Sarbanes Statement on Iran Nuclear Deal

September 7, 2015
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Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) issued the following statement today on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA):

“I have decided to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action because I believe it will be effective in pulling Iran back from the threshold of becoming a nuclear weapon state and in keeping Iran away from that threshold for at least ten to twelve years. Thereafter, the detection regime that will remain in place, along with other U.S. and allied intelligence capabilities, should allow the United States to discover any attempt by Iran to breakout to a nuclear weapon and to make that discovery in time to thwart such an attempt. By contrast, walking away from the Agreement could leave the United States less informed regarding Iran’s ambitions and less capable of mounting an effective response.

“We should have no illusions that entering into this Agreement will produce any significant near-term change in Iran’s behavior as a sponsor of terrorism and a purveyor of anti-America, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric. That is particularly jarring to me as a long-time and steadfast supporter of Israel, which is our closest and most trusted ally in the region. Still, the question is whether this Agreement, though imperfect, can alter the behavior that has most concerned the United States, Israel and the international community, namely, Iran’s efforts to secure a nuclear weapon. I believe that it can.  However, given Iran’s history of duplicity, the United States must be vigilant regarding Iran’s compliance with the Agreement and ready to take whatever action is necessary – including military action – to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  

“I view this as one of the most important votes I will cast during my time here in Congress. That is why over the last few weeks, I have engaged in a careful review of the relevant documents that form the JCPOA, and have participated in numerous classified and unclassified briefings from U.S. diplomatic, military, national security and intelligence officials. I have also had the benefit of heartfelt input from constituents with a range of views on this topic. Many who oppose the Agreement have conveyed genuine anguish about what it will mean for the United States and for Israel. I have listened to those concerns carefully and given them sober consideration.

“One position put forward frequently is that the United States can still get a better deal if we reject what is before us and apply a new round of heightened sanctions pressure. While one can imagine a better deal, it is extremely difficult to see how that could be made to happen. I am persuaded that if the United States rejects the deal that our partners in the negotiations have chosen to accept, it will be virtually impossible to reassemble a sanctions regime anywhere near as effective as the one that is currently in place. The strong cooperation we received from our partners with respect to sanctions was always premised on achieving a meaningful set of restraints on Iran’s nuclear activity. Our partners consider this objective to have been met by the JCPOA and it is unrealistic to expect that they would join in a new round of sanctions if the United States rejects the deal. It is equally unlikely in my estimation that the United States could force other countries to participate in a new sanctions regime. Therefore, were we to walk away in search of a better deal, the risk is that it would improve the situation not for the United States, but for Iran. The sanctions regime would collapse, allowing for economic growth in Iran, but without subjecting Iran’s nuclear activities to the heightened accountability that is at the center of the JCPOA.

“My decision to support the JCPOA relies heavily on the fact that nothing in the Agreement in any way constrains the United States on Day 1 and in perpetuity from taking a full range of actions against Iran – economic, diplomatic and military – if it believes Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. In that vein, I believe that approving the Agreement will serve to strengthen the United States' justification for taking military action if Iran's conduct warrants such action and that the detection regime that the Agreement deploys will make any such military action more effective.

“Going forward, Congress must be vigilant in assessing Iran's ongoing compliance with the terms of the Agreement and must insist that the President take appropriate and timely measures in the event that Iran cheats. We must also ensure that the decades-long special relationship forged with the State of Israel continues with the full support of the United States in combatting all threats to Israel’s security. In particular, given that Iran is likely to continue its destabilizing conduct in the region through conventional weapons, support of terrorism and other activities, I believe we must examine new and enhanced ways to provide Israel with state-of-the-art military and intelligence capabilities. One important example is concluding a new, ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on Foreign Military Financing.

“To be clear, supporting this deal does not welcome Iran back into the community of nations. Not even close. At root, the Agreement is a test – a test of Iran’s readiness to pursue a different path. If Iran fails that test at any point along the way, I believe the United States will be well-equipped to act, and in taking whatever steps are necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, will have the strong support of its international partners.”


 If you would like to read a further discussion of the deal's details, please see here