United States Senator Debbie Stabenow - Michigan
I wanted you to get a copy of my statement on the Iran nuclear agreement as soon as I released it. This has been a complicated and very serious issue to resolve in my own mind. I greatly appreciate your thoughts and views.
I have repeatedly supported strong sanctions, backed by the international community, to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. Those sanctions have succeeded in isolating the Iranian regime, crippling their economy, and forcing them to the negotiating table. But sanctions by themselves have not stopped Iran's nuclear program. In 2003, Iran had just 164 centrifuges for a nuclear weapon. Today, they have over 19,000 and have the capacity to acquire enough nuclear material to build a nuclear weapon by the end of this year.
This is a dangerous regime that kidnaps Americans such as Michigan's Amir Hekmati, who needs to be released immediately, and sends weapons and other support to Hezbollah and other terrorists who seek to destroy the United States, Israel, and our other allies.
The only thing worse than Iran being the largest state sponsor of terrorism would be Iran as the largest state sponsor of terrorism with a nuclear weapon. That's why getting this right is essential for the security of America, Israel and the entire Middle East.
I have had extensive classified and unclassified briefings, extensive discussions with our U.S. negotiators and leaders from every country involved in negotiating this agreement. I have met with leaders representing the current Israeli government as well as former military and civilian Israeli leaders. And, I have heard from so many people in Michigan, with passionate feelings on both sides of this critical issue.
I have determined that the imminent threat of Iran having a nuclear weapon outweighs any flaws I see in the international agreement. For this reason, I must support the agreement.
For me, the decision comes down to this: without this international agreement, Iran will have enough nuclear material for a weapon in three months. With this agreement, and the international coalition committed to it, we have the opportunity to stop Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon, certainly for at least 25 years.
I completely understand the deep fear and emotion involved in this debate. When Iranian extremist leaders chant 'death to America' and 'death to Israel,' the first question we have is 'how in the world can we trust them to live up to an agreement?' The answer is: we cannot. That is why this agreement is not based on trust in any way. It's based on strict inspections and verification coupled with the fact that America keeps all of our current options, including military action, if Iran in any way continues down the path of creating a nuclear weapon.
Under the agreement, Iran must reduce their stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98 percent and the number of centrifuges from over 19,000 to 6,104 with those centrifuges only being allowed to be used for medical research or other peaceful purposes. Iran will be subject to an intrusive inspections regime under continuous monitoring. If Iran violates this agreement in any way, America will know about it and be able to snap sanctions back into place.
And critically important to me, we will have additional information about the movement of uranium and component parts needed to make nuclear weapons for at least 25 years.
Again, most importantly, if Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon, the United States continues to have every option on the table, including military action.
I do share concerns about parts of the agreement, including how Iran could use funds from sanctions relief to continue funding Hezbollah and other terrorists around the world. It is clear that they have been funding these activities despite the crippling sanctions. And we are right to be concerned that additional funds from sanctions relief, or any other sources from other countries if this agreement is not approved, could be used to continue these outrageous activities.
That is why it is critical that the White House and Congress redouble our efforts to stop Iran's support for terrorism in addition to this crucial and essential effort to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. I strongly support strengthening our sanctions on terrorism and human rights violations, with more aggressive targeting and enforcement; tracking any new spending on Iran's non-nuclear activities from new sources; and ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge.
This agreement is not perfect, but I have personally spoken to leaders representing the P5+1 countries and the European Union who have said quite clearly that if the United States rejects this agreement, they will not join in new negotiations for a better deal. Instead, I believe that other countries will lift their sanctions on Iran, and the United States will be isolated in the international community.
And, regrettably, it is clear to me that other countries will no longer trust our great country to negotiate and work with them in good faith.
So America must choose between the following: an international coalition working together to stop a nuclear Iran while increasing our joint efforts to stop their non-nuclear terrorist activities, or no international effort, no surveillance, no accountability and a nuclear Iran within a few months.
By agreeing to this deal, the international community will continue to be united against Iranian aggression. And if they violate the agreement and we need to use military force, the international community will be with us, rather than against us.
A final note: I am deeply concerned that national security decisions and foreign policy have become highly-charged partisan issues, including our relationship with our long-time friend and democratic ally, Israel.
I'm reminded of a very distinguished and highly-honored Republican U.S. Senator from Michigan, Arthur Vandenberg, who once said, 'politics stops at the water's edge.' He was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1940s and an ardent opponent of President Franklin Roosevelt's domestic policies. Senator Vandenberg set the Congressional standard of patriotism and statesmanship for over 70 years in our country. I am committed to continuing his legacy on behalf of the people of our great State.
As always, please continue to share your views on issues of concern to you and your family.
United States Senator