Sep 09 2015
Discusses importance of U.S. global leadership, technical strength of agreement and possibility of turning a new page with Iran
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor outlining her strong support for the Iran nuclear agreement.
“The consequences of rejecting this carefully negotiated deal would reach far beyond Iran,” Feinstein said. “It would signal that the United States isn’t willing or able to lead the world in confronting global challenges.”
Feinstein continued: “I’ve been involved in national security issues for many years, and I can’t recall a time in recent memory when the world was united to this degree on such a complex issue. Even Russia and China are with us. We shouldn’t squander the opportunity.”
Senator Feinstein praised the technical strength of the agreement and recounted how each pathway to a nuclear bomb is closed. On Iran potentially developing a covert bomb, Feinstein said, “The Senate Intelligence Committee has met with heads of U.S. intelligence agencies, as I just said, as recently as this morning, to receive testimony and ask questions on our ability to ensure that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement. From the reports and those hearings, I am very comfortable saying that the covert path to a bomb is closed. Period.”
Feinstein concluded by urging her colleagues to vote against the resolution of disapproval and said, “I’m not willing to cede American global leadership, to reject this nuclear agreement or ignore the possibility of resolving the region’s crises in favor of the myth of a better deal. There is no better deal.”
The full text of her remarks is below:
“Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the nuclear agreement with Iran, I do so because I believe this diplomatic achievement provides the only option that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
I would like to take just a moment to congratulate our negotiating team and commend them on a job, that I believe was well done, and thank them for their concerted effort to explain the agreement to the Congress over the past two months.
I’ve been in this body for a long time. There have been many different agreements. I can never remember a time where this Senate has been briefed more assiduously than it has with this agreement. And as you know, Mr. President, we sat this morning for two hours and listened to the top heads of our intelligence agencies discuss with us the particulars of this agreement.
American negotiators have worked with negotiators from the world’s major powers: the U.K., France, Germany, China, Russia and the EU and reached an agreement that will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for at least the next 15 years, and, I believe, longer. I can't emphasize this enough: the agreement represents the world coming together to put an end to Iran's nuclear program.
By contrast, if the Senate disapproves this agreement, we are on our own.
As of last night, 42 senators have announced their support for the agreement. In practical terms, that means that the Senate will not disapprove of this agreement. We have conducted a full review and the opponents of this deal have failed.
But the opponents are still holding out the false hope that there can be a ‘better’ deal.
Let me be clear: There is no ‘better’ deal. No one, no state, no leader has proposed one. The only alternative to the agreement we now have is no agreement at all.
Should the Congress reject this accord, the United States, which led this effort, would be deserting our allies and negotiating partners.
That is because this is not just an agreement between the United States and Iran. It’s an agreement between the world’s major powers – the largest, most powerful nations in the world – and Iran. And it is the one approved by all 15 members of the United Nations Security Council.
Brent Scowcroft, someone I know well, see annually, the former National Security Advisor to George H.W. Bush, recently wrote: ‘There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone.’
I think it may be helpful to remind my colleagues and the American people how we got where we are today.
First of all, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon has been a longstanding and bipartisan national security objective.
In 2003, Europe led the first effort to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
The next decade saw five separate major rounds of failed negotiations and an ever-advancing Iranian nuclear program.
Iran went from having a few centrifuges spinning to a being a threshold nuclear power. Following the revelation that Iran was installing centrifuges at Natanz last decade and disclosure in 2012 by our government and allies that Iran was turning a mountain near Qom into a deeply buried centrifuge chamber, Iran has seen sanctions escalate and felt international isolation, but its nuclear enrichment continued and advanced.
The United States, with strong support from this Chamber, led an effort to install devastating multilateral sanctions with the goal of bringing Iran to the negotiating table.
Those sanctions were effective because they were supported by the world’s powers and importers of Iranian oil.
In fact, the United States doesn’t do much business with Iran. We don’t import Iranian oil, and U.S. banks don’t process Iranian financial transactions. Unilateral U.S. sanctions are of little value by themselves, unless we’re willing to sanction allies’ banks.
Instead, multiple UN Resolutions, EU sanctions and the cooperation of our partners and allies successfully pressured Iran over its nuclear activities. Over time, the international sanctions that we helped build and continually enforced:
- Reduced Iranian oil exports from 2.5 million barrels per day to less than 1 million;
- Reduced the number of countries that import Iranian oil from 23 to 6;
- Prohibited Iran from repatriating more than $100 billion in foreign currency;
- Reduced Iran’s GDP by nearly 6% in one year, caused major inflation, and basically ended international investment in Iran’s economy.
And the sanctions worked. Iran elected a reform government, with a new president, to negotiate an end to the sanctions and revive its economy. And despite its doubts, Iran sent a negotiating team to meet with the governments of the P5+1 nations.
In November 2013 we signed the interim agreement that froze—and even reversed—Iran’s nuclear program. According to the IAEA—and verified by U.S. intelligence—Iran has abided by the interim agreement for more than 1 and a half years now.
As we all know, in July 2015, the P5+1 signed the final agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The agreement is the result of years of careful diplomacy among the world’s powers. It was only possible because other nations abided by our sanctions at their own economic sacrifice. They believe that these sanctions worked, have achieved their result and now should be suspended as Iran dismantles much of its nuclear infrastructure.
These countries, which were so critical to our ability to impose sanctions, have told us directly that they won't go back to the table to negotiate a new deal.
To my colleagues who plan to vote in opposition to this agreement, I hope they’ve thought long and hard about what message this would send the world.
The consequences of rejecting this carefully negotiated deal would reach far beyond Iran. It would signal that the United States isn’t willing or able to lead the world in confronting global challenges.
Since the agreement was reached, I’ve spoken with many diplomats and statesmen. They're scratching their heads, wondering why the U.S. Congress is lining up with Iranian hardliners in opposition to this agreement instead of siding with the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China, along with all the other members of the UN Security Council.
Last week, Saudi Arabia announced its support for the agreement. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who is known to many in this body, concluded his country's support by saying this: this agreement ‘will contribute to security and stability in the region by preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability.’
During the August recess, a former head of state from one of our closest allies sat me down and said to me: ‘You know, we are one of the nations you trust the most. We follow U.S. leadership, we have agreed to the Iran deal and now your Congress wants to back out. Why should we ever follow you again?’
Many diplomats I’ve spoken with have echoed the former prime minister’s statement: If Congress rejects the agreement, the world will be unlikely to follow us on other important issues in the future, and I believe the executive foreign policy obligations and responsibilities of the president of our country are diminished.
Our ability to lead against global threats, to be the indispensable nation, I believe, ends.
I understand that many members of the Senate don't support our president. But by disapproving of this agreement, we also undermine the ability of any future president to speak for the United States and carry out his or her constitutional role in conducting foreign policy.
I’ve been involved in national security issues for many years, and I can’t recall a time in recent memory when the world was united to this degree on such a complex issue. Even Russia and China are with us. We shouldn’t squander the opportunity.
Many of my colleagues have already described the terms of this agreement, and how it constrains and allows for intrusive monitoring of Iran's nuclear program.
For me, the arguments of Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz are particularly persuasive. As we all know, he is a distinguished nuclear physicist from MIT and he played a central role in the negotiations. He is a true expert of unimpeachable integrity and he knows the nuclear world
He has said over and over again, and I’ve heard it personally at least five times, that every pathway to a bomb—plutonium, uranium and covert—is blocked by this deal.
The agreement blocks Iran’s uranium pathway to a bomb at Natanz and Fordow by:
- Reducing Iran’s installed centrifuges by two thirds—from more than 19,000 to 6,000—for at least 10 years.
- It reduces Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium by more than 97% and to no more than 300 kilograms of 3.67% for 15 years (not enough nuclear material for a single weapon).
- It requires intrusive IAEA inspections of Iran’s centrifuge production, their careful labeling and storage for 20 years.
- And it requires IAEA inspections for 25 years of Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain.
The agreement blocks Iran’s plutonium pathway to a bomb at Arak:
By modifying Iran’s only heavy-water reactor so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium.
And requires all spent fuel capable of being reprocessed for plutonium to be shipped out of the country.
The agreement block’s Iran’s covert pathway to a bomb nationwide by:
Requiring 24/7 IAEA access to all of Iran’s declared nuclear sites for 15 years.
Empowering the IAEA to use its most advanced monitoring techniques and equipment to ensure Iran cannot tamper with its devices or evade nuclear monitoring.
It guarantees IAEA access to any suspected nuclear site within 24 days, including military facilities, and providing access to all of Iran’s nuclear sites under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty permanently.
Most notably, the agreement imposes a perpetual prohibition against Iran ever seeking, developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The terms of this agreement are unparalleled. The IAEA has never had this kind of access to any country. As the Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I can say we've looked into this issue very carefully, as you know Mr. President, as late as this morning. I can say that if Iran doesn't comply with its obligations, we'll know about it, and will be able to snap back the sanctions that are suspended under this agreement.
The administration has provided Congress with documents detailing the verification measures in this agreement. At an unclassified level, the Executive Branch has written that ‘The United States is confident that it will be able to verify that Iran is complying with its commitments under the JCPOA, including its commitment not to pursue a nuclear weapon.’
The Senate has also received a classified annex to this assessment from the Intelligence Community, which I think some of my colleagues have reviewed and I would hope everyone would. The Senate Intelligence Committee has met with heads of U.S. intelligence agencies, as I just said, as recently as this morning, to receive testimony and ask questions on our ability to ensure that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement. From the reports and those hearings, I am very comfortable saying that the covert path to a bomb is closed. Period.
I recognize that this agreement doesn’t address other problems the United States and international community have with Iran.
Iran continues to support terrorist groups, prop-up Bashar al-Assad and undermine stability across the Middle East. It is a serial abuser of human rights and is improperly detaining American citizens.
These are, of course, reprehensible policies and of course we will continue to oppose them. But, a nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically compound these problems.
In my view, this agreement presents us with an opportunity to begin a broader discussion with Iran. As Iran hopefully will be more integrated into the global community, give up some of its bad ways, we can test whether Iran will move toward rejoining the community of nations.
Rejecting this agreement only strengthens the hard-liners who lead the chants of ‘Death to America.’
88 percent of Iranians are under the age of 54. 41 percent are under the age of 25. They defied predictions and elected a moderate replacement to President Ahmedinejad in the hopes that Iran will chart a new course.
Clearly, this agreement won’t change Iran’s behavior overnight, and it would be unrealistic to expect Iran’s cooperation on every issue. But it would also be foolish to throw away the opportunity and to give the hard-liners another reason to turn their backs on reform.
More importantly, I’m not willing to cede American global leadership, to reject this nuclear agreement or ignore the possibility of resolving the region’s crises in favor of the myth of a better deal. There is no better deal.
For these reasons, I join the large numbers of diplomats, scientists, retired U.S. flag officers, rabbis, arms control advocates, national security experts and intelligence professionals in supporting this agreement with Iran.
I urge my colleagues, most sincerely, to oppose the resolution of disapproval and support this historic agreement.
Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.”