Senator Menendez' speech on Iran at Seton Hall University
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks today at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. [Edited for brevity]:
“Unlike President Obama's characterization of those who have raised serious questions about the agreement, or who have opposed it, I did not vote for the war in Iraq, I opposed it, unlike the Vice President and the Secretary of State, who both supported it. My vote against the Iraq war was unpopular at the time, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
“In that context, let’s remind ourselves of the stated purpose of our negotiations with Iran: Simply put, it was to dismantle all -- or significant parts -- of Iran's illicit nuclear infrastructure to ensure that it would not have nuclear weapons capability at any time. Not shrink its infrastructure. Not limit it. But fully dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.
“I recall in the early days of the Administration's overtures to Iran, asking Secretary of State, John Kerry, at a meeting of Senators, about dismantling Arak, Iran's plutonium reactor. His response was swift and certain. He said: ‘They will either dismantle it or we will destroy it.’
“While I have many specific concerns about this agreement, my overarching concern is that it requires no dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and only mothballs that infrastructure for 10 years. Not even one centrifuge will be destroyed under this agreement. Fordow will be repurposed, and Arak redesigned.
“As the largest State Sponsor of Terrorism, Iran – who has exported its revolution to Assad in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and directed and supported attacks against American troops in Iraq -- will be flush with money, not only to invest in their domestic economy, but to further pursue their destabilizing, hegemonic goals in the region. If Iran can afford to destabilize the region with an economy staggering under sanctions and rocked by falling oil prices, what will Iran and the Quds Force do when they have a cash infusion of more than 20 percent of their GDP -- the equivalent of an infusion of $3.4 trillion into our economy?
"Imagine how a country like the United Arab Emirates – sitting just miles away from Iran across the straits of Hormuz feels after they sign a civilian nuclear agreement with the U.S., considered to be the gold standard, to not enrich or reprocess uranium? What do our friends think when we give our enemies a pass while holding them to the gold standard? Who should they trust?
“The President and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly said that the choice is between this agreement or war. I reject that proposition, as have most witnesses, including past and present Administration members involved in the Iran nuclear issue, who have testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who support the deal but reject the binary choice between the agreement or war.
“It is difficult to believe that the world's greatest powers could not have achieved some level of critical dismantlement. I believe we should have insisted on meeting the requirements we know are necessary to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon today and in ten years, or we should have been prepared to walk away. I believe we could still get a better deal and here’s how: We can disapprove this agreement, without rejecting the entire agreement. We should direct the Administration to re-negotiate by authorizing the continuation of negotiations...
“Whether or not the supporters of the agreement admit it, this deal is based on ‘hope’-- hope that when the nuclear sunset clause expires Iran will have succumbed to the benefits of commerce and global integration. Hope that the hardliners will have lost their power and the revolution will end its hegemonic goals. And hope that the regime will allow the Iranian people to decide their fate.
“Hope is part of human nature, but unfortunately it is not a national security strategy.
“I know that, in many respects, it would be far easier to support this deal, as it would have been to vote for the war in Iraq at the time. But I didn't choose the easier path then, and I’m not going to now. I know that the editorial pages that support the agreement would be far kinder, if I voted yes, but they largely also supported the agreement that brought us a nuclear North Korea.
“I have looked into my own soul and my devotion to principle may once again lead me to an unpopular course, but if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it.
“It is for these reasons that I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto.
[Text via Elder of Ziyon]
[For full text and video click HERE]