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Rob Portman: Why I Oppose the Iran Deal

The Cleveland Plain Dealer | By: Senator Rob Portman | September 6, 2015

There are few votes I take in the Senate that have such a profound effect on our national security as the upcoming vote on the Iran nuclear deal. That's why I reviewed it so thoroughly.

I read the agreement carefully, attended classified briefings and listened to the debate in Senate committees, and on the Senate floor. I talked to experts on both sides of the issue and listened to Ohioans. I measured the agreement according to the criteria our government and members of the international community had announced.

The broad goal, laid out by Congress, the Obama administration, and the U.N. Security Council, was that Iran would suspend all enrichment-related activities and not be permitted a path to ever pursue a nuclear weapons program. We also consistently maintained that any agreement must contain verifiable and enforceable mechanisms to ensure compliance.

I hoped that, with U.S. leadership, a strong agreement would meet the longstanding U.S. and internationally accepted criteria.

Unfortunately, after reviewing the terms of the agreement, I have concluded that these criteria were not met. The deal should be rejected.

We must restore consensus to keep Iran isolated economically and diplomatically, until Iran agrees to the reasonable terms on which the United States and the international community have long insisted.

Some will say that this is impossible. I disagree and respectfully quote the president and Secretary of State John Kerry: No agreement is better than a bad agreement. This is a bad agreement. We can do better.

Under the deal, the Iranians can continue research and development on more advanced centrifuges and resume full enrichment in 15 years. Inspections are not "anytime, anywhere," as administration officials suggested. Iran could delay the inspection of suspected nuclear sites for up to 24 days.

If the Iranians cheat, we would have to employ a convoluted process to restore sanctions. The inspections regime is subject to side deals involving the U.N., the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran that none of us is allowed to see.

Based on recent press reporting, Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors and equipment to report on the possible military dimensions of suspected nuclear work at one of its most secretive military facilities at Parchin. Allowing a country accused of hiding a secret and illegal nuclear weapons program to implement verification measures for a facility where this program is believed to have been hidden undermines the president's claim that the Iran deal "is not built on trust, it is built on verification."

Most troubling is that this agreement ends Iran's international isolation without ending the behavior that caused Iran to be isolated in the first place.

The nuclear program is part of a broader Iranian strategy that is dangerous and destabilizing. According to some estimates, Iran could receive up to $150 billion in sanctions relief early in the agreement, with or without sustained compliance, which will encourage the Iranians to cause trouble, not discourage them from bad behavior.

Within five years, the agreement lifts the embargo on conventional weapons, and it lifts the ballistic missile embargo within eight years. At a minimum, this deal will ensure that Iran remains a threshold nuclear power, but with resources to hurt our interests and allies in the region, including Israel. I believe it is clear that the deal, as currently written, could also set off a nuclear and conventional arms race in the Middle East.

I have been involved in international negotiations, and I understand that both sides must make concessions. But we must have the courage to stand behind our legitimate public pronouncements, the red lines; whether it's against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the violation of cease-fire agreements by the Russians and their proxies in Ukraine, or our commitment that Iran stop and dismantle its march toward nuclear weapons.

The administration's position — that it is this agreement or war — is simply not true. We have options short of armed conflict. Supporters draw a false analogy between this deal and President Ronald Reagan's arms-control negotiations with the Soviets. Reagan succeeded by increasing the pressure, not reducing it. He increased the cost of bad behavior until that behavior changed. He did not strike a deal unless it fulfilled the core goals with which he started; he never wanted a deal for its own sake.

We should not approve an agreement that fails to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and does nothing to address Iranian behavior that threatens our allies and our interests. We should reject this agreement and tighten the sanctions on a bipartisan basis. The president should then use the leverage that only America possesses to negotiate an agreement that meets the longstanding goals of Congress and the president himself.

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