Langevin Announces Support for Iran Nuclear Agreement

Sep 9, 2015 Issues: Armed Services

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Homeland Security, released the following statement in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear program:

“In July, the P5+1 announced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a landmark agreement with the goal of keeping a nuclear weapon out of the hands of Iran. The plan we are presented with is not the agreement I would have negotiated, and I had hoped the P5+1 would be able to use its significant leverage to elicit additional concessions from the Iranian regime. However, I am deeply appreciative of the tremendous efforts of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz and the rest of the U.S. negotiating team. And while no plan of this nature could ever be without flaws or risk, I believe that this agreement, carefully crafted with our negotiating partners and allies, presents the best chance to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and protect the security of the United States and our allies in the Middle East and around the world. That is why I have decided to support the JCPOA.

“Among all of the language in the agreement and its annexes, the preamble is both critically important and crystal clear when it states that ‘Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons’ – and we will hold Iran to it. A nuclear-armed Iran poses an unacceptable threat, and regardless of our positions or perspectives on the deal, preventing this threat is a goal shared by all. Iran and its nuclear ambitions pose a threat to the security of the United States, to the stability of an already-at-risk Middle East, and to Israel in particular. I do not want to imagine a world where Iran, a nation with an infamous history of human rights abuses, state-sponsored terrorism, and destabilizing activities across the region, has access to a nuclear weapon. We must do everything in our power, in concert with our global partners and allies, to prevent that from happening.

“Over the past eight weeks, I have consulted with nuclear experts, questioned military leaders and members of the negotiating team, read and re-read the agreement and its classified and unclassified annexes, discussed the deal and its ramifications with knowledgeable analysts, and listened closely to the concerns of my constituents on both sides of the issue. I understand and respect both perspectives, and I am incredibly grateful to all of the Rhode Islanders who reached out to my office to share their thoughts or attended my Town Hall meetings to voice their concerns. The future safety of my constituents and the country has consistently been at the forefront of my mind when considering this agreement, and it will remain so as implementation and enforcement efforts begin.

“Without question, this has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever been called upon to make as an elected official. I compare it to my 2002 vote against the Iraq War. I cast that vote, an unpopular one at the time, because I felt strongly in my heart that acting in concert with the international community should always be our first choice and that war should always be a last resort. I voted to protect my constituents, my state and my country. I voted for a more secure, peaceful future.

“It is with those same priorities in mind that today I offer my support for the Iran nuclear agreement.

“This agreement would give international inspectors unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and would establish rigorous procedures for monitoring and verification. That verification process, and its robust system of checks and balances, was a critical precondition of my support for any deal. Let me be clear: I do not trust Iran. But I also believe after careful consideration that this deal will empower the P5+1 to fully enforce its provisions and catch Iran if they cheat. Crucially, the agreement preserves America’s power to snap back sanctions in whole or in part if Iran fails to comply, and this authority will not be subject to a veto by China, Russia, or the United Nations. As the President has stated, ‘If at any time the United States believes that Iran has failed to meet its commitments, no other state can block our ability to snap back those multilateral sanctions… [W]e also enjoy a range of other, more incremental options.’

“If Iran violates the agreement in any way, the increased monitoring provided under the deal will allow us to know quickly and act decisively. Conversely, if the United States were to abandon this agreement, despite the full support of the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and Germany, Iran’s nuclear ambitions could go unchecked. This deal is not about trust; it is about verification and enforcement.

“Of course, while we can commit ourselves to policing Iran’s behavior under the agreement, and hope for and enforce compliance, the fact remains that such measures may not be enough. Despite all of the uncertain consequences that it would entail, military action may someday prove necessary. The President has made clear publicly, and has reiterated to me personally, that nothing in the JCPOA removes that, or any, option from the table, nor does the agreement militarily constrain the United States in any way. Should Iran’s future actions lead us to conclude that a military response is our only remaining option, we will be able to execute that action with the knowledge that we have provided the Iranian regime with every possible opportunity to pursue a diplomatic resolution to this issue and demonstrate the professed peaceful nature of its nuclear program. We will have the moral authority to act, and we will be much more likely have the support of the international community in so doing.

“Like many of my constituents, I still have remaining and significant concerns with the agreement. I am deeply troubled by Iran’s continuing support for terrorism, and by the potential for additional funding to be directed to these malign efforts once nuclear-related sanctions are lifted. I would very much have liked to see this issue addressed as part of the agreement, but absent that, it clearly must be a priority for us to address through other means moving forward. I also have grave concerns about the conventional weapons sales permitted after several years under the agreement, the nuclear materials and activities allowed in its final years, and most especially about the enrichment capability Iran will possess in fifteen years when restrictions expire. Finally, based on the Iranian regime’s history of behavior, I am worried about opportunities that might exist for Iran to skirt the requirements of the agreement in the nearer term.

“For these reasons and more, I am deeply committed to working with my colleagues and the Administration to exercise rigorous oversight of the plan’s implementation, leave no doubt that cheating will result in severe repercussions, and provide whatever tools may be necessary to ensure that Iran’s activities do not threaten the security of our own citizens or our allies in the region. In particular, we must make sure that Israel is provided with the technology, intelligence, and military capabilities required to ensure their qualitative military advantage in the region and counter any threats they may face, including from Iran.

“This agreement is only the beginning. Its immediate goal is to block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but there is significant long-term potential for a more peaceful Middle East when the agreement is followed up with rigorous enforcement and oversight. I am hopeful that this first step opens new opportunities for cooperation as the United States and our partners redouble our efforts to confront Iran’s support for terror and its destabilizing activities in the region.

“I did not arrive at this decision easily, and I will not stop pressing to strengthen this agreement and its enforcement. I truly believe, however, that it represents our best chance to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threat, our best chance for an international community united in support of our interests, and our best option for peace. We must give diplomacy a chance to work. It took years to get us to this point and our work is far from done, but with this agreement, we take a major step forward.”