Vice Chair Crowley Statement on the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Sep 10, 2015 Issues: Foreign Affairs

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, released the following statement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached between the P5+1 nations and Iran:

“Like many of my colleagues, I have spent considerable time over the past several weeks studying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and other relevant documents, as well as being briefed by intelligence, defense, energy, and nuclear experts. I have also had many discussions with my constituents and absorbed their views, opinions, and advice. After much thought, thorough examination, and careful consideration, I have decided to support the agreement. 

“The JCPOA is a lengthy agreement and one of the more complex issues I have dealt with during my time in the United States House of Representatives. The agreement has a number of strengths as well as shortcomings. Yet, I believe this agreement takes important steps – it cuts off Iran’s current pathways to a bomb and puts in place mechanisms to detect future illicit nuclear programs.

“For the first 15 years of the agreement, Iran must have less than 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to no more than 3.67%, which is not enough to make a uranium bomb. The core of Iran’s plutonium reactor will also be filled with concrete – blocking creation of a plutonium bomb. With respect to remaining centrifuges, all of Iran’s operating uranium enrichment capacity will be centralized into a single facility, which is several meters underground – still penetrable by military force if it is needed. Iran must also complete all of these steps, and others, before sanctions are removed. Further, for 10 years, the United States can unilaterally, without permission from anyone, snap back all United Nations Security Council sanctions – there can be no veto from Russia or China. These are major achievements after decades of nonproliferation work that will benefit the U.S. and our allies for years to come.
“Concerns have been raised about what happens after 15 years, particularly with respect to ways Iran could enlarge its nuclear program. While I share these very important concerns, I do not believe they are sufficient enough to vote against the agreement before us. That’s because, even after 15 years, essential monitoring will remain in place for 20-25 years, and more monitoring provisions are in effect permanently. Among the most important provisions is the agreement to enforce modified code 3.1 of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Subsidiary Arrangements of the Safeguards Agreement – this means Iran must always inform the IAEA whenever it plans to construct a nuclear facility at a preliminary stage. No longer will we have to find out years later, or at the very last minute, that Iran has been operating or constructing a new nuclear facility, as was previously the case. If Iran fails to inform the IAEA of its plans, it will be in violation of its commitments and subject to international action.
“In making my decision to support this action plan, I have also considered at length the implications of disapproval, and unfortunately I don’t believe a defined alternative exists at this time. If the U.S. sought more talks, it is possible Iran could negotiate away more concessions to the international community. Just as possible, however, is the chance that the U.S. ends up with a weaker bargaining hand, undercut by at least some other members of the P5+1, and thus, a weaker agreement. Iran could also simply walk away from talks, as they have in the past – even under threat of military action. While such a rejectionist approach by Iran might seem antithetical to the Iranian regime’s interests, that was just the type of illogical decision that has been made by other regional leaders even when under threat of imminent U.S. military action. Under this scenario, we would not have access to the full range of verification procedures included in the JCPOA and the world may be left with no further diplomatic options to deal with Iran. Given these possibilities, coupled with the fact that, as of today, Iran could have the requisite fissile material for a nuclear weapon by this Christmas if it decided to break out, I no longer believe the status quo is acceptable – and rejecting this deal would be returning to the status quo.
“Another reason why this agreement has ultimately earned my support is that I do not believe the U.S., the greatest power in the world, should be on the outside looking in. Even if the deal is rejected by the United States, it could still be honored by Iran and the global community. And, if that were to happen, we would be shut out, unable to put the weight of America behind elements like clarifying inspections or taking action on suspicious sites.

“I have also made clear to the Administration that the U.S. must be vigilant and ready to vigorously counter attempts by Iran to destabilize the region through its non-nuclear activities. That means pushing back, in conjunction with our allies, against Iranian-supported terrorism. It includes being prepared to respond to Iran at every turn, not only if they stray from this agreement, but also in response to other aggressive and destabilizing activities. It means forcefully condemning Iranian threats against the State of Israel. It means being clear-eyed about the real shortcomings in this deal that could present more threats down the line.

“I have supported Israel’s security throughout my time in public office, including every single effort to push Iran to give up its weapons program – even when this and previous administrations urged delay. Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, a deeply valued ally, and a country with regional neighbors that target it for attack. Iranian leaders continue to repeatedly threaten Israel with annihilation, and this is as unacceptable today as it has been before this agreement. My support for the JCPOA stems from the notion that although Iranian leaders might believe they will be better positioned to hurt or weaken Israel under the terms of this agreement, they are wrong. The U.S. will never falter when it comes to protecting Israel’s security – not now, and not ever. By taking the nuclear issue off the table, America can redouble its efforts to defend our ally in many ways.

“We will also ensure U.S. intelligence and military are not only prepared, but ready to counter any threat from Iran, including missiles. Some concerns have been expressed that this deal will allow Iran to ‘buy time’ while expanding its military and strengthening its economy so that it could deter or be less susceptible to our military force in the event that Iran does seek a nuclear weapon or plans an attack on the U.S. The President of the United States, as well as the Department of Defense, have made clear that America will always be prepared, and I have no doubt our U.S. military is, and will always be, the strongest force in the world.

“Arriving at today’s decision has not been easy, but above and beyond anything else, I want to give this diplomatic path a chance. In 2002, I gave the then president the benefit of the doubt and he took us to war. With my vote, I am giving this president the benefit of the doubt to take us to peace.

“I thank everyone who took the time to share their views with me on this issue. I am deeply grateful for all the input, advice, and counsel I have received – even if some may reach different conclusions. As I said before, this is one of the most complex, and globally significant, issues that I have had to consider during my time in office. I hope and expect this will be a beginning, not an end, of what will be a long effort to continue to ensure America’s, Israel’s, and the world’s security from a nuclear-armed Iran. I also look forward to continuing to engage with my constituents and all stakeholders as this issue continues to move forward.”