Third Way Statement on the Iran Nuclear Agreement
WASHINGTON—Third Way President Jon Cowan and National Security Program Director Mieke Eoyang issued the following statement:
“After careful review and extensive research, we have concluded that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) represents the best chance of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. With sufficient congressional support for the agreement now clear, Congress should turn to creating sustained, bipartisan strategies of its own to keep Iran in check.
“Even with this agreement in place, Iran remains deeply untrustworthy, destabilizing, and dangerous. Going forward, we believe that policymakers should focus on five areas that could strengthen the check on Iran: independent congressional verification of Iranian compliance with the agreement; increased resources to entities focused on verification; additional pressure against Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist activities; expanded efforts to help Israel counter Iran’s ballistic missile threat; and development of proliferation-resistant nuclear energy technologies.
“Iran Commission: As we have urged for some time, Congress should create its own panel to focus on independent verification of Iran’s nuclear compliance, similar to the Helsinki Commission. Creating an independent ‘Iran Commission’ would allow legislators to remain focused on Iran’s nuclear threat, monitor executive branch implementation efforts, and review the assessments of inspectors and the intelligence community with information of its own.
“Iranian Monitoring Fund: Congress should create a $1 billion ‘Iran Monitoring Fund’ to provide increased resources to the intelligence community for keeping watch on Iran. In 2009, the world learned that Iran had a deeply buried, clandestine enrichment facility; this was based on the outstanding work of intelligence services. Now that Iran has allowed international inspectors access to their facilities, Congress should create a dedicated fund for intelligence community efforts aimed at catching and stopping any Iranian nuclear weapons cheating in its tracks. In terms of funding, $1 billion is a bare minimum. By way of comparison, last year DOD requested more than $800 million to defeat the threat of IEDs, many of which were sponsored by Iran; nuclear weapons obviously pose a much greater security threat.
“DOJ Task Force on Iran Terrorism Sponsorship: Congress and the Administration must continue to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities in the region and throughout the world. Iran has sponsored attacks against Americans, Europeans, and Israelis, among many others. But there are tools that go beyond sanctions that can be even more effective—pressure brought to bear on the individuals in Iran who have not been brought to justice for their sponsorship of these activities. The U.S. should create a task force at DOJ, led by an experienced federal prosecutor, with the staff and resources to bring criminal cases against those Iranian officials who have sponsored groups responsible for terrorist attacks against Americans in the region.
“Israeli Missile Defense: The U.S. should aggressively counter Iran’s ballistic missile threat before the restrictions lapse. The U.S. has worked closely with our regional allies, in particular Israel, to develop and deploy effective missile defense systems like Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow. Those activities should continue and be enhanced, in addition to developing, testing, and deploying missile defense systems to protect the U.S. and our NATO allies. In particular, the U.S. should immediately fund the necessary upgrades to Arrow to include the Arrow-3, the upper-tier protection system that can destroy ballistic missiles before they reenter Earth’s atmosphere.
“Proliferation-Resistant Nuclear Energy: Finally, policymakers must invest in the development of nuclear energy technologies that are proliferation-resistant. Currently, civilian nuclear energy plants must be fueled by enriched uranium, which can carry proliferation risk in the wrong hands. However, new nuclear reactor designs could include proliferation-resistant fuel cycles such as using nuclear waste as fuel or pebble bed fuels that would dramatically reduce the risk of weaponization. Third Way has worked to advance legislation to develop advanced nuclear energy technologies so that countries like Iran could be permanently diverted from the path to weaponization. This starts with providing advanced nuclear industry with access to our national laboratories and a pathway to licensing and approval at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as we argued in a recent letter to the House Science Committee. The clock is now ticking on development of these new reactors—Congress should move quickly to set DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission on a course that will ensure that by the end of the JCPOA, we have nuclear technologies that could both require Iran to give up its enrichment capabilities for good and still offer the promise of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: the peaceful uses of the atom without the specter of devastating weaponry.
“To be sure, the Administration and our allies had to make trade-offs in the negotiations to reach this agreement, and some of them have generated legitimate debate. The deal does not eliminate all enrichment activity. It allows Iran eventually to continue development of ballistic missile technology. It does not deal with Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, nor its conventional military threat. And the restrictions will expire over the next 10-25 years. Because of this, Members of Congress who have thoughtfully struggled with whether to back this agreement—including those that ultimately will not support the deal—are to be commended for contributing to this critical national security debate.
“Despite these meaningful concerns, we believe this agreement is the right thing for the country and for global security. It requires the destruction of much of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium and subjects all of Iran’s known nuclear infrastructure, from the mining of uranium to its centrifuges, to constant surveillance. This constitutes a stranglehold verification regime, making it basically impossible for them to undertake a covert program without detection. And the deal provides for swift punitive action if Iran violates the agreement. Since the deal was never intended to address Iran’s other malign activity, like support for terrorism, it neither helps nor harms our ability to address that activity with sanctions and other punitive action.
“But whatever Members have concluded about the deal today, Congress can and should do more tomorrow to significantly mitigate the risk of an Iranian nuclear bomb and reduce Iran’s ability to threaten and destabilize the region, either directly, or through terrorist proxies, during the implementation of JCPOA.”