Thank you very much. It is great to see so many people in the room and thank you for hosting me today. Arthur Brooks is one of the coolest people I know, “Conservative Heart” was brilliantly written and impacted me greatly. So, I value his friendship and all of the contributions AEI continues to make.
I’m here today to speak about Iran and the 2015 nuclear agreement. This is a topic that should concern all Americans; as it has a serious impact on our national security and the security of the world. It is a topic that comes up frequently at the United Nations, and it’s a topic that we have been looking at carefully, including recently visiting with the Iran Nuclear Monitors at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. We were impressed by the IAEA and its efforts. Director General Amano is a very capable diplomat, and he is a serious person who clearly understands the critical nature of his task. In our discussion, Amano made an observation that stood out to me. He said that monitoring Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal is like a jigsaw puzzle. Picking up just one piece doesn’t give you the full picture. That’s a very appropriate metaphor, and it goes well beyond the work of the IAEA. It goes to the entire way we must look at Iranian behavior and American security interest. Many observers miss that point. They think…well…as long as Iran is meeting the limits on enriched Uranium and centrifuges, it’s complying with the deal. That’s not true; this is a jigsaw puzzle. Next month, President Trump will once again be called upon to declare whether he finds Iran in compliance with the terms of the deal. It should be noted that this requirement to assess compliant does not come with the deal itself. It was created by Congress in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, also known as the Corker-Cardin Law. That’s a very important distinction to keep in mind because many people confuse the requirements of the deal with the requirements of U.S. law. I’m not going to pre-judge, in any way, what the president is going to decide next month. While I have discussed it with him, I do not know what decision he will make. It is his decision to make, and his alone. It is a complicated question. The truth is, the Iran deal has so many flaws that it’s tempting to leave it. But, the deal was constructed in a way that makes leaving it less attractive. It gave Iran what it wanted up front, in exchange for temporary promises to deliver what we want. That’s not good. Iran was feeling the pinch of international sanctions in a big way. The two years before the deal was signed, Iran’s GDP actually shrunk by more than 4%. In the two years since the deal, and the lifting of sanctions, Iran’s GDP has grown by nearly 5%. That’s a great deal for them. What we get from the deal is not so clear.
I’m here to outline some of the critical considerations that must go into any analysis of Iranian compliance. And I hope to debunk some of the misperceptions about the decision the president will face next month. The question of Iranian compliance is not as straight forward as many people believe. It’s not just about the technical terms of the nuclear agreement. It requires a much more thorough look. Iranian compliance involves three different pillars. The first is the nuclear agreement itself. The joint comprehensive plan of action, or, JCPOA. The second pillar is UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal, but also restricted numerous other Iranian behaviors. And the third pillar is the Corker-Cardin law which governs the president’s relationship with Congress as it relates to Iran policy. Before diving into these details, it’s important to lay a foundation for exactly what we’re dealing with when we talk about the Iranian regime.
Judging any international agreement begins and ends with the nature of the government that signed it. Does it respect international law? Can it be trusted to abide by its commitments? Is the agreement strong enough to withstand the regime’s attempt to cheat? Given those answers, is the agreement in the national interest of the United States? The Islamic Republic of Iran was born in an act of international law breaking. On November 4, 1979, a group of Islamic revolutionary students overran the United States Embassy in Tehran. In violation of international law, they held 52 American marines and diplomats hostage for 444 days. For the 38 years since, the Iranian regime has existed outside the community of law-abiding nations. Henry Kissinger famously said that Iran can’t decide whether it is a nation, or a cause. Since 1979, the regime has behaved like a cause. The cause of spreading revolutionary Shiite Islam by force. It’s main enemy and roaring point has been, and continues to be, what it calls “The Great Satan”, the United States of America. The regime’s main weapon in pursuit of its revolutionary aims has been the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Core, or IRGC. Soon after the revolution, the IRGC was created to protect the revolution from its foreign and domestic enemies. The IRGC reported, not to elected government, but to the supreme leader alone.
Soon after its own creation, the IRGC founded Hezbollah to spread Iran’s influence and its revolution abroad. Then, came the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983; 63 Americans killed. Then, came the bombing of the marine barracks, 241 Americans killed. Then, the kidnapping and murder of CIA station Chief William Buckley. In 1985, a TWA airplane was hijacked, the body of a U.S. Navy diver was dumped on the runway at the Beirut airport. In 1988, U.S. Marine Kernel, Robert Higgins, a UN peace keeper in south Lebanon was kidnapped and executed. Under the IRGC’s direction, Hezbollah then expanded its lethal reach to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas in search of victims to kill. In 1994, a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires was bombed, 85 killed. In 1996, a truck bomb blew up Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, 19 United States airman killed.
Throughout the Iraq war, the number one killer of U.S. troops was improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. The deadliest of which were supplied by the IRGC. Thousands of American men and women were wounded or killed. In 2005, Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, was assassinated. In 2011, the U.S. disrupted an IRGC plot to bomb an American restaurant less than two miles from here. The target was the Saudi ambassador. Today, Hezbollah is doing the Iranian regime’s dirty work; supporting the war crimes of Syria’s Assad and it is building an arsenal of weapons and battle-harden fighters in Lebanon, in preparation for war. This is the nature of the regime and its quest to overturn the international order. Its power and influence has grown over time, even as it remains unaccountable to the Iranian people. It’s hard to find a conflict, or a suffering people in the Middle East that the Iranian regime, the IRGC, or the proxies do not touch.
In parallel with its support for terrorism and Proxy wars, Iran’s military has long pursued nuclear weapons; all while attempting to hide its intentions. For decades, the Iranian military conducted a covert nuclear weapons program; undeclared and hidden from international inspectors. In 2002, Iranian dissidents revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment plant and heavy water reactor. Both violations of Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The regime went on to break multiple promises to abide by international inspections and limits. It hid its nuclear weapons development, and lied about it until it got caught. In 2009, American, British, and French intelligence revealed the existence of a secret uranium enrichment plant deep inside a mountain; deep inside an IRGC base. The British Prime Minister summed up Iran’s behavior well; calling it, “The serial deception of many years.”
It was soon after this that President Obama began negotiating a deal with Iran. The deal he struck wasn’t supposed to be just about nuclear weapons; it was meant to be an opening with Iran, a welcoming back into the community of nations. President Obama believed, that after decades of hostility to the U.S., the Iranian regime was willing to negotiate an end to its nuclear program. Much has been written about the JCPOA, I won’t repeat it all here; let’s just say that the agreement falls short of what was promised. We were promised an end to the Iranian nuclear program, what emerged was not an end, but a pause. Under the deal, Iran will continue to enrich uranium and develop advanced centrifuges. We were promised anytime, anywhere inspections of sites in Iran. The final agreement delivered much less.
The promised 24-7 inspections apply only to Iran’s declared nuclear sites. For any undeclared, but suspected sites, the regime can deny access for up to 24 days. Then, there’s the deal’s expiration dates. After 10 years, the limits on uranium, advanced centrifuges, and other nuclear restrictions begin to evaporate. In less than 10 years, they have the opportunity to upgrade their capabilities in various ways. The JCPOA is therefore a very flawed and limited agreement. But even so, Iran has been caught in multiple violations over the past year and a half. In February 2016, just a month after the agreement was implemented, the IAEA had discovered that Iran had exceeded its allowable limit of heavy water. Nine months later, Iran exceeded the heavy water limit again. Both times, the Obama administration helped Iran get back into compliance and refused to declare it a violation. If that’s not enough, the biggest concern is that Iranian leaders, the same ones who in the past were caught operating a covert nuclear program at military sites, have stated publically that they will refuse to allow IAEA inspections of their military sites. How can we know Iran is complying with the deal, if inspectors are not allowed to look everywhere they should look?
Another major flaw in the JCPOA is its penalty provisions. Whether an Iranian violation is big or small, whether it is deemed material or non-material, the deal provides for only one penalty. That penalty is the re-imposition of sanctions, and if sanctions are re-imposed, Iran is then freed from all its commitments that it made. Think about that. There is an absurdly circular logic to enforcement of this deal. Penalizing its violations don’t make the deal stronger, they blow it up. Iran’s leaders know this; they are counting on the world brushing off relatively minor infractions, or, even relatively major ones. They are counting on the United States and the other parties to the agreement being so invested in its success that they overlook Iranian cheating. That is exactly what our previous administration did. It is this unwillingness to challenge Iranian behavior, for fear of damaging the nuclear agreement that gets to the heart of the threat the deal imposes to our national security. The Iranian nuclear deal was designed to be too big to fail. The deal drew an artificial line between the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and the rest of its lawless behavior. It said, we’ve made this deal on the nuclear side, so none of the regime’s other bad behavior is important enough to threaten the nuclear agreement. The result, is that for advocates of the deal, everything in our relationship with the Iranian regime must now be subordinated to the preservation of the agreement. The Iranians understand this dynamic, just last month when the United States imposed new sanctions in response to Iranian missile launches, Iran’s leaders threatened once again to leave the JCPOA and return to a nuclear program more advanced than the one they had before the agreement. This arrogant threat tells us one thing. Iran’s leaders want to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage to its bad behavior. This threat is a perfect example of how judging the regime’s nuclear plans strictly, in terms of compliance with the JCPOA, is dangerous and short sided. More importantly, it misses the point. Why did we need to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place? The answer has everything to do with the nature of the regime and the IRGC’s determination to threaten Iran’s neighbors and advance its revolution. That is where the other two pillars that connect us to the nuclear deal come into play.
The second pillar directly involves the United Nations. When the nuclear agreement was signed, the Obama administration took Iran’s non-nuclear activity; the missile development, the arms smuggling, the terrorism, the support of a murderous regime, and rolled it up into UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Critically, included in this supposed non-nuclear activity, is the IRGC’s ongoing development of ballistic missile technology. You can call it non-nuclear all you want, missile technology cannot be separated from the pursuit of a nuclear weapon. North Korea is showing the world that right now. Every six months, the UN Secretary General reports to the Security Council on the Iranian regime’s compliance with this so called non-nuclear resolution. Each report is filled with devastating evidence of Iranian’s violations. Proven arm smuggling, violations of travel bans, ongoing support for terrorism, stoking of regional conflicts. The Secretary General’s report also includes ample evidence of ballistic missile technology and launches. The regime has engaged in such launches repeatedly; including in July of this year when they launched a rocket into space that intelligence experts say can be used to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile. They are clearly acting in defiance of UN Resolution 2231 by developing missile technology capable of deploying nuclear warheads. Unfortunately, as happens all too often at the UN, many member states choose to ignore blatant violations of the UN’s own resolution. In this way, we see how dangerously these two pillars of Iran policy work together. The international community has powerful incentives to go out of its way to assert that the Iranian regime is in compliance of the nuclear side. Meanwhile, the UN is too reluctant to address the regimes so called non-nuclear violations. The result, is that Iran’s military continues its march towards the missile technology to deliver a nuclear warhead; and the world becomes a more dangerous place. That’s where the third pillar of the Iran nuclear policy comes in: the Corker-Cardin Law.
As you recall, President Obama refused to submit the Iran deal to Congress as a treaty. He knew, full well, that Congress would have rejected it. In fact, majorities in both houses in Congress voted against the deal. Among the no votes, were leading democrats like senators: Chuck Schumer, Ben Cardin, and Bob Menendez. Despite President Obama’s constitutionally questionable dodge of Congress, the legislative body did attempt to exercise some of its authority with the passage of the Corker-Cardin Law. The law requires that the president make a certification to Congress every 90 days. But importantly, the law asks the president to certify several things, not just one. The first is that Iran has not materially breached the JCPOA, that’s the one everyone focuses on. But, the Corker-Cardin law also focuses on something else, something that is often overlooked. It asks the president to certify that the suspension of sanctions against Iran is appropriate and proportionate to Iran’s nuclear measures; and that it is vital to the national security interests of the United States. So, regardless of whether one considers Iran’s violations of the JCPOA to have been material, and regardless of whether one considers Iran’s flouting of the UN resolution on its ballistic missile technology to be non-nuclear, U.S. law requires the president to also look at whether the Iran deal is appropriate, proportionate, and within our national security interest. Corker-Cardin asks us to put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Under its structure, we must consider not just the Iranian regime’s technical violations of the JCPOA, but also its violations of resolution 2231, and its long history of aggression. We must consider the regime’s repeated demonstrated hostility towards the United States. We must consider its history of deception about its nuclear program. We must consider its ongoing development of ballistic missile technology. And we must consider the day when the terms of the JCPOA sunset. That’s the day when Iran’s military may already have the missile technology to send a nuclear warhead to the United States. A technology that North Korea only recently developed. In short, we must consider the whole picture; not simply whether Iran has exceeded the JCPOA’s limit on uranium enrichment. We must consider the whole jigsaw puzzle, not just one of its pieces. That’s the judgement President Trump will have to make in October. If the president does not certify Iranian compliance, the Corker-Cardin Law also tells us what happens next. What happens next is significantly in Congress’s hands. This is critically important, and almost completely overlooked. If the President chooses not to certify Iranian compliance, that does not mean the United States is withdrawing from the JCPOA. Withdraw from the agreement is governed by the terms of the JCPOA. The Corker-Cardin Law governs the relationship between the president and Congress. If the President finds that he cannot certify Iranian compliance, it would signal one or more of the following messages to Congress. Either, the administration believes Iran is in violation of the deal, or, the lifting of sanctions against Iran is not appropriate and proportional to the regime’s behavior, or, the lifting of sanctions is not in the United States’ national security interest. Under the law, Congress then has 60 days to consider whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran. During that time, Congress could take that opportunity to debate Iran’s support for terrorism, its past nuclear activity, and its massive human rights violations. All of which are called for in the Corker-Cardin Law. Congress could debate whether the nuclear deal is in fact too big to fail. We should welcome a debate in whether the JCPOA is in the UN’s national security interest. The previous administration set up the deal in a way that denied us that honest and serious debate.
If the President finds that he cannot, in good faith, certify Iranian compliance, he would initiate a process whereby we move beyond narrow technicalities and look at the big picture; that issue is at our national security interest. Its past time we have an Iran nuclear policy that acknowledge that. Thank you.
[Question and Answer]
Q: So, you were just at a Security Council session that was called urgently at the wake of a potential hydrogen bomb test in North Korea…now you are talking about Iran, a different challenge, but in many ways the same kind of a challenge… I mean do you see the possibility that Iran ends up in a North Korea situation if more is not done in the coming months and years?
A: I think that is why it is so important for me to talk about this. Because, I know that if we continue to not look at the Iranian activity, if we continue to just say, “Oh we will just deal with that later”, we will be dealing with the next North Korea because we are allowing them to go develop advanced technology, right there in front of us. We are allowing them to have behavior that is in violation of the resolution right in front of us. We are allowing them to sit there and actually tell the IAEA they are not going to let them inspect military sites where we know they have had covert nuclear operations in the past. So, what I want the country to understand is that we need to wake up. We need to understand this is not something that just suddenly went away, it is still there but it is hiding behind an agreement that has everyone so scared to touch it without realizing things are going on right now.
Q: So, you spend a lot of time with our allies, and others up in New York. One of the things that you hear from Iran and their friends and supporters is if the United States chooses to walk away from the JCPOA, for whatever reason, the Europeans and the Asians and the Russians are not going to be with them. You are going to be walking away on your own and we are not going to put sanctions back in place. As you lay out your concerns…as you talk to people up in New York…where do you see our allies standing on this?
A: I think our allies are frustrated, and they are concerned. They see what we see. They see the violations of the UN resolution, they see the fact that the Iranian regime is saying they’re not going to let us look at military sites. They’re concerned; everyone hoped that this deal was going to make the Iranian government good people. But, no one looked at the history of Iran. No one looked at all the past aggressions that they have shown, and what we’re saying is…this deal doesn’t change all of that. This deal doesn’t change what is happening right now, so, our allies very much know that we should be concerned. No, they don’t want us to get out of the deal. But this is the thing…are we going to take care of our allies and make sure they’re comfortable, or are we going to look out for our U.S. security interest? That’s the thing, this is about national security. This isn’t about European security or anyone else. This is about the President making a decision on…is this in our national security interest to continue down this path that we’re on?
Q: So, one of the things that got the Iranian’s to the table were the sanctions, that you mentioned, that really took a bite out of the Iranian economy. The challenge for us is then… if the assessment is, that in fact, they are not complying…that this is no longer in the U.S. security interest, how do we constrain them? This is one of the conversations that a lot of people have in Washington. We focus a lot on the JCPOA, okay…it was a lousy deal but it was a carefully constructed one. What happens next? Have you started talking and thinking about what’s next?
A: Well, I mean I think we have to understand you can’t put lipstick on a pig, right? So no matter what we do, we can’t make this deal look better than what it is. We have to look at the reality that this deal is flawed. So do we allow ourselves to have blinders on to a flawed deal, or do we say, “What else can we do?” Is there something else we should be doing now to prevent what’s going to happen 10 years from now? That is a very realistic thing that we need to look at. That’s important for our children, our grandchildren, and everything going forward is that we can’t continue to kick this down the road. We have to make sure that we’re looking out for it; and I think that if you look at North Korea now, the reasons we’re pushing for so many sanctions…you know do we think that more sanctions are going to work on North Korea? Not necessarily, but what does it do? It cuts off the revenue that allows them to build ballistic missiles. With what we did with Iran…we cut off the revenue so that they couldn’t improve their technology. We cut off the revenue so they couldn’t do bad things willingly as much as they wanted to. So, instead we gave them this influx of money that suddenly allowed them to do whatever they want with 24 days’ notice if we’re going to inspect a site…I mean there’s a problem there. I think we just need to be honest with ourselves that when the JCPOA was passed, when the resolution was passed, when the Corker-Cardin Law was passed, that doesn’t change the Iranian culture and belief of the government. They are still who they were prior to the deal.
Q: Now, one of the things you mentioned that we don’t talk about enough I think…is that there are Security Council resolutions that effect Iran that are not nuclear related. Not just the missile technology but also the transfer of weaponry…so, do you think there is support out there to start putting pressure on the Iranians who are now in (inaudible), Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and…we could go on for a while…do you think there’s a growing consensus that we need to do something about Iran’s other activities or is this going to be us standing alone again?
A: So this is the interesting thing. The Iranian…you could look at any place in the Middle East where there are problems and the Iranian tentacles are there. It’s just the reality of the situation. So, if you know that, if you know that there is proof of the support of terrorism, if you know there’s been arms smuggling, if you know that they’re in violation of multiple things from that resolution, why isn’t anyone standing up? They’re not standing up, out of fear that the Iranian regime will pull out of the JCPOA. How smart is that? So we’re going to ignore all of these things they are doing throughout the Middle East, in the name in protecting a flawed deal? That’s not smart. It’s not being careful. It’s not being in front of the situation. What we’re looking at is that we are not keeping Iranians from doing bad things, we’re empowering them. We gave them a ton of money to do it. We can’t expect any different behavior; and they will do exactly what they did when I went to the IAEA to have conversations; they will threaten to pull out of the JCPOA. They are threatening the entire world because the entire world thinks the JCPOA is untouchable, but it’s not. What they’re doing is happening with or without us and we have to be realistic about that.
Q: Thank you very much ambassador, the question I have is…did the JCPOA encourage the reformists in Iran, and are the reformists in Iran sincere, or are we caught up in a game of good cop-bad cop when it comes to Iranian politics? Thank you.
A: So it’s a great question, but I don’t know that I have the answer to it. But, what I do have the answers to is the historic nature of the Iranian regime. If you look at how they’ve been in the past, they’ve always threatened the United States. They have always done bad activity. They have always been involved in terrorism. They’re not going to change their stripes just because of a deal. So what we did is…we gave them a deal. What do Iranians typically do? They side track the deal, they find other ways, they get creative… what we know is, they have hid things in the past and they’ve lied about it until they’ve gotten caught. This is the same scenario. Yes, the IAEA is doing a great job, looking at declared sites. There are hundreds of undeclared sites that have suspicious activity that they haven’t looked at. So, are we just going to go covet and protect this deal, and ignore the fact that reality is they could very well be cheating like they’ve done many times before? And that’s why I think the United States needs to have a conversation about, are we being smart to ourselves, or are we being played for fools?
Q: There’s really a bigger question here though…it’s not, we talk a lot about Iran we talk a lot about the bad things that they’re doing, but there is actually the nuclear nonproliferation treaty that stands in the balance as well. We have North Korea, we have the Iranians, we have Pakistan, and we have all these other countries that now have nuclear weapons. And, if the IAEA is basically a toothless tiger, then you have to ask what purpose this is all surveying.
A: I don’t think the IAEA is a toothless tiger. I think they actually do very good work, they do inspections. This was a lot to give them. This was a lot. You’ve got the fact that there are hundreds of sites, their experts can only look at so many, and they have said, of the sites they’ve seen, those are in compliance. No one is talking about of the sites they haven’t seen. That’s the talking point that gets missed. It’s easy to say, “Oh, but they’re in compliance.” Well, that’s easy for me to say to my son, “Did you finish your homework?” and he says, “I finished the first page”. It’s not all of the homework. That’s a lot of what we’re talking about as we deal with this.
Q: Hi Ambassador Elise Labott with CNN, nice to see you again, I’d like to put this in the context of North Korea. Right now, yesterday you said that North Korea was begging for war, today you’re talking about… you know, it seems as though even though you’re talking about the President making his own decision, you just did lay out a very strong argument for decertifying and re-examining the deal and I’m wondering right now, as you look towards North Korea and try to get North Korea to abandon its Nuclear ambitions…whether there’s a concern that the U.S. is not counted on to make good of the deals it is able to reach with other countries and that North Korea will see no incentive to make a deal with the United States, if it is going to pull out of its deal. And, just as you laid out this case… I know you said that the President will make this decision…are you recommending that he decertify? Because you certainly seem to lay out a persuasive argument for decertifying and triggering this nationwide debate.
A: So I think there is a couple of things there. I’m not making the case for decertifying. What I am saying is, should he decide to decertify, he has grounds to stand on. All I wanted to do was put out the facts because I think it is very easy to talk about compliance and the JCPOA; but there is so much more to the story that we need to be looking at. There is so much more that the President has to be looking at. So what I am doing, is to just try to lay out the options of what’s out there, what we need to be looking at, and knowing that the end result has to be national security of the United States. It’s protecting Americans so that they are not in danger or a threat. You talked about North Korea and whether others would think that we don’t stay in a deal. What’s more important is that we let others know we will stay in a deal, as long as it protects the security of the United States. We should, at no time, be beholden to any agreement and sacrifice the security of the United States to stay in agreement and say that we’ll do it. We should always let every country know, whether it’s North Korea, Iran, or anyone else…that we will always look out for our interest, our security, and making sure that it works for us. Not making sure that it works for everyone else. That’s very important.
Q: Of course, the other thing that people forget, is that if President Obama had submitted this as a treaty to Congress, then we would be much more constrained in our ability to walk away. He chose to do that understanding that he probably wouldn’t get ratification, but, if there is anyone to blame for the fact that now Donald Trump can make this decision, it is in fact that previous administration. That was their call.
A: And it would be interesting to see what the debate in Congress would be like when they have to look at everything. When they have to look at all aspects of Corker-Cardin, when they have all of those things to look at…do they still agree with the agreement? That would be an interesting debate to see happen.
Q: Have you encouraged members of Congress and others to hold these kind of hearings and the runout to this decision?
A: I have not had conversations with congressional members. This really was something, because we discuss it at the United Nations quite a bit, because, by instinct, I try to get ahead of situations before they get bad and look at things that might happen before they happen, and because I wanted to make sure that I provided as much information to the President on the issue as I could. Going to the IAEA, asking the right questions…see, we never ask the IAEA to do anything, they are independent…I didn’t want that to happen. What I did do was ask questions. How many sites? How many have you looked at? Are they declared? Are they undeclared? What about the military sites, are you checking those? All of these questions needed to be answered; and I think it all goes back to what Director General Amano said in the very beginning, “This is a jigsaw puzzle, we can’t look at just a few of the pieces and think you know the answer to the puzzle because that’s not the case.”
Q: Hello, I wanted to ask you a question that, if the President decides to decertify the agreement, and Congress has this debate, would the European allies support where we are going with this and understand what’s happening, or would you expect resistance from them moving forward?
A: I think, because the European allies understand the concerns we have with Iran… If they saw the President decertify, they would, yes, realize that this is going to Congress and I think they would watch that debate very closely. No one wants to get out of the deal out of holding out hope that the Iranians will do the right thing. But I think we have to be honest enough to say, “But what if they’re not? What if they’re not doing the right thing? What if we just gave them 10 years and all the money they wanted to do whatever they wanted to prepare, for when that tenth year hits, and they start nuclear war?” So I think our European allies understand our concerns. I think they would very much understand the debate. I think they would have their views on whether or not we should stay in or not, that’s going to go on. But I think they would very much understand our willingness or want to have a debate on whether or not this is still the right thing.
Q: Gardiner Harris from the New York Times. Ms. Ambassador, this administration has now thrown the Dreamer and DACA to Congress, it is not a debate Congress wants. It sounds like you want to throw the Iran deal to Congress which, I can tell you right now, even your allies on the Republican side will tell you is not really a debate they want to have right now on Capitol Hill with all the things that are going on. This administration has the power to decide whether to stay in the deal or get out of the deal. Why this middle path where you decertify and then force Congress to make this hard decision for you, instead of making this hard decision yourself? When I talked to the European allies they say, very clearly, that they want this deal to continue. Do you really think that you will be able to persuade them, if you get out of the deal, to create another sanctions regime when their message during the debate was uniformly that they would not do so?
A: Thank you for your question. First of all, this is not just a middle of the road situation; that’s U.S. law. Corker-Cardin is U.S. law; and what it says is that the president is obligated to make the decision on whether this is still in the U.S. national interest. What the law says is that the president has to relook at this every 90 days. So, that’s not us trying to sidestep. That is U.S. law and that is law The President has to follow, and in good conscious for all Americans. We should honestly want the president to reevaluate every 90 days to make sure that, if things have changed, we’re moving accordingly, and if they haven’t we are not. I get that Congress doesn’t want this. This is not an easy situation for anyone. It’s not easy for The President, it’s not easy for the Security Council, and it’s not easy for Congress. But our lives aren’t about being easy, our lives are about being right. We have to make sure that every decision we make is right. I know, yes I agree with you, the European allies want us to stay in the deal. But, how many attacks did I just describe in history has the Iranian regime gone against Americans; our soldiers, our diplomats? The Europeans can’t say that. They’re now having to deal with that, but again, our job is not to make sure that Europeans are happy with us. Our job is to make sure we’re keeping the American public safe. That’s a heavy price to pay to just try and stay in a deal. I am not saying this should go to Congress. I’m not saying we should get out of the deal. I’m not saying anything in terms of what should or should not happen. What I am saying is, we owe it to ourselves to look at every aspect of this deal and understand that this was a flawed deal, and understand that this flawed deal has negative consequences as well.