Executive Sessionby Former Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV
Posted on 2013-12-11
ROCKEFELLER. Madam President, I wish to speak about an issue of
great importance to the national security of the United States and to
all of our allies--which is, preventing Iran from ever having a nuclear
weapon. There is no doubt in my mind that we will in fact do that, but
certain things have to happen. The question is how, not whether, we
prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
For the first time in years, there is a real opportunity to take a good step to verifiably eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons capability through tough negotiations rather than the alternative--which is, inevitably, acts of war.
The initial interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is an encouraging first step, and I urge my colleagues not to put it at risk. How would they do that? By passing new sanctions right now. There is a lot of talk about that, and it is easy to look tough. I am kind of amazed, to be honest with you, that, I don't think, anybody from our side has gotten up and made a speech about this subject on the Senate floor. I meant to yesterday but I couldn't. I thank Senator Johnson, chairman of the banking committee, who has come to the rescue of all of us. He is not going to allow it to happen, and I totally congratulate him for that act of quiet and strong courage.
Instead, we should simply state the obvious: If Iran reneges or plays games, there is no question in anybody's mind in this Senate that we will quickly pass new sanctions the very moment the need arises. To me, this is a clear-cut case. Again, I frankly do not understand why more of us, at least on this side, have not gotten up to make this case. I think I have some ideas, but I do wonder.
There is still a long way to go, no question. But this diplomatic opportunity is real. Why? Because Iran wants and needs to find a way out of the financial isolation that our crippling sanctions have inflicted on its government, its business, and its people. It is devastating what our sanctions have done.
Iran's people elected a president who proposed a different path. Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, has given President Rouhani some flexibility to try and find an agreement. That is unprecedented, and most people think it is for real. We shall see. They did in fact agree to the initial deal. So already, one step has been taken with a good result. I don't think it is a coincidence.
The immense power of U.S.-led global financial sanctions, backed up by our allies, has created the opportunity to resolve this issue diplomatically, with verifiable agreements and skeptical inspectors, rather than with bombs or boots on the ground.
I have spent much of my tenure on the Intelligence Committee, going back before 9/11, with the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, and the Treasury Department to build our tools to exploit and to freeze the international web of financial networks that enable terrorist and proliferation programs--particularly Iran's nuclear programs. I have staunchly supported the powerful multilateral sanctions regime that is currently suffocating the Iranian economy and forced the current Iranian regime to the negotiating table. They would not have been there otherwise. The effect of inflation and devastation of economic production and all the rest is devastating.
This initial agreement is the first concrete result of those sanctions. It stops progress on Iran's nuclear program. It neutralizes Iran's most dangerous stockpile of nuclear material--that is, 20 percent of enriched uranium--and it establishes strong monitoring mechanisms that enable inspectors to verify that Iran is in compliance with its commitments.
The first step maintains the powerful sanctions regime that has forced Iran to the table. The agreement maintains that. The very small amount of targeted and reversible financial relief that it provides-- roughly $7 billion out of $100 billion in sanctions that the agreement leaves fully in place--only underscores the grip that we and our allies have on Iran's financial position. The grip will not loosen during this 6-month agreement as we try to go to a next step. We will continue to control and limit Iran's access to money during the 6-month agreement. If Iran in fact reneges on the terms of the interim deal, Iran will not even get all of the small relief that we have agreed to. They will, however, get more sanctions, and over the next 6 months, the small amount of financial relief that Iran can gain in the deal will be dwarfed by the amount of their loss in oil revenue that our continuing sanctions will deny Iran. That was in place; that is in place. Iran will be in worse shape financially 6 months from now than it is today. That is a fact. The pressure does not relent. It just keeps going. So it is a good situation--tough, agreed to, and in place.
That is why Iran needs to complete a final comprehensive agreement to eliminate its nuclear weapons capabilities. Does that guarantee it? No, it doesn't. But we are a step further than we were before because this interim agreement does not give Iran what it needs to escape financial ruin--which counts.
I appreciate the concerns of colleagues who want more now. But we must give this opportunity a chance. However you see the first step, whatever your view of it is, the fact is that today Iran is further from a nuclear weapon than it would have been without this deal that we have just completed. We have accomplished this first step through diplomatic strength, without a shot fired. I think we can agree that is pretty good.
We all want to put pressure on Iran to comply with the commitments it has made to the interim agreement--and we will--and to agree to a long- term comprehensive deal--and we hope--that will prevent it from ever developing a weapon. But we have taken the first step.
My colleagues, the pressure already exists for Iran to continue on this diplomatic path. Again, if Iran reneges on the commitments it has made in this agreement or balks at a final deal that verifiably ends its nuclear weapons capabilities, we will go right to, without doubt, the Congress imposing new and ever more powerful sanctions on Iran. But we don't have to do that now. In fact, it is a terrible mistake to do that now.
Given the indisputable credibility of that threat, I urge my colleagues to consider how unnecessary and how risky it would be to preemptively introduce new sanctions right now. New sanctions now could be criticized as a violation of the interim agreement. It could be blown up that way. Such a move would separate us from our negotiating partners in the P5+1 and it could complicate the already difficult negotiations of a final agreement which we all pray for.
I know some Senators doubt these risks. But I ask my colleagues this: If there is any chance at all that new sanctions right now might disrupt the agreement or jeopardize a future agreement, why on earth would we risk that? Why would we risk that? We know where we stand. We know where we are going. We can't be sure that we are going to get there, but we know that we always have the power to increase sanctions if they try to avoid certain things. But they haven't. So why pile on now and threaten to blow the whole thing up? Why would we risk an opportunity that may very well be the only chance we have to resolve this enormous problem without the use of military force? I do not know of an alternative to that.
If we lose this diplomatic opportunity, then the use of force will be the only option to stop Iran's path to a nuclear bomb. All of us have lived with war for the past 12 years. Intimately, painfully, horrifically, we have all seen close up the incalculable financial and human cost that has come with these wars and the burden that the wars now put on our troops, their families, our economy, and, therefore, our people. This has only hardened my resolve to ensure that this immense sacrifice never happens unnecessarily--that we take great care to exhaust every possible avenue to diplomatic resolution.
Colleagues, we have now an opportunity to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities. We can do it peacefully. Let's not put that at risk.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.
[[Page S8614]] Mr. BAUCUS. Madam President, President Lincoln once said: Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
It is my distinct privilege to rise today to speak on two nominees that are indeed the real thing--Justice Brian Morris and Judge Susan Watters. The Senate will soon take up both Justice Morris's and Judge Watters's nominations for United States District Judge for the District of Montana.
One of the most important responsibilities I have is providing advice and consent to the President on nominations to the Federal bench. I approach each vacancy with the same criteria--I want the best, regardless of whether they are Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. Justice Morris and Judge Watters are the best. Their quality of character and breadth of experience are remarkable.
Montana Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris is one of the brightest legal minds to ever come out of Montana. Justice Morris was born and raised in Butte, MT, and graduated from Butte Central High School. He earned bachelors and masters degrees in economics from Stanford University and received his law degree with distinction from Stanford University Law School in 1992.
Justice Morris's experience after law school is as varied as it is noteworthy. He clerked for Judge John Noonan, Jr., of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the United States Supreme Court. He spent time working abroad as a legal assistant at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague and as a legal officer at the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. He also spent time in private practice, handling criminal and commercial litigation with the Bozeman, MT, firm of Goetz, Madden, & Dunn.
Justice Morris also served for years as the State's Solicitor General. He was elected to his current position on the Montana Supreme Court in 2004, and has demonstrated integrity, fairness, a steady disposition, and superb analytical skills on Montana's highest court. Justice Morris is known for his approachability, even-handedness, and down-to-earth manner. After all, he is from Butte. He can often be found reading to students at Smith Elementary School in Helena.
Justice Morris has commanded the respect of his colleagues at the highest levels of the law. For more than 8 years, he has served the people of Montana on the bench and in the community. His nomination is an extraordinary cap on an already remarkable career, and I have no doubt that he will continue to serve at the highest level. I congratulate Justice Morris, his wife Cherche, and their children Max, Mekdi, Aiden, and William, on this achievement.
In 1916, Montanans elected Jeanette Rankin to be the first woman to serve in Congress 4 years before women had the right to vote. We are especially proud of this fact. Judge Susan Watters, our second nominee, is another trailblazer we can be proud of. Not only is Judge Watters a respected jurist and dedicated public servant, but once confirmed, she will be the first woman to serve as a United States District Court Judge for the State of Montana.
Judge Watters was born and raised in Billings, MT, and graduated with honors from Eastern Montana College. Judge Watters raised 2 young daughters while attending the University of Montana Law School, receiving her law degree in 1988. Since then, Judge Watters has cemented her reputation as a skilled trial lawyer and judge.
After law school, Judge Watters served as Deputy County Attorney for Yellowstone County, handling civil and criminal cases. In 1995, Judge Watters entered private practice, taking hundreds of cases to final judgment in State and Federal court. In 1999, Governor Marc Racicot appointed her to sit as a State district court judge for Montana's 13th judicial district in Billings. Since her appointment, Judge Watters has been reelected 3 times, most recently with over 80 percent of the vote.
Judge Watters has tried hundreds of cases during her 14-plus years on the bench. She has heard civil, criminal, probate, juvenile, and family law cases. Her trial court experience is remarkable.
She further served her community by establishing the Yellowstone County Family Drug Treatment Court in 2001, the first of its kind in Montana. Its overwhelming success has made it a national model.
Judge Watters is known for being fair, hard-working, possessing strong analytical skills and an excellent judicial temperament. Her extensive trial experience as a practicing lawyer and trial judge will be an invaluable addition to Montana's Federal bench.
Judge Watters embodies the qualities that service on the Federal bench requires. She has served the people of Yellowstone County for over a decade, and I am absolutely confident that she will bring the same professionalism and dignity to the Federal bench. I want to congratulate Judge Watters, her husband Ernie, and their daughters Jessica and Maggie on this outstanding achievement.
Justice Morris and Judge Watters are supremely qualified. Their service is sorely needed. We have two vacancies in our State. We have three Federal district court judgeships. The vacancies that Judge Watters and Justice Morris will fill are both considered judicial emergencies. Chief Judge Dana Christensen, our lone active judge, travels over 300 miles round trip to hear cases. In fact, I just spoke to him yesterday, telling him we would be filling these positions in Montana. He said, Max, I am getting in the car right now to drive. What's the distance? I won't say the distance. It is a 4-hour drive to Great Falls, MT, from Missoula, so he could sit and hear some cases in Great Falls. Judge Don Molloy travels over 340 miles one way. That is greater than the distance between Washington, DC and Hartford, CT. He does that to hear cases. We need our replacements.
Justice Morris and Judge Watters embody the qualities Montanans demand of their Federal judges--their intellect, their experience, and integrity above reproach. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting their nominations.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.