Ruppersberger Issues Statement on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran
(Washington, D.C.) - “When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was sent to Congress, I committed that I would make my decision on whether or not to support the deal based on what was best for the security of the United States, for Israel, and for our allies. My support of Israel has been, and always will be, unwavering. From my first trip to Israel as a young county councilman, to my time as the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, there has never been a day where I doubted the need to protect Israel, the incredible value Israel poses as an ally in the Middle East, or the need to work together with Israel to combat common threats, such as Iran.
I have spent the last 12 years working on issues of intelligence and national security in a bipartisan manner. I have always put our country first, and I am confident the JCPOA does as well. The fact of the matter is that Iran is only two to three months away from having enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon. The JCPOA stops this progress dead in its tracks, and cripples the ability of the Iranians to build a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years. The JCPOA is not perfect, but with this deal we take the greatest weapons away from one of our greatest adversaries, and I strongly support its approval.
First, I want to stress the fact that spending time pushing Iran back to the negotiating table is not only unfeasible, but also endangers the U.S. and Israel given how close Iran is to a functional nuclear weapon. Some believe that keeping U.S. sanctions in place will force Iran back to the table. In reality, it was international sanctions that brought Iran to its knees. The United Kingdom has reopened its embassy in Tehran, Russia is preparing to sell Iran advanced air defense systems, Germany plans to increase its trade with Iran by four times its current amount, and a delegation of French companies will visit Iran this month. The U.S. no longer has the support of our allies to keep international sanctions in place, and we cannot allow Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state. The JCPOA drastically increases the amount of time it would take Iran to create a bomb. Without the JCPOA, time is not on our side.
Second, some have raised concerns that this deal indicates that we now trust Iran. Nothing could be further from the truth. This deal codifies our mistrust of Iran and allows us to hold them accountable for their actions. The JCPOA creates an inspections and verification system allowing the IAEA access to ensure Iran’s compliance. While there was concern that some inspections could be delayed up to 24 days, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has said that inspectors have the capability to detect nuclear activity even after six months or more. Additionally, my time on the Intelligence Committee has made me very aware of the difficulties of gathering intelligence from inside of Iran. The enhanced access the JCPOA provides will create opportunities to fill gaps in our intelligence that have persisted for years.
Third, sanctions relief provided to Iran is limited and reversible. While the initial amount of sanctions relief was reported as $150 Billion, the U.S. Treasury Department says that number is closer to $50 Billion. While Iran could use these funds to bolster its support of terrorism, there are domestic priorities the Iranian people have demanded their government act upon, such as infrastructure improvements and a more secure banking sector. If the Iranian government chooses not to listen to its people, it risks outrage and potential public revolt by some of its citizens. Additionally, if Iran violates the JCPOA, the U.S. can re-impose sanctions using a procedure known as “snapback,” even if other countries object. The only sanctions being lifted are those related to Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile development. Sanctions imposed due to Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorism will not be lifted.
Finally, the JCPOA removes Iran’s most dangerous and likely path to a nuclear weapon. While many have discussed what Iran is being required to dismantle in terms of uranium enrichment, the major achievement of this deal is the total dismantlement of Iran’s path to build a bomb through the plutonium reactor at Arak. This facility was estimated to be capable of producing enough fissile material for two bombs a year once it was operational. Plutonium enrichment is easier, cheaper to produce in bulk, and creates a fissile material with two times the explosive yield of uranium. In fact 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons use plutonium as fuel. The JCPOA requires the Arak reactor to be rebuilt in a way that makes it incapable of creating weapons grade plutonium.
As I said before, the JCPOA is not perfect. Therefore, in addition to the JCPOA, I have asked President Obama to aggressively pursue several policies as part of a comprehensive approach to help secure Israel and the Middle East. This approach needs to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and needs to create a unified coalition to thwart Iran’s terrorism and destabilizing efforts. The approach needs to include:
- A robust military posture to make it clear that force is an option.
- Expanded intelligence capabilities and cooperation.
- An increase in Foreign Military Financing sales to Israel.
- In addition to continuing to support Iron Dome, the U.S. should assume more of the cost of Israel’s next generation missile defense systems, Arrow-II and Arrow-III.
- Fostering cooperation between Israel and our Sunni allies to fight shared enemies such as ISIS and Iranian supported terrorist groups.
- Support for a United Nations resolution banning arms sales to Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels, and North Korea.
While the debate over the JCPOA has been vigorous, I firmly believe that our commonalities on this issue are greater than our differences, and neither side has lost sight of the need to increase the national security of both the United States and Israel, especially against Iran, ISIS, and other enemies. Regardless of the outcome of this debate, I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the House and Senate to ensure that the national security of the United States and Israel is enhanced, and that Iran’s destabilizing influence throughout the word is curtailed.”