NCRI – The Iranian regime has a record of “deceiving” and “cheating” on the international community over its nuclear projects, former US Senator Joseph Lieberman told a conference at the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
Other panelists at the Senate briefing included: former deputy chief of the IAEA Dr. Olli Heinonen, former CIA director James Woolsey, former US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control Amb. Robert Josesph, former White House communications strategist Dr. Lawrence Haas, and former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department Amb. Mitchell Reiss.
Below is the text of Sen. Lieberman’s remarks at the Senate briefing entitled “Blocking Iran’s Pathways to the Bomb: the Role of Congress.”
Text of remarks by Joseph Lieberman, former US Senator – U.S. Senate briefing, July 21, 2015:
Thank you. Thanks very much, Ambassador. Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Still five minutes before noon. Thanks to the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri and the associated Iranian-American groups for sponsoring this event, for exercising your Constitutional right as Americans to come and petition your government. In this case, to do so by helping to provide an opportunity for a lot of people in the room who I assume are staff members of members of Congress to hear the arguments on this matter.
And let me say to you that it is a great honor to return to this magnificent caucus room, where an awful lot of American history has been made. And it is not only great to be back here, but it seems to me that it is fitting to be back here, because the role of Congress in responding to this agreement between the P5+1 and Iran about nuclear weapons is, in my opinion, going to be the most consequential vote that a lot of members of Congress who you serve as staff members will ever cast. I thought back over my 24 years here and I could not come up with a single vote—and there were a lot of important tones, maybe I’ll set to the side the critical and unique votes that we cast about whether to send the American military into combat, into danger—but this vote is in my opinion more consequential than any I cast besides those. And really it’s more important and consequential than any treaty I voted on in the 24 years. And those treaties, as you know, according to the Constitution required a two-thirds vote affirmative, as opposed to a two-thirds vote negative to stop this one. What I’m saying to all of you who are privileged to be staff to members of Congress, this is your moment in history. And if I may say something that I would never have said when I was a Senator, staff have a lot to do with how Senators decide and Congressmen decide how to vote. So take your responsibility seriously.
I’m going to try so as not to be repetitive, because this is an extraordinary panel that’s been assembled here—to approach this subject as a former member of Congress, and to talk about how I would have tried to make the decision. The first thing I would have tried to appreciate is what I just said; this is an immensely important decision that members of Congress will cast. The second is to remind myself and you that according to the Constitution, Congress is a coequal branch of government. In fact, if you look at the distribution of authority and responsibility for foreign policy, Congress actually gets more of that in the Constitution than the president does. And two of the main powers that the president has—nominating ambassadors and submitting treaties—are subject to advice and consent by the Senate. So this is an important moment for Congress’s role. And why did the founders give Congress such authority and responsibility? Because this is the most broadly representative body in our government. The Congress represents today 320 million people from all over America, and has a responsibility to try to express what’s best for those people.
The next thing I would do is go back and remember what I was privileged to be involved in for most of the 24 years I was here, which was the introduction and adoption of a series of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran for its behavior, whether it was supporting terrorism, repressing the human rights of its people, or beginning to develop nuclear weapons. Each of those sanctions bills was broadly bipartisan. I will tell you also that each, to my recollection, was opposed by the administration at the time regardless of whether the administration was Republican or Democratic. But they passed overwhelmingly and in the end, the president signed them. Unfortunately often with waivers in them, but signed them.
So what we’re dealing with here is what I can tell you, having been here in adopting those sanctions, a very clear expression by overwhelming bipartisan membership of congress to put these sanctions on and leave them on until Iran changed its behavior, and in this case specifically stopped its nuclear weapons development program. That’s what we were told at the outset these negotiations—P5+1 with Iran—were all about. End your nuclear program and we will end the sanctions. This is big picture, not a lot of the detail. What we’ve ended up with is we end the sanctions, they don’t end their nuclear program. They kind of freeze it, turn it down for ten years, and then we have given them a license, a legal authorization to go ahead and become a nuclear power. And during that ten years they have a lot of opportunities to deceive us and cheat. And unfortunately, that’s been their record. There are people on this panel, including Dr. Olli Heinonen, who can tell you this in more detail because he worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency. But if you just have the patience, staff members, go back and look at some of the reports of the IAEA and they are full of evidence of the intransigence of this regime in Iran, the constant refusal to cooperate, playing games with the inspectors, not letting them into certain areas.
So how can you enter an agreement with a regime that has said since it took power in the late ‘70s and continued to say until this past week, death to America. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Saturday, just a few days ago, how moved he was that the crowds in Tehran on Al Quds Day were shouting again, “Death to America, death to Israel.” And then he said, I’m paraphrasing, I pray to God Almighty to answer the prayers of the people who ask for that. So how do you make an agreement with somebody who feels that way about you? It’s as if you were in a business negotiation and you were making some progress at the negotiating table but then you heard that the people you were negotiating with went outside the room and said really what they want to do is kill you. Now that’s not an overstatement from me, that’s literally what the leadership of Iran has been saying. And how do you make a deal with a group like that? Boy, you better have a lot of, as somebody once said to me, “Make sure it’s all in writing.” And not only in writing, make sure it’s airtight. And this comes down to inspections. And if you read this provision and this agreement on access and verification, it is full of holes. It is full of holes that are big enough to drive a covert nuclear program through. And at point after point of the last almost three decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a part of their program that we didn’t know about, that the IAEA didn’t know about. In fact, in some cases that the National Resistance of Iran has told us about, the group that Mrs. Rajavi heads. So, in my opinion this agreement on its facts, based on who the agreement is with, is too full of risk for the United States of America, and too full of undeserved reward for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I’m just going to finish briefly by a few things that are said in support of the agreement. “Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off for Iran.” Wrong ,after ten years assuming they keep their word for the first ten or fifteen years, they’re going to become a nuclear power. “The alternative is war.” Wrong, the alternative is to go back to the negotiating table and negotiate a better agreement. “This agreement will reduce proliferation.” The Ambassador has already talked about that. In fact, this will increase proliferation from countries in the Middle East that will want to get a nuclear weapon just to match the Iranians. It will also make the region more dangerous because Iran will inevitably use some of that money that they’re going to get freed up from the sanctions to support the terrorist groups that are their proxies throughout the region with better weapons. And look, just in the last couple of days Russia announced that it was going ahead with a sale of S300, basically ground to air defensive missiles, that it had held up. So in other words if we or one of our allies ever decides we have to take military action against Iran, our planes will be subject to attack by Russian missiles that the Russians have given to Iran as a result of this agreement.
Bottom line is this, Congress is the last best hope of the American people to reject this agreement and protect us from a nuclearized Iran. And believe me, it can do that. I know there are people around who are saying, oh we’re never going to get two-thirds in both chambers to return a presidential veto. Don’t believe it. This is too important to put your finger in the air and sort of start calculating what’s possible or not possible. First, this is so important that every member of Congress has to do what he or she thinks is right for the security of the American people because every member of Congress and the American people will live with the consequences of this decision for the rest of our lives. The second thing is, and I’ve been talking to a lot of members of Congress of both political parties, including my own Democratic party, and a lot of members of Congress including a lot of Democrats, well beyond enough to override a veto, are undecided. They want to study the agreement, they want to decide on their own conscience what’s best for America. So, take this moment of history seriously, and do your part to reject a bad deal and protect the security of the American people. Thank you very, very much.