Rep. Lipinski Statement on Iran Nuclear Agreement

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) released the following statement today regarding the disapproval vote on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran:

“The Iran nuclear agreement should be judged based on what is best for the security of the United States – now and in the future – and what is more likely to produce peace rather than more conflict.  We need to be striving for lasting peace and security, especially after America’s debacle in Iraq that is still reverberating today. 

“I have taken time to study the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran and seek as much information as possible before coming to a decision about my vote on the disapproval legislation.  It has not been an easy decision.  I do not want war with Iran.  But this is not a stark choice between approving the agreement or going to war.

“After careful consideration, I believe that we would have a better chance for peace by rejecting this deal, keeping our sanctions on Iran, and working to improve this agreement.  The JCPOA gives Iran too much, and requires them to give up too little.  Over the short and long terms it is likely to make the United States and the world less secure and produce more conflict.

“The Middle East is engulfed in numerous wars and Iran continues to be one of the worst provocateurs in the region.  Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad’s regime in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite militias in Iraq are all current beneficiaries of Iran’s support – and they all have been or continue to be threats to the U.S. or its allies.  And this is being done while Iran is under harsh economic sanctions that limit its access to revenue. 

“At the core of my opposition to the JCPOA is its failure to meet many of the Administration’s stated negotiating goals plus the surprise addition of relief from sanctions on Iran’s access to conventional military weapons and ballistic missile technology. 

“First and foremost, the negotiations that the United States and the other P5+1 countries have been engaged in were intended to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  However, at best, the JCPOA will enable Iran to be a legitimate nuclear threshold state after 15 years, and could allow them to take steps to further build their nuclear capability after 10 years.  If Iran gets away with violating the agreement, this time frame will be shortened even more.  The agreement only forestalls Iran’s access to nuclear weapons, and by practically guaranteeing and legitimizing this access at a future date, the JCPOA will likely provoke a rush by other countries in the region to gain their own nuclear weapons.  Notably, Saudi Arabia has suggested that if Iran is permitted to pursue a nuclear program, then it will very likely consider pursuing one as well, while other nations in the region have also been reported to be in this position.  A nuclear arms race in a region that is already unstable will create an enormously dangerous situation and lead to even greater proliferation challenges.

“The Administration said that Iran would have to come clean about their past nuclear weapons program and its possible military dimensions before any agreement could be signed because knowledge about the past is critical to understanding the capabilities of Iran to hide a nuclear program in the future.  But there is no direct provision in the JCPOA requiring Iran to provide this information.  Instead, we are told that there is a ‘side agreement’ between Iran and the IAEA and that the Administration has not seen this agreement, much less members of Congress.  There are reports that this agreement allows Iran to provide its own samples to the IAEA from military research sites.  This potentially leaves the world in the dark about past secret military nuclear weapons research and makes it more difficult to uncover violations of this agreement by Iran. 

“The JCPOA’s inspections protocols are also troubling because they give Iran up to 24 days to delay IAEA inspection requests at suspected nuclear sites.  This is a far cry from the ‘anytime, anywhere’ pledges the U.S. negotiating team had assured would be the outcome.  Iran will game these inspections, if not immediately then over time, seeking to delay and deter efforts to verify their compliance.  They are likely to use small infractions of the inspections to test the unity and resolve of the P5+1 countries and expand from there.  As European nations – as well as Russia and China – reinvest in Iran, their interest in reapplying sanctions would be increasingly improbable.

“More so, the sanctions snapback process is structured in a way that gives away much of the leverage that it has given to the U.S. and other nations against Iran.  First, the snapback mechanism is oriented to an all or nothing approach, requiring the United Nations Security Council to choose between the full resumption of sanctions and no response.  Again, for initially small infractions it may be difficult to demonstrate that resumption of all sanctions would be an appropriate penalty; this will begin the process of breaking the potential for the snapback of sanctions.  Further, individual countries will have discretion about whether to reapply their own sanctions, and may see economic or other reasons to not stand with the U.S. should Iranian infractions get worse.  And even if sanctions were snapped back, the agreement exempts any investment that had been made in Iran up to that point, lessening the effect of the snapback process (and perhaps encouraging a rush to invest in Iran as soon as possible).

“The JCPOA also contains surprising and deeply concerning sanctions relief to Iran on its acquisition of conventional weapons and ballistic missile technology, in 5 and 8 years respectively.  Iran has a history of belligerence in the region, and enabling their access to new weaponry and the pursuit of ballistic missiles will only further the potential for conflict in the future.  That they can access such weapons and missile technology prior to the end of the JCPOA may well lead to an Iran that not only has the means to make a nuclear weapon, but also the means of defending itself from attack.  And for the United States, enabling Iran’s access to ballistic missiles means that they may be able to deliver a nuclear strike against our nation.  This is a very frightening situation made possible in the not-too-distant future by this agreement. 

“I also have significant concerns about the short-term effects of the JCPOA.  Iran will receive $100 to $150 billion in frozen assets in the next few months should the agreement proceed.  Of that, they will have at least $50 billion to spend immediately.  In addition, Iran’s ability to export oil and other products will begin to bring in even more money to the country.  Based on Iran’s spending priorities while under economic sanctions, much of this new revenue will undoubtedly be steered to further support terrorism and militias at war in the region.  The provision of additional weapons and money will only mean more war and more bloodshed.  This is bad in and of itself, but it will also mean an expansion of our points of dispute and discord with Iran, and by and large increase the likelihood of conflict between Iran and our allies.

“Many people ask what the next step would be if Congress rejects the JCPOA.  Even if other members of the P5+1 drop their sanctions, I still believe that the U.S. maintains a sufficiently strong hand to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to improve the agreement.  The sanctions that the United States can impose unilaterally, including restrictions on Iran’s access to the global financial system, could be maintained and would inflict continued pressure on Iran.  Iran would be too close to alleviating the economic pain it has felt to simply walk away.  Once Iran returned to the bargaining table, the shortcomings of the agreement that I laid out must be addressed before it would be allowed to proceed.

“I supported the effort of the P5+1 countries to negotiate an agreement with Iran that would have prevented it from becoming a nuclear weapons threshold state, but this agreement falls far short of the stated goals and does more to increase the likelihood of additional conflict than to bring peace.  Therefore I will be voting to disapprove the JCPOA.”