Eric Swalwell: Why I will vote for the Iran nuclear agreement
The world cannot permit Iran to have a nuclear weapon. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware of the threat Iran poses to the United States and our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel. Next month, Congress will vote on the Iran nuclear agreement, an effort to prevent one of the world’s most evil regimes from having the world’s most dangerous weapon. After participating in classified briefings, asking tough questions of the Obama administration, meeting with proponents and opponents, and listening to my constituents, I have concluded this agreement is the best available opportunity for a nuclear-weapon-free Iran.
Under this agreement, Iran will be obstructed from its two paths to a bomb: uranium and plutonium. Iran will be forced to reduce centrifuges from about 20,000 to 6,000, curb uranium enrichment levels to 3.67 percent (well below the 90 percent needed for a bomb), and lower its enriched uranium stockpile by 97 percent. Iran must also convert its Arak plutonium plant to only produce energy-grade plutonium.
To monitor compliance, the International Atomic Energy Agency will have around-the-clock access — including electronic and video monitoring — to Iran’s nuclear sites. Only once Iran fully complies will it receive sanctions relief. If Iran violates the agreement, we can quickly reimpose U.S. and U.N. sanctions without interference from Russia or China.
This agreement is not perfect. If Iran fully complies, in eight years it will be allowed to seek ballistic missiles. Additionally, some sanctions relief money may fund Iran’s terrorist efforts; however, that is already happening. We should consider: Are we in a better position to address these issues with a non-nuclear Iran that is subject to an agreement, or an Iran with the bomb?
Some argue Congress should push for a “better deal.” Having already imposed upon Iran the harshest sanctions any country has ever endured, short of taking military action, the U.S. had no additional leverage. Rejecting this deal means the U.S. would be walking away from an agreement unanimously supported by the U.N. Security Council and the majority of nations. While our sanctions would remain, U.N. and European Union sanctions would likely end.
On our own, it would be extremely difficult to allege a violation and then have sanctions internationally enforced. In 2003, our credibility was damaged when we invaded Iraq and no weapons of mass destruction were found. We have an opportunity to repair that devastating mistake by working through this international agreement.
As a prosecutor, I executed thousands of plea agreements. I offered the offender a path to success but also prepared for failure. I approach this no differently. What matters most is how compliance is verified. Congress must vigilantly ensure the IAEA monitors Iran, and be prepared to punish Iran for any violation.
With U.S. participation in this agreement, one of two things will happen: We will play a leadership role in dismantling Iran’s nuclear capabilities, or when a violation occurs, we will be able to take action against Iran with international cooperation. Both scenarios are more desirable than alienating ourselves from the world and acting alone. Seeing no realistic or viable alternative, I will vote in support of the Iran nuclear agreement and dutifully ensure compliance every second along the way.