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Congressman Brian Higgins’ Statement on Iranian Nuclear Deal

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), a member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa and the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, issued the following statement on the Iran Nuclear Deal:

“Ten years ago the United States led a global effort to place economic sanctions on Iran in response to its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. These sanctions devastated Iran’s economy and forced it to the negotiating table. But they did little, if anything, to slow Iran’s nuclear program. Today Iran is a nuclear-threshold state, with a “breakout time” (how long it would take for Iran to build a nuclear bomb if it decided to) of just two to three months.

“In July the United States and other world powers reached an agreement with Iran, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to terminate its nuclear weapons program. The agreement reduces Iran's stockpile of uranium by 98%, limits enrichment of the remaining uranium to well below bomb-grade, eliminates two-thirds of Iran's centrifuges, and provides for regular inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities. In return, sanctions the international community adopted to force Iran to the negotiating table will be lifted so long as Iran abides by the agreement.

“To verify Iran’s compliance international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iranian nuclear sites, providing as much assurance as is possible that Iran will be caught if it cheats. Should that occur the agreement allows us to quickly re-impose sanctions, and the United States would still possess all of the diplomatic and military options we have today.

“Like any deal, this agreement is not without tradeoffs. Most troubling is the possibility that Iran could use an improved economy to fund its terrorist proxies across the world. This concern is mitigated somewhat by two factors. First, decades of sanctions have left Iran with enormous domestic needs, so while Iran’s budget for terror may increase a windfall does not seem likely. And second, some hardline elements of the Iranian regime realize huge profits under the sanctions because they control smuggling and the black market economy, a source of funding that lifting sanctions will end. That said, it will be imperative that the United States aggressively confront Iranian clients such as Hezbollah, and work with our allies in the region against Iran’s destabilizing influence.   

“Opponents of the agreement argue that Congress should reject the JCPOA and direct the Administration to reach a “better deal”. It is certainly possible that our partners -- the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China and Russia -- and Iran would reopen negotiations. But it’s not very likely. It is far more likely that trust in the ability of the United States to lead would evaporate and international support for sanctions would plummet. China, Russia and other countries would lift sanctions on Iran anyway, and we would lose the opportunity this deal provides to halt its nuclear weapons program.

“That is simply not acceptable. We cannot allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon. A nuclear arms race would overtake the Middle East. Terrorists would be emboldened by the protection of Iran’s nuclear umbrella. And most importantly, a nuclear Iran would pose a clear threat to the United States and to our ally, Israel.

“I do not want the United States to be involved in another war in the Middle East. However, if Iran pursues a nuclear weapon in the future, military action may be required. If that is the course we ultimately take, it will be critical to that effort that we have exhausted every opportunity to resolve the matter peacefully.

“I analyze every proposal that crosses my desk not based on whether it will achieve a perfect outcome, but rather on whether its benefits outweigh the costs. I believe the JCPOA meets that test. This agreement will do more than any plausible alternative to accomplish America’s objective of blocking Iran’s pathway to a bomb in a way that we can verify. For this reason I will vote to support the JCPOA when the question comes before the House.”