Senator John Thune
There has been a lot of recent coverage in the news about the Iran nuclear agreement. For many South Dakotans, this agreement may seem far away. However, the danger this agreement addresses – that of a nuclear-armed Iran – is not only a threat to our allies, including Israel, but also to the United States. The agreement will help finance Iran’s terrorist activities, allow Iran to acquire conventional and ballistic weapons, and advance Iran’s nuclear program – resulting in a more dangerous and unstable world.
For this to be a good deal, full access for inspectors is essential. However, instead of the anytime, anywhere inspections that the United States initially sought, the agreement only allows for inspections of Iran’s currently known nuclear facilities.
If Iran is suspected of violating this agreement, inspectors must request Iran’s permission to examine other sites. If the Iranians object, the resulting appeals process could take almost a month, winding through various levels of bureaucracy at the United Nations before inspectors are finally allowed access. For a country that has a long history of doing things in secret, that’s a lot of time.
“Breakout time” is a phrase that has frequently been used during these negotiations. The “breakout time” is the period of time from which we know Iran has started building a nuclear bomb to the time they are able to use it. Unfortunately, as part of this agreement, even if Iran does not cheat on the deal, they can still modernize their nuclear infrastructure and continue research and development on advanced centrifuges. That means 10 years from now, Iran’s “breakout time” will be almost zero.
In addition, this agreement discontinues the ban on conventional weapons after five years and on ballistic missiles after eight. In the future, if Iran wanted to pursue a nuclear weapon, not only would their breakout time be very short, but they will likely have the means to defend themselves against a military strike. If they acquired a nuclear bomb, they could also have a ballistic missile capable of hitting targets far beyond the Middle East.
For these reasons, and the fact that lifting the sanctions will help fund Iran’s continued support of terrorism, I have expressed my strong concern about this agreement and skepticism that Iran will actually hold up their end of the deal.
Just last week, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, echoing the chants from his people, said, “You heard ‘Death to Israel,’ ‘Death to the U.S.’ … we ask Almighty God to accept these prayers by the people of Iran.”
While I am sure not all Iranians want death to America, it is clear that their leaders still do.
As Congress reviews this agreement, I hope the president will listen to the concerns that have been raised by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the United States, and an agreement that allows Iran to retain all the components necessary to build a nuclear bomb is not a good deal for America and should be rejected.