WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), and John McCain (R-Arizona) today made the following statement on the extension of negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program.
"One of the most important issues facing our nation and the world at large is how to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. While we strongly support diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting, verifiable agreement with Iran that permanently ends Iran's nuclear weapons program, we must avoid negotiating a deal that puts the security of the United States or our allies at risk and fails to address Iran's decades-long history of cheating and subterfuge.
"It is clear to us that Iranian insistence on having an enrichment program is problematic, and we fear it could lead to a repeat of the mistakes we made with North Korea. Years ago, the international community allowed North Korea a small nuclear program which was to be controlled and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Unfortunately, the inspectors were thrown out and North Korea was able to develop and test nuclear weapons. We cannot repeat the same mistakes when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program.
"A bad deal with Iran will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East as Sunni Arab states will not allow Iran to hold a nuclear sword over their heads without responding in kind. In addition, a nuclear-capable Iran represents an existential threat to our strongest ally in the region, Israel, as well as to our own national security, given Iran's record of sharing military technology with terrorist organizations.
"We have supported the economic sanctions, passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, in addition to sanctions placed on Iran by the international community. These sanctions have had a negative impact on the Iranian economy and are one of the chief reasons the Iranians are now at the negotiating table. However, we believe this latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions and a requirement that any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval. Every Member of Congress should have the opportunity to review the final deal and vote on this major foreign policy decision.
"If the P5+1 negotiates a good deal which successfully dismantles Iran's nuclear weapons program, it will receive an overwhelming vote in support. However, if it sets the stage for the creation of another North Korea, we will vote against it and expect Congress to reject it.
"When it comes to the Iranian nuclear ambitions, we strongly believe the most prudent policy would be to verify, verify, verify....never trust."