Nomination of Heather Anne Higginbottom to Be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resourcesby Senator Pat Roberts
Posted on 2013-12-13
ROBERTS. Mr. President, I wish to take a short time here to
discuss a situation which I think is gaining some attention in the
actual news media on a continuing basis.
But with the Affordable Care Act and what we are doing or not doing here on the floor of the Senate with regards to the 51-50 controversy, perhaps we overlooked the number one obligation we have as Members of this body, and that is our national security, the defense of our individual freedoms, and the part we play in determining the same kind of objectives--liberty and freedom--all throughout the world. I am talking about foreign policy, and I am talking about the very dangerous situation that we face with regard to Iran.
On November 24 the United States, Germany, France, China, Great Britain, and Russia signed an interim [[Page S8785]] agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program. The President and Secretary John Kerry, former colleague, have applauded this deal.
The President has claimed: We have opened a new path forward toward a world that is more secure. The Secretary of State, who came before us this week and gave Senators a briefing, argues: This is why we had sanctions in the first place.
With all due respect, I disagree. The world, it seems to me, is not a safer place, and in 6 months I do not believe we will be one step closer to dismantling Iran's ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
This administration is asking us to trust a regime which has been clear on its intentions, quite frankly, to wipe Israel off the face of the planet--their words--and, is the world's largest state-sponsor of terrorism, sponsor of the Assad regime, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
I don't think that represents a step toward security. I think that is misguided at best. This, to me, is not a good plan. I would even reverse that to say it is a bad plan.
At this moment, the administration is asking--rather pressuring-- Congress to back down from additional sanctions which many of us have supported and think would certainly a better thing to do at this particular time. At any rate, this is not a request that I can oblige. Sanctions are, indeed, the reason that Iran has decided to come to the table. But coming to the table and honestly negotiating are certainly two different things.
If the reports are true, the administration has been holding secret talks with Iran for months. I do not know what was discussed during those talks. I am not sure that anyone in the Senate really does know. What did the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the President offer to bring Iran to the public stage? It seems to me that should be transparent. So I think the Congress and the American people are left to wonder with regard to transparency what was arranged before this deal or this peace plan? The bigger problem is that it has taken painstaking effort on the part of those like myself and others in this body who care about our Nation's security and the security of our allies to implement sanctions to the strength that we have today. It has taken a decade. It has taken six actions by the Security Council of the United Nations, 10 years of work, and a tremendous effort to finally get people on board. But now the President is asking us to back off after we have gained the support of the international community and just begun to make inroads.
The administration is offering to cut back now on these sanctions and to allow the Iranian government to continue enriching the uranium. Why? It is widely accepted that the Iranians have no real use for enriched uranium to use for nuclear power because Russia provides fuel supplies for its sole operational nuclear power plant. But they do have use for enriched uranium to contribute to the assembly of a nuclear weapon.
Why should we back off and only get promises? Why should we not keep applying pressure on Iran through sanctions until they give up their entire program? It seems to me that it would be in our best interests that Iran would commit to several things for this deal to be a true step for security. I am just going to mention a few. No. 1, let's just get to the heart of the matter: Public acceptance for the Jewish State of Israel and to allow for the peaceful coexistence of the Israeli people in the Middle East. Nobody in Iran has agreed to that. That is the main issue, the right of Israel to exist. That should be the foundation that we have to start all talks.
Then we should have reporting and inspection access to the Parchin facility, and full details of the undeclared nuclear activities.
Third, dismantling of Iran's plutonium-producing heavy water reactor at Arak. Fourth, the construction of new centrifuges has to stop. Last, an end to all enrichment. Unfortunately this agreement fails to include any of these points.
If the purpose of sanctions was to get Iran to the negotiating table, how did we walk away without getting what we need, a complete end to Iran's nuclear program? Difficult, but certainly the overarching and primary goal. For a decade, Iran has openly disregarded the tenets of the nuclear nonproliferation agreement, legally binding resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council, and mandatory inspections by the International Atomic Energy Association, the IAEA. All of this, completely disregarded by Iran's regime.
But the President believes we should trust them. Why? Because Hassan Rouhani has been elected President? On the international scene he certainly is a smiling presence. It is well accepted, however, that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, does actually control everything in Iran, including its nuclear policy, meaning that Mr. Rouhani's election equates with no change in Iran, except in regards to its public face.
It seems to me this is why we cannot back off now. Many of my colleagues, in particular--Senator Kirk and Senator Graham--are working on a new phase of sanctions. They are tough sanctions and I am right there with them.
I do not have any faith with regard to where the Iranians claim they will be in six months. Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has called this a ``dangerous blunder.'' He has warned ``Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself by itself against any threat.'' It concerns me that the administration has no Phase II plan in place for the end of this 6-month period. If in fact we ease the sanctions, which we are doing, and people take advantage of easing those sanctions and are doing business with Iran, to put those same sanctions back in place, or tougher sanctions back in place, is going to be very difficult. One of my colleagues described this as once the toothpaste is out of the tube you can't put it back. Ten years, six different attempts in the Security Council finally taking a stand--how do you put back the sanctions that we have had in place that brought Iran to the table if in fact at the end of this period no progress is being made? Not to mention the tougher sanctions that we have proposed.
It is a real concern. The administration's hope, of course, is that this leads to a stronger long-term agreement. I hope this works out but I am highly skeptical. When the interim agreement is up, I think Iran will remain capable of producing a nuclear weapon in a mere few weeks because we are not asking more of this regime. At that moment we must have very strong sanctions in place to make sure that Iran does not weaponize with regard to its nuclear capability.
I fully support a new round of sanctions, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that these are passed before the 6-month period is over. Unfortunately, if we do not take this kind of action, Iran is set to gain everything while the United States loses, not just the United States but Israel and Europe as well. Ending Iran's nuclear weapons program entirely is what I consider a path toward a world that would be more secure.
In today's issue of the Wall Street Journal, there is an editorial called ``Mood-Music Diplomacy On Iran.'' Basically, it simply states more sanctions would strengthen the United States leverage with Tehran. It closes by saying that Secretary Kerry ``now likes to quote Ronald Reagan's `trust but verify' mantra for dealing with Iran.'' But it goes on to say, ``But the Gipper's real legacy was to show resolve when it counted. The Obama administration and their opposition to new sanctions with a delayed trigger feeds suspicions,'' according to this editorial, ``that it is eager to accept just about any agreement with Iran.'' And it states, ``Members of Congress from both parties who want a good and credible deal can help by passing this sanctions bill.'' I think that is advice well taken.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Kaine). If there is nobody who seeks recognition, the time will be equally divided.