This week the Supreme Leader of Iran referred to the United States as “Satan” and stated his aspiration for Israel’s elimination within 25 years. His inflammatory remarks come as the Senate debates a significant agreement that affects Iran’s nuclear program.
A verifiable diplomatic agreement that dismantled Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and blocked its pathways to the development of a nuclear weapon would be an accomplishment that would make the world a safer place. When President Obama said that he would undertake negotiations with the goal of getting “Iran to recognize that it needs to give up its nuclear program,” I supported his effort.
The agreement I expected would have required Iran to end its nuclear weapons development in exchange for ending the sanctions that have crippled its economy. Instead, when this agreement expires, Iran will be a more dangerous and stronger nuclear threshold state — exactly the opposite of what this negotiation should have produced. And that is why I oppose this deal.
Iran would retain its nuclear capability. Under the current agreement, not a single one of Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges — used to enrich uranium to produce the fissile material for a nuclear bomb — will be destroyed. Iran will be able to continue its research and development to enrich uranium more rapidly and effectively.
Iran has consistently cheated on past U.N. resolutions and agreements pertaining to its nuclear program. Given Iran’s record of non-compliance, a successful agreement would need to include an ironclad inspection process. Unfortunately, this is far from the case, with four major flaws in the agreement’s inspection process.
First, Iran can delay inspections of undeclared sites because the agreement establishes up to a 24-day delay between when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requests access to a suspicious site and when access must be granted. Second, no American or Canadian experts will be allowed to be part of the IAEA inspection team unless these countries re-establish official diplomatic relations with Iran. Third, IAEA weapons inspectors will be denied physical access to Parchin, a large military installation where nuclear work was likely conducted and may still be underway. And fourth, Iran is not required to ratify the Additional Protocol that allows the IAEA permanent inspection access to declared and suspected nuclear sites in order to detect covert nuclear programs. One hundred twenty-six countries, including the United States, have already ratified the Additional Protocol, but Iran merely has to “seek” ratification.
Another major problem is the way the agreement treats sanctions. The agreement lifts sanctions that will give Iran’s leaders access to more than $100 billion in the form of frozen assets and overseas accounts. Iran will also once again be able to sell its abundant oil on global markets.
Iran’s leading export is terror. In fact, it is the world’s foremost exporter of terrorism, pouring billions of dollars into terrorist groups. This rapid influx of cash will give Iran the opportunity to quickly expand this effort, further destabilizing the region.
If Iran does expand its terror efforts and we react by reinstating any sanction, the agreement actually gives Iran the right to resume its nuclear efforts. So in effect, the agreement takes away a major deterrent to constraining Iran’s terrorist activities.
And incredibly, the agreement will end the embargos on selling Iran intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology and conventional weapons, which the Russians are eager to sell them. Iran’s missiles can already reach Israel, but ICBM technology could allow those missiles to reach the shores of the United States.
The administration negotiated a pact in which its red lines were abandoned, compromised or diluted, while the Iranians held firm to their core principles. I believe Iran will bide its time, perfect its research and development on advanced centrifuges, secure an ICBM capability, and build a nuclear weapon as the agreement is phased out.
While I recognize that it would be difficult, the fact is the administration could renegotiate a better deal. As Orde Kittrie, the former lead State Department attorney for nuclear issues, recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, the Senate has required changes to more than 200 treaties that were ultimately ratified after congressional concerns were addressed.
It is time for Congress to reject the flawed agreement and for the administration to renegotiate, as has been done so many times in the past when the Senate raised serious concerns. The stakes are too high, the risks too great, to do otherwise.
Susan Collins, a Republican, represents Maine in the U.S. Senate.