In total, 23 nations who import Iranian oil have eliminated or significantly reduced purchases from Iran. In fact, Iran currently has only six customers for its oil: China, India, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.
In the last year, Iran’s gross domestic product shrunk by 5.8 percent. Its GDP shrunk in 1 year by 5.8 percent, while inflation is estimated to be 50 percent or more.
Prices for food and consumer goods are doubling and tripling on an annual basis, and estimates put unemployment as high as 35 percent while under-employment is pervasive.
This is why Iran says enough is enough. The sanctions are biting and they are biting deeply, and there is no need to put additional sanctions on the table at this time.
This body may soon consider the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act; that is, a bill to do exactly the opposite, to impose additional sanctions against Iran, do it now, and hold it in abeyance.
Before casting a vote, Senators should ask themselves what would happen if the bill passes and a promised veto by the President is not sustained. I would like to give my view.
I sincerely believe the P5+1 negotia- tions with Iran would end and, with it, the best opportunity in more than 30 years to make a major change in Iranian behavior—a change that could not only open all kinds of economic opportunities for the Iranian people, but help change the course of a nation. Its destiny in fact could be changed.
Passing additional sanctions now would only play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see diplomacy fail. Iranian conservatives, hardliners, will attack President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif for seeking a nuclear compromise.
They will argue that Iran exchanged a freeze of its nuclear program for ad- ditional and harsh punitive sanctions. Think about that. They will say that Iran did not achieve anything with this agreement. All we got were more sanctions.
Second, if the United States cannot honor an interim agreement negotiated in Geneva by Russia, China, France, Germany, the UK and ourselves—we are not alone in this—it will never lift sanctions after a final agreement is reached.
Above all, they will argue that the United States is not interested in nuclear diplomacy—we are interested in regime change.
The bottom line: If this body passes S. 1881, diplomatic negotiations will collapse, and there will be no final agreement.
Some might want that result, but I do not.
Iran’s nuclear program would once again be unrestrained, and the only remaining option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon would be military action. I do not want that unless it is absolutely necessary.
To date, the prospect of just considering this bill has prompted Iranian legislators to consider retaliation. There is talk that the legislative branch, called the Majles, may move to increase nuclear enrichment far beyond the 5-percent limit in the interim agreement and much closer to, if not achieving, weapons-grade uranium.
So the authors of additional sanctions in this body and Iranian hardliners in the other body would actually combine to blow up the diplo- matic effort of 6 major powers.
The bill’s sponsors have argued that sanctions would strengthen the United State’s hand in negotiations. They argue that sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. They contend that additional sanctions would force Iran to abandon its nuclear program.
I could not disagree more.
Let me give the views of a few other people who are knowledgeable in the arena: Dr. Paul Pillar, a former U.S. intelligence official and current professor at Georgetown University recently argued:
It is the prospect of having U.S.-led sanctions removed that will convince Iran to accept severe restrictions on its nuclear program. Threatening Iran with additional sanctions now—after it has agreed to the interim agreement and an interim agreement is about to go into effect—will not convince Tehran to complete a final agreement.
I couldn’t agree more.
If this bill would help our negotiators, as its authors contend, they would say so.
I believe this bill is an egregious imposition on the Executive’s authority to conduct foreign affairs. In fact, our Secretary of State has formally asked this Congress to give our negotiators and our experts the time and space to do their jobs, including no new sanctions.
What does this body say, sitting here? We are not going to do that? This is a Secretary of State who is of this body, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who has been absolutely prodigious in his efforts to get this interim agreement, has gotten it, and we are going to run the risk that it is going to break apart during the next 6 months when a final agreement might well be negotiated?
If the Senate imposes its will, if we override the President’s veto, and it blows up this very fragile process, some would say: Too bad, what a tragedy.
We know what the Iranian reaction will be. The Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, who I happen to have known for a substantial period of time, has clearly stated what the result will be in five words, and it is this: ‘‘The entire deal is dead.’’
That is his direct quote. Why wouldn’t we take him at his word? So far he has been good to his word.
The ambassador of our staunchest ally, the UK, warned this body not to pass more sanctions. Sir Peter Westmacott recently wrote:
Further sanctions now would only hurt negotiations and risk eroding international support for the sanctions that have brought us this far. The time for additional measures will come if Iran reneges on the deal or negotiations fail. Now is not that time.
I deeply believe that a vote for this legislation will cause negotiations to collapse. The United States, not Iran, then becomes the party that risks fracturing the international coalition that has enabled our sanctions to succeed in the first place.
It says to the UK, China, Russia, France, and Germany that our country cannot be trusted to stand behind our diplomatic commitments. That is a very big statement.
Our allies will question whether their compliance with sanctions and the eco- nomic sacrifices they have made are for naught.
Should these negotiations fall apart, the choices are few and the most likely result, in my view, is the eventual and inevitable use of military force.
So I ask this body, Is that the choice we want to make? In 6 days the ten- tative agreement will go into place. We want to pass this? We don’t even want to wait and see what happens?
We don’t even want to wait and see what the IAEA finds when they are in there 24–7, 365 days a year?
I think what we ought to do is concentrate on Iranian compliance with the interim agreement.
On January 20, 2014, this agreement comes into effect, 6 days from now, and over the next 6 months the international community will be able to verify whether or not Iran is keeping its commitments to freeze its nuclear progress.
If Iran fails to abide by the terms of the interim agreement, or if a final agreement cannot be negotiated, Congress can immediately consider additional sanctions.
I deeply believe that additional sanctions should only be considered once our diplomatic track has been given the opportunity to forge a final, comprehensive, and binding agreement.
This is what is most distressing. If we had not reached an agreement, with the cooperation and leadership of the big powers of this world, that would be one thing. The fact is we have reached agreement and that action is just about to take place, and we are going to jaundice it, we are going to hurt it, and we are likely to collapse it by passing additional sanctions now which a President of the United States will veto with the aim of overriding that veto.
How does that make any kind of common sense? It defies logic, it threatens instant reverse, and it ends what has been unprecedented diplomacy. Do we want to take that on our shoulders? Candidly, in my view, it is a march toward war.
As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know the challenges Iran poses to U.S. interests around the world.