Courtney Statement in Support of the Iran Nuclear Agreement
Norwich, CT – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, today released the following statement announcing his support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:
“Throughout my time in Congress, I have strongly and consistently supported bipartisan efforts towards the important goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. After thorough review and consideration, I believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option for our nation and the international community to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapons capability, and I will support the agreement when it comes up for a vote.
“In taking this position, I closely reviewed the details of the agreement and the classified annex, discussed specific elements with administration officials and outside experts, heard testimony at the House Armed Services Committee and met with both supporters and critics of the agreement. Most importantly, however, I heard directly from those I represent in numerous emails and calls to my office – many of whom support the agreement as the best option for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and reducing the prospect of military conflict. Others shared thoughtful and valid concerns both on technical aspects of the agreement and larger issues about Iran’s role in the region. I value the input I received on both sides, and look forward to continued dialogue on this agreement and larger regional issues.
“Like any agreement negotiated among several parties, the JCPOA is not perfect – but it is very strong and deserves support. Key elements include a 97 percent reduction in Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, limitations on enrichment far below amounts needed for a nuclear weapon, a two-thirds reduction in installed centrifuges, and the deactivation of the heavy water reactor at Arak so it cannot be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. While some elements of the agreement expire in 10 to 25 years, the prohibition on Iran developing a nuclear weapon is permanent. Lastly, my decision also is based on the inability of the deal’s critics to lay out a coherent strategy to keep coalition sanctions in place if we reject the agreement when it is clear that our allies have signaled that they do not feel bound by a vote of Congress.
“Key to my support of the agreement was the inclusion of unprecedented verification measures. Under the JCPOA, the number of IAEA inspectors on the ground in Iran will nearly triple from about 50 today to up to 150 under the agreement, and will have continuous and intrusive visibility into all aspects of the nuclear supply chain and development cycle. The IAEA will also employ new advanced technologies that -- coupled with our own nation’s monitoring and intelligence capabilities -- will keep a close eye on Iran’s actions under the agreement.
“I have heard from many about their concerns about the IAEA’s access to undeclared or suspicious sites. In reviewing the agreement and seeking the input of experts, I believe that the IAEA retains the access it needs to those undeclared sites that could be used to hide nuclear-related efforts banned under this agreement. While much has been made about the 24 day process of resolving disputes over such access, this timeline provides an outside limit on resolving these issues and based on the input from experts I am confident that we will both be able to detect any illicit activity should that process play out to the maximum extent. It should be noted that any action by Iran to trigger this process though denial of access will immediately raise red flags, providing an opportunity for the United States and the international community to focus like a laser on Iran’s adherence to the agreement.
“Another critically important area of focus in my review involved sanctions relief and snapback. Given the success of comprehensive economic sanctions in forcing Iran to the table, I wanted to make sure that the agreement ensured that Iran would receive no relief until it met the key elements of the plan, while also retaining the realistic threat of snapback of sanctions for violations of the terms of the deal. I am confident that this agreement does both – with a robust process in place for violations of the agreement to be met with swift and strong revitalization of economic sanctions. I have discussed this issue with Treasury Department officials several times, and believe that they have a workable plan counter violations with response.
“Approval of the agreement is not only in the best interest of our nation’s security, but is also in the best interest of our allies in the region in reducing the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Moving forward, I believe that rather than rejecting this agreement, Congress should work to build from it – by redoubling our efforts to work with regional allies to boost their security and increase cooperation against Iran’s regional ambitions, continuing to build up the size and capability of our naval fleet as an essential tool of deterrence and ultimately ensure that we respond appropriately and, if needed, forcefully to any efforts by Iran develop a nuclear weapon.
“To be clear, I am under no illusion that this agreement represents a new era of trust or friendship between the Iranian regime and the rest of the world. It does not. I share the concerns of those critical of this agreement about Iran’s continued support for terrorism and its destabilizing role in the region. But to walk away from this agreement with no realistic alternative threatens the progress that we have made in marshaling international pressure against the regime, and would set back our efforts to both limit Iran’s nuclear program and address these other critical aspects of Iran’s actions.”