Skip to content

Schatz Statement on Iran Nuclear Agreement

Honolulu, HI – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) released the following statement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:

“After multiple readings, numerous briefings with officials, discussions with experts outside of government, consultations with my constituents and my colleagues, I am satisfied that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best approach to deny Iran a nuclear weapon and place its nuclear program under strict international supervision.

“Despite the partisan rancor in Washington, the vast majority of experts believe this is a worthy deal.  Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who served in the George W. Bush administration and managed Iranian nuclear affairs, called this deal the “best alternative” that we could have achieved.  Former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar, National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and distinguished scholar Joseph S. Nye are among the many national security leaders that support this agreement.

“Before Iran receives any sanctions relief, we will have extended its breakout time—the time required to produce one bomb’s worth of fissile material—from about two or three months today, to more than a year.  Iran will reduce its stockpile of fissile material by 98 percent and its operating centrifuges by two-thirds.  That means they will go from having enough nuclear material for several bombs to not even having enough to make one. The core of the Arak Heavy Water reactor will be dismantled and the reactor redesigned so that Iran will not have a plutonium pathway to the bomb.

“While there are legitimate concerns about the agreement, we must remember this plain fact: there is no other alternative that achieves these results.  We do not have the luxury of being able to pick this deal apart. The United States negotiated this deal with the other major world powers; and if we walk away now, the multilateral sanctions that the United States helped put in place to bring Iran to the negotiating table will certainly crumble.  Our negotiating partners will see us as the intransigent one, lift their sanctions, and Iran will get economic relief without any restrictions on its nuclear program.

“At some point, the United States would be forced to seriously consider military action to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations, having foreclosed diplomacy.  But even though all options always remain on the table, there is no military approach today that achieves what this agreement does: shrinking Iran’s stockpile of fissile material and operating centrifuges to a level that will deny Iran a nuclear bomb for at least 15 years, with strict supervision to let us know if they are developing a bomb after that time.

“This agreement is not based on trust or shared values, and we have no reason to assume that the Iranians will comply with its terms in good faith.  That is why the agreement includes an unprecedented inspections and verification regime that will be in place for up to 25 years.  We will be monitoring Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain—from uranium mining, milling, and enrichment to the manufacturing and replacement of centrifuges—so we will know if Iran is diverting uranium or centrifuges to secret facilities.  If we believe that Iran is conducting illicit activities at suspicious sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency can request immediate access to those areas.  If Iran denies access, it will be in breach of the agreement and UN sanctions will be reimposed.

“In general, if we believe that Iran is in significant non-compliance with the agreement at any time, we can unilaterally request that UN sanctions be reimposed and neither Russia, China, nor Iran can veto that request. If Iran cheats, we will know, and have the ability to respond.  

“This agreement should not be overstated in terms of its impact on U.S. priorities in the region. It is not as though we will abruptly find common cause with Iran. Iran is still the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and nothing in this agreement will deter us from working to contain Iran’s regional aspirations, including its support of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.  But our efforts can now occur with a nuclear-armed Iran off the table.

“Iran must never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, and that is why I support this agreement. This is the best possible way to deny Iran from acquiring the bomb.  It is what is best for the United States, Israel, and peace in the region.

“This agreement should not be compared to an imaginary deal where Iran rolled over, and eliminated all its centrifuges and all peaceful nuclear energy generation. That was never seriously on the table. It should be compared to its real world alternative—an unraveling of the international sanctions, Iran moving ever faster towards the bomb, and our country left with few choices other than another war in the Middle East.”