(Hartford, CT) —Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement announcing his support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed upon by Iran and the P5+1:
“I will vote to support the proposed agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear program and against the resolution of disapproval before the Senate. My two paramount goals have been to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and do so by peaceful means. I believe the proposed agreement, using diplomacy, not military force, is the best path now available to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
“While this is not the agreement I would have accepted at the negotiating table, it is better than no deal at all. And it can be made even better through unilateral American action and collaboration with our European allies.
“This decision has been a difficult one for me. I have made it on the basis of conscience and conviction. The current agreement immediately reduces Iran’s nuclear program and places it under a series of overlapping safeguards that push a threshold nuclear power back from the brink. The agreement imposes an intrusive inspection and surveillance regime – relying on international verification by the IAEA. Future U.S. Presidents have the authority – immediately and through executive order -- to re-impose our sanctions if Iranian actions are inconsistent with our national security interests.
“Rejecting this agreement is fraught with unacceptable risk. Our formal negotiation partners and allies have signaled clearly that they are not coming back to the table – a point confirmed in my conversations and meetings. There is no better deal available now. The present sanctions will soon become unenforceable, producing an economic windfall for Iran whether or not the United States accepts the agreement. The United States, instead of Iran, would be isolated. Iran’s nuclear program would be unconstrained. Rejection would fracture our unified efforts with allies and greatly weaken international pressure on Iran and American leadership, especially if economic sanctions are needed.
“Although this agreement has shortcomings, the most constructive role for Congress is to support specific steps we can take to make it stronger and more effective. We can seek with our allies to correct the flaws in this agreement and encourage and enable effective diplomacy against Iran’s regional influence. We can work together to crack down on terror financing with overwhelming sanctions; agree by law that a nuclear-armed Iran will never be permitted; and that our allies, especially Israel, will be provided with assets needed to deter Iran.
“I have taken additional time to look beyond this agreement to create a blueprint for diplomatic steps to strengthen it. We can seek with our allies to correct the flaws in this agreement and encourage and enable effective diplomacy against Iran’s regional influence.
“Specifically, I will propose legislation with Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. This legislation will begin the process of addressing the shortfalls, unwanted impacts and consequences revealed during congressional review of the agreement. It will provide for effective “snap-back” policies regarding sanctions, enhance security assistance to Israel, and improve oversight and strict adherence to the agreement.
“Countering Iranian terror with dollar-for-dollar sanctions: To counter Iran’s role as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, Congress must sustain and expand existing sanctions that crack down on terror financing and demand their full enforcement by both the United States and the European Union. I will continue, indeed increase, pressing Secretary of State John Kerry to take long overdue, aggressive steps to interdict arms to Hezbollah, and I will work to block Hezbollah’s financing and logistical support from Iran applying tools and techniques available through our banking and financial system.
“Preventing a nuclear-armed Iran: The United States must reaffirm that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon and any means necessary will be used to stop it from ever accumulating enough highly-enriched uranium or weapons-grade plutonium to produce one. Congress must articulate in statute our policy towards Iranian violations both during this agreement and afterwards so it is clear we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf region.
“Empowering our allies to counter Iran and its terror proxies: We must renew and reinvigorate our efforts to protect our allies and especially Israel, our major strategic partner in the Middle East, from the threat of Iran and its terror proxies. We need a new framework of defense cooperation -- that takes into account how this agreement will affect the changing threat from Iran. Congress must work to expand Israel’s qualitative military edge and bolster intelligence cooperation. The Pentagon must establish new joint training exercises that involve our strategic air assets, and invite Israeli pilots to train to fly long-range bombers. No equipment should be precluded if needed for Israel’s self-defense. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee I will work to establish such a parallel agreement with Israel to cover threats, both nuclear and conventional, along with an ongoing joint review forum, bringing together the United States, Israel and NATO members to enhance our deterrent capabilities. Similar self-defense efforts should be undertaken for our other Middle East allies.
“As a member of the agreement, the United States is in a stronger position to deter and remedy violations, whether through economic sanctions or military action as a last resort. If the agreement is rejected and economic sanctions or military action are ever necessary, we would act alone. If the agreement is accepted, we act with a coalition of allies and partners, with the legitimacy and credibility of diplomacy having run its course, and with the intelligence produced by inspections. Popular support at home, as well as abroad, will be difficult if the United States seeks, in effect, to enforce the very terms of an agreement it rejected.
“Most importantly, this agreement cannot be based on hope or trust. History belies both in our experience with Iran. This deal is not the agreement I have long sought, but it does make the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran less imminent. It requires the United States and the international community to sustain their commitment to verify and enforce its provisions over many years. I am ready to join in the hard work of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran on this difficult diplomatic path.”