The Iranian regime is one of our most dangerous foes.
It has declared the United States to be the Great Satan. It has repeatedly proclaimed its intent to wipe Israel off the map. It has perpetrated violence against American servicemen and civilians alike. It has sown conflict across the most volatile region of the world. And it has oppressed its people by some of the most ghastly methods imaginable.
Given the threat posed by this rogue regime, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is absolutely critical. It is a goal shared across party lines as well as amongst many of our friends and allies abroad. All of us here prefer to prevent Iran from acquiring this capability by diplomatic means if possible, rather than by armed conflict.
In light of this shared desire to resolve the Iranian threat without a war, I examined the Obama administration’s proposed agreement hopeful—if skeptical—that I could support the deal. Nevertheless, the duty incumbent upon us as Senators is not to accept or reject this deal based on knee-jerk reactions or blind partisan loyalty, but rather to determine our stances based on thorough examination and reasoned judgment. Regrettably, after much study I have concluded that this is a catastrophically bad deal that I must strongly oppose.
Far from blocking the Iranian regime’s path to nuclear weapons capability, this agreement actually secures what Mark Dubowitz, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, calls a “patient pathway” to nuclear weapons capability. Consider the timeline. From day one, the Iranian regime will be allowed to enrich uranium using thousands of centrifuges and to conduct nuclear research and development.
After eight years, Iran will be allowed to begin building hundreds of advanced new centrifuges annually and will be allowed to expand its ballistic missile program.
After fifteen years Iran will be permitted to:
• Stockpile significant quantities of enriched uranium;
• Use advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium on an industrial scale;
• And build heavy water reactors according to the State Department’s own fact sheet.
And after only ten years, Iran’s breakout time to rush for a nuclear weapon drops “almost down to zero,” as President Obama himself admitted.
All that the Iranian regime has to do is abide by the terms of the agreement to achieve threshold nuclear weapons status with an expanded infrastructure for the production of nuclear material and a viable means of delivering a nuclear weapon to targets as far away as the United States.
Moreover, the deal’s means of ensuring and verifying the Iranian regime’s compliance with these temporary limits on its nuclear program are, frankly, pathetic. Our only peaceful means of recourse under the deal, the so-called snapback mechanism, involves an incredibly cumbersome process.
In light of these incredible concessions to the Iranian regime, I am also deeply troubled by the great benefits the Iranian regime stands to enjoy from this deal.
Foolishly, in exchange for these minimal, temporary concessions, the Iranian regime stands to reap enormous rewards in sanctions relief. According to figures cited by President Obama, the Iranian regime will regain control of more than $150 billion dollars currently frozen in the world’s financial institutions. Sanctions relief will also allow an influx of international businesses into Iran, bringing about a stronger economy and greater revenue for the Tehran regime.
If the Iranian regime suddenly becomes flush with cash, what incentive will it have to change priorities 15 years from now? Doesn’t this deal reward what the Obama administration called “bad behavior” in one of the most astonishing understatements that I have ever heard?
I can only conclude that Obama administration officials proved to be weak negotiators because of absolute desperation for a deal. These massive concessions to the Iranian regime for so little in return were produced by this administration’s knee-jerk aversion to the prospect of using military force, a preoccupation demonstrated by the constant rhetoric that we hear from the White House that the only alternatives to this deal is war.
That claim is patently false. We can and should go back to the negotiating table. While reassembling the sanctions coalition that this agreement throws away will not be easy and may not even be fully possible, a nation as strong as ours still has plenty of tools at our disposal. Our unparalleled economic and military might give us significant leverage to get a better deal, and we should not be misled by overly simplistic rhetoric to conclude otherwise.
War is never a happy matter to contemplate, especially from a position of responsibility such as the United States Senate. In this body, we are saddled all too often with the sorts of decisions in which real people’s lives hang in the balance:
None of us relish the prospect of war, especially in an age in which our weapons have a power almost too terrible to contemplate. In particular, neither I nor any of my colleagues seek a war with Iran. The Iranian people are not our enemies. They are our friends. No people has paid a higher price for the regime’s record of terrorism, mass murder, corruption, and duplicity than the Iranians. The prospect of inflicting collateral damage on our long-suffering friends counsels further against any course of action that leads to war.
It is my unwavering judgment that this deal makes war much more likely. Let there be no doubt.
A deal that paves, rather than precludes, Iran’s path to nuclear weapons capability makes war more likely.
A deal that makes the Iranian regime more confident of its ability to protect its nuclear program from international pressure and military action makes war more likely.
A deal that funnels tens of billions of dollars to terrorists bent on destabilizing the Middle East makes war more likely.
A deal that provokes a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region on the globe makes war more likely.
A deal that surrounds Israel not only with a nuclear Iran, but also eventually with numerous other regimes with nuclear weapons capability and a genocidal attitude toward the Jewish State makes war more likely.
And a deal that puts the Iranian regime and its terrorist allies one turn of a screwdriver away from a nuclear weapon and a means of delivering it across the oceans makes war more likely.
• Orrin Hatch, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Utah. This was excerpted and adapted from his remarks on the Senate floor during the Iran nuclear deal debate.
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