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program forever, we must demand an agreement that does more than provide Iran a generous economic boost in return for a temporary nuclear hiatus.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., represents the state of Kansas in the U.S. Senate.