NUCLEAR AGREEMENT WITH IRAN; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 114
(Senate - July 21, 2015)

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[Pages S5191-S5194]
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                      NUCLEAR AGREEMENT WITH IRAN

  Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, when President Obama came to office, he 
looked out at the threats across America, and there were four hard-
target threats: Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. The situation in 
Iran was particularly worrisome because there was a recurrent belief 
that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. I have heard critics ask: 
Well, what difference would it make? How foolish would it be for Iran 
to launch a nuclear weapon against anyone? Every nuclear weapon that is 
launched has a return address, and that country will pay dearly for a 
reckless decision such as that. But the fear the President had and we 
shared was that if Iran developed a nuclear weapon in the Middle East, 
it would trigger an arms race, and many other countries in that 
volatile region of the world would then seek to develop their own 
nuclear weapons and the potential conflagration was incredible.
  There was also a concern that one of the first targets of Iran would 
be our close ally and friend, the nation of Israel. It is easy to reach 
that conclusion when you read and hear the rhetoric of the rightwing in 
Iran, which will not even recognize Israel's right to exist. President 
Obama set out to do something about it.
  It was clear from our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan that sending 
in American troops was something that had to be thought about long and 
hard. We have the best military in the world, but let's face it, what 
we faced in Iraq with roadside bombs maimed and killed so many American 
soldiers that we realized this new world of asymmetric military 
confrontation didn't guarantee that the best military in the world 
would have an easy time of it.
  We ended up with almost 5,000 casualties in Iraq and nearly 3,000 now 
in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan turned out to be the longest war in 
U.S. history. This President and the American people were reluctant to 
face another military confrontation.
  This President made a decision. I have talked to him about it. He 
decided every leader from every country who came in to see him would be 
asked to join in an effort to impose sanctions on Iran to bring them to 
the negotiating table over the issue of their nuclear capability.
  The President put together an incredible coalition because we learned 
long ago unilateral sanctions are not worth much, but if you can bring 
many nations around the world into a common purpose of putting the 
pressure on a country, it can have a positive impact.
  The coalition the President put together was amazing; witness the 
negotiations themselves where China and Russia were sitting at the same 
side of the table as the United States and the European Union--England 
and France--and many other countries joined us in imposing these 
economic sanctions when they had little to gain and a lot to lose when 
it came to the oil resources of Iran. The President's determination to 
put the sanctions on Iran was for the purpose of bringing them to the 
negotiating table. That diplomatic gathering would literally have been 
the first meeting in 35 years between Iran and the United States, 
representing that period of time when our relationship with Iran had 
reached its lowest possible point. At this point, the goal of the 
negotiation was very clear: stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
  How real was the threat that they were developing such a weapon? If 
you go back in time and read the quotes from the Prime Minister of 
Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, for years--more than 10 years--he has been 
warning that the Iranians were close to developing a nuclear weapon. It 
was a matter of weeks, months, a year at the

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most by most of his estimates. Of course, Israel, more concerned than 
most about the nuclear threat, warned the world of what would happen if 
Iran developed a nuclear weapon.
  Last week, after lengthy negotiations, the President announced with 
Iran and the others who sat at the table--P5+1, as they are known in 
shorthand--that they had reached an agreement with Iran.
  It was interesting to watch the reaction of Members of Congress. 
There were some Members of Congress who condemned that agreement before 
it was even released to the public. You see, 47 Members of the other 
side in the Senate had sent a letter to the Ayatollah in Iran during 
the course of negotiations, before any agreement was reached, warning 
him and his nation not to negotiate with this President of the United 
  That was unprecedented. That had never happened before in American 
history--when a political party reached out to a sworn enemy of the 
United States and gave them advice not to speak to our leader. That 
letter went on to say that even though you think you reached an 
agreement between Iran and the United States, don't be misled; 
ultimately, Congress would have the last word on that agreement.
  It was no surprise in that environment that so many Senators and 
Congressmen from the other side of the aisle instantaneously condemned 
this agreement. Some of us decided to take a little time and perhaps 
reflect on it, read it, and reach out to people who were involved in 
  I took last week to read the 100-plus pages of this agreement and to 
talk further to our Nation's top experts, including the Secretary of 
Energy Ernest Moniz, Secretary of State John Kerry, and others, about 
this agreement, hoping I could come to understand exactly what was 
being offered by way of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
  I am under no illusions about the Iranian regime. Its support for 
terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas is well documented, its 
abysmal human rights record is well known, and its brutal suppression 
of its own people during the 2009 election in Iran is well documented.
  Iran also continues to hold a number of Americans on outrageous 
charges, including Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and the Washington Post 
reporter Jason Rezaian.
  I joined a few years ago, in 2007, with Republican Senator Gordon 
Smith in introducing the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act--key components 
of which became the basis for a strict petroleum sanctions regime that 
helped bring Iran to the negotiating table.
  I voted for all the key sanctions bills against Iran, and I have 
tried to be a consistent voice for increasing military assistance to 
Israel. When I chaired the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I was 
proud to double the Iron Dome funding request of Israel for their own 
defense of their nation.
  The agreement before us is a comprehensive solution to the nuclear 
weapons issue with Iran. Without a nuclear weapon to embolden Iran, the 
agreement allows the United States and its allies to better deter 
Iran's destabilizing actions.
  Let's take a reflective moment and look at the history--recent 
history--in the United States. Strong leaders and nations such as the 
United States meet and talk to their enemies and negotiate when it is 
in their national interest.
  It was John Kennedy who said: ``We should never negotiate out of 
fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.''
  These kinds of negotiations aren't an example of weakness but in most 
cases are an example of strength, and sometimes the benefits aren't 
obvious immediately; they are realized over time. It is simply common 
sense. It has been the practice of this Nation, America, for 
generations, regardless of who is President, to meet and try to 
negotiate for a more peaceful world. Throughout our history, American 
leaders have successfully and aggressively used diplomacy, Presidents 
of both political parties.
  In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis. We faced the prospect of a nuclear 
war, a standoff with the nation, where we knew and they knew they had 
the capacity to detonate a nuclear weapon in the United States. Few 
realize how close we came to a nuclear confrontation.
  There were many hawks in Washington during President John Kennedy's 
administration who said let's take them on. Some even suggested a full 
invasion of Cuba, but John Kennedy wisely pursued a careful balance of 
strength and diplomacy, using a blockade and negotiations to bring us 
back from the brink.
  Few people knew the Kennedy administration was secretly negotiating 
with the Soviets while the Cuban Missile Crisis was unfolding, and 
ultimately President Kennedy agreed to remove American nuclear-armed 
Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Italy as part of an agreement that 
Soviet Premier Khrushchev remove Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba.
  Are we going to say now in reflection that John Kennedy should never 
have negotiated during this crisis because the Soviets were out to 
destabilize the world and to spread communism?
  Let's not forget when John Kennedy entered into this negotiation, the 
Soviet Union had not only placed nuclear missiles in Cuba--they were in 
the process of placing them--but it was occupying Eastern Europe and 
trying to spread communism around the world. The bloody Korean war, 
where my two brothers served in the U.S. Navy, was a war in which the 
Soviets helped the North Koreans against the United States. Yet we sat 
down and negotiated with the Soviet Union.
  Fast forward a few years. In 1972, then-President Nixon traveled to 
Communist Red China to begin establishing normalized relations. China 
wasn't a friend of the United States. It was a key supporter of the 
North Vietnamese, who were ruthlessly fighting and killing U.S. forces 
in Vietnam at that same time.
  In fact, during Nixon's visit with then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, 
China was sending more weapons to the North Vietnamese. This was 
happening even while Nixon was asking China to end its support for the 
North Vietnamese.
  China's regime was also fomenting Communist revolutionary movements 
in Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand--all against the 
U.S. interests.
  Domestically, in China, Chinese leader Mao Zedong had persecuted 
millions of his own people as part of the brutal Cultural Revolution. I 
recognize, as President Nixon did then, that it is hard to enter into 
negotiations with a regime as nefarious as China, and just as with Iran 
today, many conservatives denounced Republican President Nixon for 
doing so. However, as China's sphere of influence grew and relations 
between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated, many in 
both parties--including President Nixon--recognized it was time to 
  Nelson Rockefeller, President Nixon's rival for the Republican 
nomination in 1968, called for more contact and communication. It was 
former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a Democrat, who proposed the 
building of bridges to the people of mainland China. Then-Senator Ted 
Kennedy recognized President Nixon's diplomatic efforts toward China as 
a ``magnificent gesture.'' Other Members of the Democratic-controlled 
Congress agreed.
  There was a time when foreign policy was bipartisan. There was a time 
when Democrats would speak up defending a Republican President, even 
when the most conservative Members of his own party were condemning 
  Over time, President Nixon's decision paid dividends in America's 
interest. China moderated its foreign policy and established better 
relations with our country.
  These relations aren't perfect, but we know we made progress and we 
are in negotiations. China sat with us on the same side of the table 
trying to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
  More recently in the late 1980s, President Ronald Reagan began 
discussions with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on the possibility of 
nuclear arms reductions. It was inconceivable when those talks started 
in October of 1986 that they could really negotiate. Who would imagine 
that these two countries, the United States and the Soviet Union, with 
thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at one another, could actually 
sit down and reach an agreement limiting the use of nuclear weapons? 
The Cold War was far from over at that time.

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  In 1979 Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and continued to attempt to 
spread communism. That led President Carter to halt efforts to 
negotiate the SALT II Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty. The list of 
Soviet aggression at that moment in time was lengthy. Yet it was 
President Ronald Reagan who said he would sit down and negotiate with 
the Soviet Union.
  I have an excerpt here from the January 17, 1988, New York Times 
about the opposition Ronald Reagan faced in negotiating an arms 
agreement with the Soviet Union. It may sound familiar to what we are 
hearing today about President Obama's efforts in Iran.

       Already, right-wing groups . . . have mounted a strong 
     campaign against the INF treaty. They have mailed out close 
     to 300,000 letters opposing it. They have circulated 5,000 
     cassette recordings of Gen. Bernard Rogers, former Supreme 
     Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 
     attacking it. And finally, they are preparing to run 
     newspaper ads this month savaging Reagan as a new Neville 
     Chamberlain, signing an accord with Hitler and gullibly 
     predicting ``peace for our time.''

  These were conservative Republican critics of President Ronald 
Reagan, who was negotiating with the Soviet Union to try to limit the 
spread of nuclear weapons and was being likened to Neville Chamberlain. 
Does that sound familiar?
  In May of 1987, the conservative National Review magazine had a cover 
with the title ``Reagan's Suicide Pact.''
  President Reagan eventually agreed with then-Secretary of State 
Schultz that arms control could and would improve U.S. national 
  In December of 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-
Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, committing the two superpowers to 
eliminate all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched 
ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. 
This treaty, the Reagan-Gorbachev Soviet Union arms control treaty, was 
one of the first to rely on extensive onsite negotiations for 
  Do you remember who coined the phrase ``trust but verify''? It was 
Ronald Reagan in his negotiations with the Soviet Union. It took 5 
months after Ronald Reagan reached this agreement for this Chamber to 
vote 93 to 5 in favor of that treaty at a time when the Democrats had a 
majority. I could go through the long list of Democratic Senators who 
supported President Ronald Reagan in his efforts to try to create a 
more peaceful world.
  Ultimately, because of that agreement, more than 2,000 short-,
medium-, and intermediate-range missiles were destroyed. Our 
relationship with the Soviet Union didn't improve overnight, and we 
certainly still have our problems with them today. But going back to 
what I said earlier, the Russians sat on the same side of the table as 
the United States in this negotiation for this agreement to end the 
threat, or at least delay the threat, of nuclear power and nuclear 
weapons in Iran.
  Imagine if 47 Senators, during the course of Ronald Reagan's 
negotiation with Gorbachev, had written in the middle of those 
negotiations to Mr. Gorbachev and said: Ignore President Ronald Reagan; 
don't negotiate with him because we are not going to accept it here in 
Congress. If that had happened, there would have been cries of treason 
for sending that kind of letter. It didn't happen. Those were the days 
when there was a bipartisan approach to foreign policy in the United 
  Today we have a chance and an opportunity with Iran that hasn't 
presented itself for more than 30 years--the opportunity to prevent 
Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is not going to solve all the 
problems with Iran overnight, but it does solve, I believe, one 
critical problem. The agreement retains U.S. freedom of action to 
counter Iran in any part of the world.
  After all, if Ronald Reagan didn't stop trying to counter Soviet 
actions after negotiating an arms treaty with Gorbachev, President 
Obama will not and should not stop working to diminish Iran's influence 
after this agreement.
  I am under no illusions that for some period Iran did pursue a 
nuclear bomb. If that had happened, it would have been disastrous. And 
I am under no illusions that Iran lied in the past about these efforts. 
I know they did. But the agreement reached last week provides 
unprecedented safeguards and inspections to prevent Iran from building 
nuclear weapons now or in the future.
  The United States and its allies are strong enough to enter into this 
agreement, not because Iran is suddenly trustworthy or an open 
democracy but because it serves our national security interests to do 
  Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and 
Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman negotiated this agreement with a 
single focus: Prevent Iran from getting any closer to obtaining a 
nuclear weapon. They achieved that goal, and that is why I am 
supporting this effort by the President to bring a more stable and 
peaceful situation to the Middle East.
  To appreciate the magnitude of their challenge, let's step back and 
take stock of Iran's nuclear weapons program as it is today before this 
agreement goes in place. Iran currently has enough nuclear material to 
make 10 nuclear weapons. It has more than 19,000 centrifuges, many of 
which are more advanced and powerful. Immediately prior to the interim 
agreement with the P5+1, Iran was enriching its uranium to 20 percent. 
The breakout time--the time it would take for Iran to develop a nuclear 
weapon--was estimated to be 3 months. It was an incredibly large and 
dangerous nuclear capability, growing at a significant rate, and 
virtually unconstrained. That is what this President inherited from the 
previous administration.
  But thanks to this effort, this agreement cuts off every single one 
of Iran's potential pathways to a bomb. It shrinks major portions of 
their nuclear infrastructure. It eliminates many parts of it. It 
extends the breakout time to at least 1 year. Should Iran renege on 
this and decide they are going forward with a nuclear weapon, we 
believe that under this agreement it will take them at least a year to 
achieve it--a year in which we can put pressure and more, if necessary.
  The agreement reduces Iran's uranium stockpile by 98 percent, cuts 
its number of centrifuges by more than two-thirds, and for the next 15 
years, caps its enrichment at 3.67 percent. It prevents Iran's 
underground facility at Fordow from being used for uranium enrichment.
  Iran is required to change its heavy water reactor at Arak so that it 
can no longer produce weapons-grade plutonium. How will we know? 
Because we are helping to design and to monitor the fuel in and out of 
this facility and verifying it every step of the way.
  All of us have deep suspicions about Iran's nuclear ambitions, and we 
should. What if they try to build a secret facility? Well, our 
negotiating team, led by an extraordinary man, Secretary of Energy 
Moniz, designed a verification plan with no exits. Our team thought 
long and hard over the last 2 years about how we might be able to stop 
cheating. For every potential technique, they embedded a countermeasure 
in the text of the agreement.
  This weekend Secretary Moniz explained that it would be ``virtually 
impossible'' to hide nuclear activities under this agreement. It is the 
strongest nuclear verification system ever imposed on a peaceful 
nation. Its end result is that Iran will not be able to do anything of 
significance without being caught. And going back to Ronald Reagan, our 
inspectors will be on the ground.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gardner). The Senator's time has expired.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for 5 additional 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. DURBIN. This agreement requires the IAEA to have 24/7 access to 
all of Iran's declared nuclear facilities. This means in-person 
inspectors, remote cameras, tamperproof seals--all of the world's most 
sophisticated detection technologies. As one nuclear expert commented 
last week, ``If a rat enters a nuclear facility [in Iran], we will know 
  Critically, this intrusive monitoring goes all the way into the 
nuclear supply chain, from uranium mines to centrifuge production. We 
cover it all in this agreement.
  It will allow IAEA inspectors to follow every ounce of uranium from 
the ground to its final destination, and every piece of nuclear 
infrastructure from its creation to its use. If Iran

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tries to divert anything to a covert facility, we will know.
  This agreement also sets up a dedicated procurement channel. Any 
dual-use item Iran wants to purchase from the international community 
must go through this channel.
  The U.S. and its allies have a veto over such purchases. It makes it 
almost impossible for Iran to import anything of benefit to a nuclear 
weapons program.
  Lastly, Iran must also abide by the Additional Protocol forever. This 
allows the IAEA to have access to non-nuclear sites in a timely 
fashion, in as little as 2 hours. The agreement also requires any 
disputes over access to these non-nuclear sites to be resolved in short 
order. If not, Iran would be in violation of its commitments and 
sanctions could quickly snap back.
  Critics have complained about the time period our nuclear experts 
negotiated. But as Secretary Moniz and many others with Ph.D.'s have 
pointed out, uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. It doesn't 
disappear like invisible ink. It cannot be cleaned up in a matter of 
weeks. If Iran cheats, we will know.
  President Reagan was correct to negotiate with the Soviets when there 
were strategic openings and President Obama is doing the same thing 
with the Iranians. The potential benefits of this deal are too 
significant, and the costs of not doing so too high, to just walk away.
  If we walked away, the international sanctions regime would crumble 
and Iran would have few if any restrictions on its program. Imposing 
more sanctions or simply bombing Iran today would create an even 
greater security risk to the region.
  In fact, if we bombed Iran today, it would almost certainly withdraw 
from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and kick out inspectors. As 
soon as that happens, Iran's nationalistic backlash would almost assure 
that the regime would build a nuclear bomb. Over the longer term, if 
Iran were to fail or cheat despite its international commitment, we 
retain the right to use military force and we would be in a much better 
position internationally to do so. And accepting this deal does nothing 
to stop the U.S. and allied efforts from countering Iran's behavior 
elsewhere in the world. Key sanctions on Iran's support for terrorist 
groups will remain in place. Our support for regional allies will 
remain strong, if not stronger. And, critically, an Iran determined to 
destabilize parts of the Middle East with a nuclear weapon in its 
arsenal, will no longer be an option.
  No doubt this is why some 60 of the most respected names in foreign 
policy, Democrats and Republicans alike, recently wrote in support of 
this agreement. Those signing included Secretary of State Madeleine 
Albright; Secretary of Defense William Perry; Secretary of the Treasury 
Paul O'Neill; National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent 
Scowcroft; Under Secretaries of State Nicholas Burns and Thomas 
Pickering; U.S. Ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Stuart Eizenstat; U.S. 
Senators Tom Daschle, Carl Levin, George Mitchell, Nancy Landon 
Kassebaum, and many others. We should do the same and support this 
agreement in the Senate.
  I see the Senator from South Dakota is here, and I will wrap up.
  Let me conclude. When I sat down to read this agreement--and I don't 
know how many of my colleagues have--I was struck on the third page 
with this statement in the agreement with Iran: Iran reaffirms that 
under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any 
nuclear weapon. That is quite a statement. It was our goal at this 
negotiation. Do I believe it? Some, but I have my doubts. That is why 
we had to have an inspections regime from the Iranian mines right 
through the production facilities. That is why we had to dramatically 
cut back on their capacity to build weapons-grade fuel, and that is why 
this agreement is now--most of the countries believe--moving us in the 
right direction in Iran.
  There are critics. We heard a lot of them here in the Senate. There 
isn't a single critic who has stepped up with a better idea. They said: 
Well, let's go back to the sanctions regime. The countries that joined 
us in that sanctions regime did it to bring Iran to the negotiating 
table, and it worked. They now have an agreement they believe in and we 
should believe in too. To think that we are going to renew sanctions or 
place unilateral sanctions--that to me is not likely to occur if Iran 
lives up to the terms of this agreement.
  I will add the other alternative. We know the cost of war. We know it 
in human lives, we know it in the casualties that return, and we know 
it in the cost to the American people. Given a choice between the 
invasion of Iran or working in a diplomatic fashion toward a 
negotiation so we can lessen this threat in the world, I think 
President Obama made the right choice.
  I support this administration's decision to go forward with this 
agreement. I will be adding my vote to the many in the Senate in the 
hopes that we can see a new day dawning and in the hopes too that like 
President Nixon and President Reagan and even like other Presidents 
before us who have sat down to negotiate with our enemies, at the end 
of the day we will be a safer and stronger nation because of it.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Dakota.