Mr. President, I rise today to address the significant and persistent national security threat stemming from Iran’s unchecked nuclear program.
I urge my colleagues to support the amendment to S. 1982 from the Senior Senator from North Carolina, which include provisions to strengthen our sanctions against Iran should they fail to comply with their obligations under the Joint Plan of Action.
Last November, the Obama administration, without sufficient consultation with Congress, committed to an interim nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Under this agreement, we are granting them over $7 billion in sanctions relief in exchange for their commitments to decelerate their nuclear program—commitments which will be difficult, if not impossible, to verify or enforce.
In effect, we are delivering billions of dollars in repatriated oil sales proceeds, additional foreign trade, and currency—all in exchange for hollow promises of compliance with laws and U.N. Security Council resolutions they should already be following.
Mr. President, the stated U.S. policy, which American presidents have repeated for decades, is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
However, this agreement maintains Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, and allows Iran to enrich uranium.
Moreover, Iran will not be required to destroy any centrifuges, and will be permitted to replace centrifuges that become inoperable. The pact does little to reverse Iran’s nuclear ambitions and sets a precedent for further sanctions relief in exchange for cosmetic concessions.
Rather than easing effective sanctions, we should be tightening existing sanctions until a better long-term deal can be reached. The United States must take a strong stance to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. If they do not agree to roll back their nuclear program, then they should face stronger sanctions.
That is why I strongly support provisions in the amendment from the Senator Burr that would incorporate key portions of the “Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act” into the pending veterans legislation.
Mr. President, 58 of my Senate colleagues have already signed on to this important legislation as a standalone bill.
They, and I, agree that the Government of Iran continues to expand its nuclear and missile programs in direct violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Iran has a demonstrated record of defiance and will continue to work towards stockpiling weapons grade nuclear material, sponsoring terrorism, and disregarding basic human rights.
Given these facts, it only makes sense that we take our own national security and commitment to our allies’ security seriously by passing expanded sanction authorities, should Iran fail to uphold its end of the interim agreement.
Equally important, this legislation would give Congress the opportunity to review and - if necessary - disapprove of any final agreement with Iran.
Mr. President, I am hopeful Iran will come to the table with real, verifiable concessions in a final agreement on their nuclear program.
However, hope is a poor national security strategy.
The Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act would set the proper framework for ensuring Iran dismantles its illicit nuclear infrastructure, complies with all Security Council Resolutions, cooperates with the International Atomic Energy Agency, respects human rights, and ceases to promote global terrorism.
Furthermore, the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act implements President Obama’s own policy. In his recent State of the Union Address, he stated that he will “be the first to call for more sanctions” should Iran fail to uphold the Interim agreement.
By passing this legislation, we are ensuring that the United States has the ability to further penalize Iran for its continued noncompliance.
Nevertheless, President Obama has threatened to veto this legislation, further indicating his willingness to blindly concede to Iranian rhetoric.
Now is not the time for this nation to exhibit weakness. Now is our chance to demonstrate to Iran and the world that we are serious about nuclear nonproliferation and compliance with international law and obligations.
For these reasons, I strongly support the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act as presented in this amendment, and I urge my colleagues to act swiftly to pass these important measures.
Mr. President, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.