Cicilline Statement on Iran Agreement

Sep 8, 2015

PAWTUCKET – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) today announced his decision to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. After writing to President Obama on August 31st regarding his concerns with the agreement, Cicilline received a response from President Obama yesterday. Cicilline issued the following statement:

“There is no question that the decision to approve or disapprove the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is one of the most difficult and consequential decisions that I will ever make as a Member of Congress. I have spent the last two months carefully studying the terms of the agreement, participating in dozens of classified briefings and committee hearings, consulting with foreign policy, non-proliferation, scientific, and military experts, and meeting with the President and members of his administration to discuss the provisions of the JCPOA.”

“After months of serious deliberation and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the United States and the world will be safer with the JCPOA than without. A nuclear Iran is a threat to the United States, Israel and the world and must absolutely be prevented. The JCPOA forces Iran to relinquish its nuclear weapons ambitions and reaffirms, by its own language, that ‘under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons.’”

“While U.S. and international sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy, the sanctions have not prevented or deterred Iran from seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. In 2012, in an address to the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ‘for over seven years, the international community has tried sanctions with Iran. Under the leadership of President Obama, the international community has passed some of the strongest sanctions to date…It’s had an effect on the economy, but we must face the truth. Sanctions have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program.’”

“The JCPOA imposes serious limitations on Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement requires Iran to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% to 300 kilograms for 15 years and Iran is required to reduce its operating centrifuges by two-thirds and will be permitted to enrich uranium to only 3.67%, far below the level necessary for a nuclear weapon. Enrichment is only permitted to occur at the Natanz facility, and the Arak heavy water reactor must be re-configured so that it can no longer produce weapons-grade plutonium. The agreement also imposes strict limits on research and development of advanced centrifuges for the first ten years.”

“The agreement also forces Iran to accept the most intrusive and rigorous inspections regime ever imposed on any country through a negotiated settlement. Although it does not provide for instantaneous inspections without limit, it does include 24/7 inspections of declared nuclear sites and creates a process for inspection of other sites. Every aspect of Iran’s nuclear program and every part of the supply chain for fissile material will be subject to independent verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency and subjected to comprehensive monitoring and surveillance. This is in stark contrast to the complete lack of access currently granted to the international community to monitor Iran’s nuclear programs. The provisions of the agreement prevent progress in every pathway to a bomb. In short, Iran is prevented from developing a nuclear weapon without detection due to constraints on enrichment and research, advanced verification technology and the scope and intensity of the monitoring regime.”

“While the JCPOA is far from perfect, the previous trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program is also unacceptable.  Decisive action is required to ensure that Iran never develops or acquires a nuclear weapon.  I believe that rejection of this agreement would present serious risks to the national security interests of the United States and would seriously undermine our ability to lead and sustain a strong international coalition and make future sanctions implementation or military action more difficult.”

“The JCPOA represents the consensus of a broad international coalition and if disapproved, Iran would have no constraints on its nuclear program and would be free to dash toward the development of a nuclear weapon.  Limitations on Iran’s enrichment activities and centrifuge production would not exist. International inspectors and independent verification of their nuclear program would vanish. Most experts agree that the international sanctions regime would collapse. Iran, according to experts, would be able to develop a nuclear bomb in a matter of months with few limitations on their program – the worst possible outcome.” 

“In the end, this wasn’t an easy decision or one that I arrived at quickly. Both accepting and disapproving of this imperfect agreement are not without risk. No responsible person should claim otherwise. On balance, however, rejection of this proposed agreement, in my view, presents even greater and more dangerous risks to our national security. I intend therefore to support this agreement and vote to oppose a resolution of disapproval when this matter comes before the U.S. House of Representatives.”

“I recently wrote to President Obama to seek assurances that the Administration will take steps to support the ability of our allies in the region, particularly Israel, to respond to Iran’s destabilizing activities and to ensure that adequate resources are available to monitor intensely Iran’s compliance with the agreement, as well as providing robust funding to enable our intelligence community to collect all necessary information to guarantee compliance.  In addition, I sought assurances from the President that the process is underway to develop a consensus with our partners of the intended response for violations of the agreement and plans to communicate our clear intentions to the Iranians.  The President provided these assurances in a letter dated September 7, 2015.”

“I look forward in the coming weeks to working with my colleagues and the Administration to ensure that we take additional steps to mitigate the risks reflected in the agreement, to discourage Iran from escalating its destabilizing activities in the region and to enhance the likelihood that Iran complies with the terms of the agreement. These actions should include (1) accelerating renewal of a fortified and more generous Israel Defense Agreement, (2) increasing resources for monitoring and intelligence gathering activities, to verify Iran’s compliance, as well as increasing resources and capabilities for the IAEA to do its work, (3) developing a consensus with our partners about the intended response for breaches of this agreement by Iran that reflect a clear message to Iran that violations of the terms of this agreement will result in real costs on Iran, and (4) the development, along with our allies, of a regional security strategy that includes additional support for our partners to effectively counter Iran’s aggression in the region.”