Sen. Mark Warner announces support for Iran deal

mark-warnerU.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement today supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“I believe that supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated between Iran and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China is the best option for advancing the goal of keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While I believe there are several areas of concern with the agreement, the choice I ultimately had to make was between accepting an imperfect deal, or facing the serious ramifications if Congress rejected a deal that has the support of the rest of the world.

“While I choose to support the deal, I am not satisfied with it as a final measure and will support efforts to shore-up its weaker points. That includes clarifying that Congress retains the ability to pass sanctions legislation against Iran for their regime’s numerous other destabilizing activities including support for terrorism, and that there is no ‘grandfather clause’ to shield foreign firms in the event Iran violates the deal and the United States and its partners re-impose sanctions. I would also support requiring the Administration to provide additional reporting to Congress on how Iran uses any funds received through sanctions relief.

“My decision did not come lightly.  It follows many weeks of study, classified briefings, congressional hearings, detailed conversations with independent experts, Administration officials, representatives of the P5+1 negotiating countries, regional stakeholders, representatives from countries we rely upon to uphold the strength of our sanctions, and views expressed by many of my Virginia constituents.

“As I reviewed the agreement, I kept two fundamental questions in mind: (1) Does this agreement advance the goal of keeping Iran free of nuclear weapons? And (2) Is there a viable alternative that would be superior to this deal?

“As for the first point, I believe it does advance the goal of a nuclear weapons free Iran. The deal outlines a significant reduction in Iran’s fissile material stockpile, reducing their uranium stockpile by 98%. It restricts Iran’s production capacity, reducing the number of operational centrifuges from 19,000 to about 5,000, and completely removing their ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium. It further limits Iran’s research and development activities. These reductions and restrictions on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will extend Iran’s break-out time from a matter of months to at least one year for the next fifteen years.

“The JCPOA also establishes a verification regime that includes continuous inspections at all of their declared nuclear sites and an enforceable mechanism to inspect any suspect undeclared sites.  This leaves us with significantly more information about their program than we would have without a deal.  As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I am aware of the formidable capabilities of our intelligence community to track violations.

“Our intelligence professionals have said that we will know much more about Iran’s nuclear program with inspections than without them. Further, even with the agreement in place, all of our options, including the military option, remain available to address Iranian misbehavior now and in the future.

“On the second point, I believe there is not a superior alternative. I sit on the Banking Committee, and I pushed early for strong international sanctions that helped bring Iran to the negotiating table. My record of being tough on Iran speaks for itself: since joining the Senate, I have cosponsored or supported every important piece of sanctions legislation passed by Congress.

“I have spoken with representatives of foreign governments – the ones we rely on to uphold sanctions to continue the pressure on Iran – and asked for their best assessment of what their countries would do if Congress rejects this agreement. In every case, I have been told that the sanctions in place would erode fairly quickly after such an action. Unilateral sanctions are not sufficient to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“On balance, I have determined this international agreement is an improvement over the status quo.  It will prevent Iran from having the means to develop a nuclear weapon for a long time.  It will lengthen Iran’s potential break-out time, and will not preclude the U.S. and our international partners from responding with all means at our disposal should there be a need to do so.  It will provide much better insight into Iran’s nuclear activities, and it furthers the national security interests of the United States and our allies.

“I have been, and remain, a strong and consistent ally of Israel. As we move forward, I will continue to work to ensure Israel’s security. I will continue to press the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to ensure that Israel preserves a qualitative military edge in its tough neighborhood. I will look for ways to strengthen our commitments to Israel, and I will support additional efforts to stop Iran from advancing a nuclear agenda, or engaging in other efforts to destabilize the region.

“This agreement is just the beginning, and not the end, of our combined international efforts to keep Iran free of nuclear weapons.”

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