In a speech before the American Enterprise Institute earlier this month, former Vice President Dick Cheney made the case why Congress should have rejected the Iran nuclear deal and why President Obama’s concessions to Iran have dire consequences for America.
Here are key excerpts from that speech.
I know of no nation in history that has agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction will be in the hands of another nation, particularly one that is hostile. What President Obama is asking the United States Congress to do [on the Iran deal] is unique—historically and dangerously unique. The results may be catastrophic.
The claims made by President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and other members of the Obama Administration about this agreement have been robust. This deal will, they have said, and I quote “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” “cut off all Iran’s pathways to a bomb, including the covert pathway,” provide us with a “certainty we will know what they are doing” in the nuclear arena, “prevent nuclear proliferation,” encourage stability across the Middle East, and “prevent war.” These assertions are simply false.
Take the president’s assurance that the agreement will “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” In a more candid moment a few months ago, he admitted that under this deal, the Iranians in thirteen years or so will have—and I quote, “advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk down to zero.” The president’s own words make clear that this agreement does not keep Iran from nuclear capability. Quite the opposite, it guarantees that in less time than has passed since 9/11, a regime with “Death to America” as a pillar of its national policy, will have the ability and material to produce an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
And at that point what is to prevent them from doing so? Well, President Obama tells us, they promise they won’t. We are asked to rely on the word of a country that has cheated on every nuclear agreement to which they have been a party that once they have the means in place to become a nuclear power, they won’t do it.
The president says this deal will “stop the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.” In fact, by legitimizing the Iranian enrichment program for the first time ever, the deal will likely accelerate nuclear proliferation as other nations demand the same right. America’s friends and allies in the Middle East, including the Gulf Arab states, know that their own security hangs in the balance as the United States enables Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. They have watched the Iranians get the better of us in these negotiations. They know we are simultaneously withdrawing from the region and making cuts to our own nuclear arsenal and defense budget. They are already assessing that the security guarantees long provided by the United States are increasingly meaningless, and that announced red lines are more likely to be abandoned than defended by the United States today.
They are more likely in this environment, and in the aftermath of this deal, to determine that their own security requires that they possess their own nuclear weapons.
The president says this deal will ensure “the international community will be able to verify that [Iran] will not develop a nuclear weapon.” He has said the inspections regime is historic and that the agreement cuts off “every one of Iran’s pathways to a bomb,” including, magically, the covert pathway. Let’s look at the facts. After we were assured repeatedly by members of his administration that this agreement would include “anytime/anywhere” inspections, President Obama has accepted a deal that gives the Iranians anywhere from 24 days to many months to delay inspections at suspicious sites.
The value of this agreement—and the veracity of the president’s claims about it—rest on the inspections regime contained within it. Inspectors need to know what Iran has done in the past so they have a baseline against which to assess whether that country is cheating in the future. Secretary Kerry seemed to understand this in April 2015 when he said the Iranians would have to disclose past activity. “They have to do it,” he said. “It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done.” Two months later, in July of this year, Secretary Kerry’s position changed dramatically, “We’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one time or another,” he said, because, and I quote, “We have absolute knowledge” with respect to Iran’s past activities. If you’re looking for a quick summary of Secretary Kerry’s position on the need for Iran to completely disclose all its past nuclear activity, you could say he was for it before he was against it.
General Mike Hayden, former director of the CIA and the NSA, has said he knows of no American intelligence official who would claim, as Secretary Kerry does, that “we have complete knowledge” of what Iran has done in the past. Detecting elements of a country’s nuclear program and predicting how close it is to breakout is a notoriously difficult intelligence task. It is one that we have failed at time and time again. The United States failed to predict the first Soviet atomic test in 1949, the first Chinese test in 1964, the first Indian test in 1974, the first Pakistani test in 1998, and the first North Korean test in 2006.
All of this should raise serious concerns about the claims President Obama has made that the agreement guarantees a breakout time of at least a year.
The president also expressed firm resolve on the matter of sanctions. They would be lifted when, and only when, the Iranians had first met their obligations. It worked out a little differently of course. They got that $12 billion and other sanctions relief right away. Soon, the regime will be a player again in the oil and financial markets. And, finally, something on the order of $150 billion will be coming their way in the assets released under the deal.
We were told, and are still being told, that at the first sign of cheating, sanctions will suddenly “snap back” on the regime. In reality, the deal makes it very difficult to re-impose sanctions, or to impose any new ones. It enables Iran to walk away from the agreement completely if any attempt is made to sanction them anew.
President Obama has agreed to Iranian demands to remove restrictions on key elements of the infrastructure Tehran uses to support global terrorism, including the IRGC Quds Force. He agreed to lift restrictions on Iran’s ICBM program and on its ability to import and export conventional weapons. If this agreement is approved, these concessions will further Iran’s efforts to achieve one of its main objectives in the Middle East—to drive the United States out. Former undersecretary of defense Ambassador Eric Edelman recently testified that under the JCPOA, quote, “The United States will not be able to rely, as it has for the past 30 years, on an assumption that it will have unimpeded access and control in all the domains of warfare in the Persian Gulf.”
This agreement will enable Iran to modernize and expand its military capabilities while the United States military suffers from the devastating Obama-era defense cuts and the effects of sequestration. Contrary to claims made by the President and Secretary of State, the United States will be in a far worse position to defend our interests and prevent a nuclear armed Iran when the Obama agreement sunsets than we are today.
It isn’t just Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Bashar Asad who will benefit from the lifting of restrictions on Iran. Iran’s ties to terrorist groups are extensive. That’s why Republican and Democratic administrations alike have identified them as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror. In 2011, President Obama’s Treasury Department designated six al Qaeda terrorists for their involvement in a network that moves money and terrorists across the Middle East, including into Iraq and Afghanistan. That network was headquartered in Iran.
The President has said he understands that Iran’s support for terror continues. He has said that should not stop Congress from approving his nuclear deal. He seems willfully blind to the fact that the benefits conveyed to Iran in this agreement—the money, the conventional weapons, the sanctions relief—facilitate and enable the Iranian regime’s support for terror and terrorists groups, including those who have attacked the United States and are today threatening our security, our allies and our interests.
A far better deal is still possible, and it begins with reasserting our original objective on each of these matters: Iran must halt its enrichment and reprocessing activities. It must halt its ballistic missile activities. It must provide a full and complete accounting of all its past nuclear activities. It must allow complete go anywhere/anytime access, including at military sites. There should be no sanctions relief until Iran has fulfilled these obligations. If Iran chooses not to do so, they must understand that the United States stands ready to take military action to ensure they do not acquire a nuclear weapon.
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