President Trump’s decision today is dangerous. He’s creating an international crisis. It endangers America’s national security interests and those of our closest allies. It’s a reckless abandonment of facts in favor of ego and ideology from a President who would rather play a high-stakes game of chicken with the Congress and with Iran than admit that the nuclear agreement is working. I strongly hope that the other six signatories will prove to the world what responsible behavior is, and adhere to this agreement – no matter what false accusations and contrived provocations are put forward by President Trump.
I can’t tell you why the President can’t acknowledge what the IAEA, our allies, and the adults in his own cabinet all know to be true: Iran has lived up to its end of the nuclear agreement, and as long as they continue to do so, we and our allies are infinitely more secure than we would be without it. But whatever his reasons, the reality is that by destabilizing the agreement, the President weakens our hand, alienates us from our allies, empowers Iranian hardliners, makes it harder to resolve North Korea, and risks moving us closer to military conflict.
Our allies and our Congress must now act as the only adults left in the room with the power to protect our national interests. I served in the Senate for nearly 28-plus years. I can’t think of a more important moment than this one where cooler, wiser voices have had a bigger responsibility to put a policy back on track. That means rejecting the President’s plan and the legislative maneuvers being contemplated that would unravel the agreement once and for all, leaving our allies to blame the United States, squandering our leadership and our leverage.
The stakes are enormous for Congress. They should reject all legislative efforts that blow up this agreement because eight consecutive IAEA reports prove Iran’s compliance and the President’s hasn’t presented a shred of evidence to the contrary. They should stand firm because wherever you stood on the deal two years ago, votes to unilaterally renegotiate it without negotiation will not only be rejected by Iran, but will immediately drive a wedge between the United States and our negotiating partners who together were essential to getting the nuclear issue under control. Unravel this agreement while Iran is complying and you will call into question whether our country can keep its word, making it infinitely harder to reach agreements on other urgent international challenges. That’s a recipe for America isolated, America alone, and the Middle East on the brink.
If you want to measure the stakes, just remember where we were before this deal. When we started negotiating, Iran was a nuclear threshold state, two or three months away from having enough material for a bomb. That was after years of crippling multilateral sanctions which hadn’t slowed their nuclear progress one iota. Because of the agreement, Iran has eliminated 97 percent of its uranium stockpile, destroyed the core of its heavy-water reactor, ripped out more than 13,000 centrifuges, halted uranium underground enrichment at Fordow, and allowed the most intrusive monitoring any country has ever witness. Because of the deal, today Iran’s breakout time is more than a year and will be for at least ten years. We would know in a heartbeat if they were cheating and the whole world would hold them responsible. That’s what the deal was meant to achieve. It’s working to resolve the only issue it was meant to resolve.
The President has polluted the negotiating waters and made it easier for legitimate concerns to be distinguished from back-door efforts to kill the deal. What we’ve seen today lacks common sense and strategic thinking to say nothing of maturity. Congress now gets an opportunity to be the adult in the room and act in America’s genuine national security interest. The country and the world really are watching.