February 03, 2021
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today to urge President Joe Biden not to reenter the 2015 Iran deal or risk facing “stiff opposition” from Congress — including from Senate Democrats who opposed the deal six years ago.
While reiterating a statement he has made many times — “no one wants war with Iran” — Inhofe instead offered four tenets to which any new Iran deal must adhere if Biden wants to find support in Congress.
As Prepared for Delivery:
President Biden has made it clear he intends to reenter the 2015 Iran deal, better known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
So let me be clear: reentering the Iran deal would be a terrible mistake, and the administration will face stiff opposition in Congress if it tries to go that route.
Simply put: There can be no return to a deal whose limitations on Iran’s nuclear program begin to expire in only four years.
There can be no return to a deal that ultimately allows Iran to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon after those limitations expire.
And there should be no return to a deal that lifts sanctions on a government that is a leading state sponsor of terrorism, targeting U.S. personnel and partners across the Middle East.
You don’t need to take my word for it – my Democratic colleagues warned the Obama administration in 2015 of the deal’s severe shortcomings.
Listen to the senior Senator from New York, the current Majority Leader, who warned that, under the Iran deal, quote, “inspections are not ‘anywhere, anytime’” and that “the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling.”
“That delay,” my colleague said, “would enable Iran to escape detection of any illicit building and improving of possible military dimensions – the tools that go into building a bomb but don’t emit radioactivity.”
Or listen to my Democratic colleague from New Jersey, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who warned that the deal meant [quote]:
“We are now embarked not on preventing nuclear proliferation, but on managing or containing it, which leaves us with a far less desirable, less secure, and less certain world order.”
Or listen to my Democratic colleague from West Virginia, who serves with me on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who warned that [quote]:
“Lifting sanctions without ensuring that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is neutralized is dangerous to regional and American security.”
My Democratic colleagues’ warnings were prophetic: We still do not know the full scope of Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran’s nuclear production slowed, but did not end. And Iran did, in fact, use its sanctions relief to fund terrorism, and it continues to support groups that target Americans for murder.
I wish then-Vice President Biden had listened to my colleagues’ warnings about the Iran deal’s shortcomings then, and I hope that he will listen to us now that he is President.
There is simply no good argument for returning to a terrible deal.
Now, too often, supporters of the Iran deal have accused the Iran deal’s critics of being opposed to any deal. Back in 2015, the Obama administration depicted the opponents of the Iran deal as war mongers.
So I want to be very clear: nobody wants war with Iran.
If anything, I believe that Obama-era deal makes war more likely – by enriching one of the worst state-sponsors of terrorism, and by giving it a clear pathway towards a nuclear weapons capability.
Calling people who oppose the Iran agreement “war mongers” could not be further from the truth.
In fact, after killing Iran’s chief terrorist Qassem Soleimani last year, President Trump explicitly called for a “deal that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.”
So we don’t want war, but we also don’t want the flawed Iran deal. That terrible deal isn’t, and never has been, the only choice. But we would absolutely consider supporting a good deal.
What would a good deal look like? I want to highlight four main principles.
First – The deal must be comprehensive.
That means addressing all of Iran’s bad behavior: its funding of terrorist proxies, its ballistic missile program, and its nuclear program – the things my Democratic colleagues were worried about back in 2015.
Second – The deal must be inclusive of the views of Israel and our Arab partners. The Obama Administration sidestepped their concerns – President Biden shouldn’t do the same.
Third – The deal must be permanent. The 2015 deal allowed for sunset provisions that would ultimately allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapons capability.
I’ll be clear now: Iran should never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapons capability.
Fourth – The deal must be transparent. It must allow for regular and unconditional inspections of Iran’s nuclear program, just as the Majority Leader called for six years ago.
These are things my colleagues and I agree on, by and large. President Biden can find bipartisan support here. To repeat: we want a diplomatic resolution, not war. But that means a good resolution.
Of course, it is far from clear that the Iranian regime is ready and willing to engage in a serious negotiation.
So I call on the Biden administration to lay the groundwork now, so that a new deal has the foundation to succeed if and when the Iranian regime is ready.
Specifically, this means maintaining our leverage with Iran through sanctions and a strong U.S. military posture in the region.
It also means opening discussions with our European allies and regional partners to coordinate priorities for a new deal.
Most important: it means working with Congress early and often, so that there is a sustainable, bipartisan path forward when the time is ripe.
Along those lines, I was disappointed by President Biden’s decision to appoint someone who negotiated the Iran deal as his new Iran envoy.
A new deal requires new thinking. Bipartisan cooperation won’t be achieved by elevating the partisans of the past.
Moving forward, the Biden administration should expect difficult confirmations for any nominee who was involved in negotiating the deal.
President Biden has an opportunity to correct the Obama administration’s mistakes on Iran.
He has a chance to build bipartisan congressional support for a diplomatic resolution that is truly comprehensive, inclusive, transparent, and permanent.
A successful Iran deal allows the U.S. to focus more squarely on the challenges of Russia and China. A return to the Iran deal, however, will empower the Iranian regime, and keep us mired in the region.