Senator Al Franken (D-MN) expressed “strong support” for the Iran deal and urged colleagues to support the agreement Thursday in a Senate floor speech. He also set fire to the deal’s opponents, charging some of them with seeking war with Iran, “One of my colleagues suggested that we should simply attack Iran now, an exercise he believes would be quick and painless for the United States.”
Franken scolded Republicans for failing to learn the lesson from Iraq, “And it’s certainly not the lesson anyone should have learned from the disastrous invasion of Iraq.”
Franken, in remarks as prepared for delivery, began by explaining how he came to support the deal:
M. President, I rise today to express strong support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the diplomatic agreement that the United States and our international partners reached with Iran in July. I urge my colleagues to support the agreement and reject the resolution of disapproval.
This is not a conclusion I came to lightly. Since the agreement was announced, I have consulted with nuclear and sanctions experts inside and outside government; Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz; ambassadors from the other countries that negotiated alongside us; our intelligence community; advocates for Israel on both sides of the issue; my constituents in Minnesota; and, of course, my colleagues in the Senate.
Many have expressed reservations about the agreement, and I share some of those reservations. It is not a perfect agreement. But it is a strong one. As many people have said, no deal is better than a bad deal. But that doesn’t mean that the only deal we can agree to is a perfect deal. The last perfect deal we got was on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri – and what a cost we had to pay for that, including the only use of a nuclear weapon in war – two nuclear weapons.
This agreement is, in my opinion, the most effective, realistic option available to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon anytime in the next 15 years and beyond. Iran must never, ever have a nuclear weapon. And after 15 years, we will still have every option we currently have, up to and including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from getting a bomb. Moreover, while critics have eagerly pointed out what they see as flaws in the deal, I have heard no persuasive arguments that there is a better alternative.
The Democratic Senator listed the ways the deal will work to reduce Iran’s access to a nuclear weapon:
The agreement imposes a series of physical limits on Iran’s nuclear program, especially its production of the fissile material it would require to make a bomb. And the agreement’s verification provisions are extremely strong: 24/7 monitoring of, and unfettered access to, Iran’s nuclear sites and ongoing surveillance of Iran’s nuclear supply chain. Let me briefly review the central limits on its nuclear program that Iran has agreed to and the verification provisions. Together they are designed to prevent Iran from trying to get a nuclear weapon and to detect them if they do with enough time to respond forcefully and effectively.
The agreement will prevent Iran from using weapons-grade plutonium as the fissile material for a nuclear weapon by requiring Iran to redesign and rebuild the Arak nuclear reactor, which if completed as planned, could have produced enough weapons-grade plutonium for one or two bombs each year. Under the agreement, it won’t be able to do that. Iran has to pull out the core of the reactor and fill it with concrete to destroy it. And Iran can’t get any sanctions relief until it does that.
The agreement also very significantly reduces and limits Iran’s production of uranium, which, in its highly enriched form, can also be used in a bomb. Iran currently has about 19,500 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium. And it has stockpiled about 10 tons of low-enriched uranium. Under the agreement, Iran has to go down to about 5,000 first-generation centrifuges enriching uranium and down to 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium – a 98 percent reduction. And Iran doesn’t get any sanctions relief until it does that.
And then he set fire to the opposition, calling out those who seek war with Iran:
Now, most opponents of the agreement do not seek or want war with Iran, even if opposition to the agreement makes such a war more likely. But some of them do.
One of my colleagues suggested that we should simply attack Iran now, an exercise he believes would be quick and painless for the United States. In fact, he compared it to Operation Desert Fox, intimating that it would be over and done within a matter of days. But this is pure fantasy, at least according to what our security and intelligence experts tell us. And it’s certainly not the lesson anyone should have learned from the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
The Middle East is an unstable, unpredictable, largely unfriendly region. We know that military undertakings in the region are likely to bring very painful, unpredictable consequences. That is part of why we should really give diplomacy a chance.
And yet, a number of my colleagues and others were intent on opposing such a diplomatic solution even before the agreement was reached. In March, 47 of my Republican colleagues took the unprecedented step of sending a letter to Iran’s leaders just as these sensitive negotiations were nearing an accord. It was a clear attempt to undermine American diplomacy — and a signal that they would oppose any deal with Iran, no matter its terms.
It’s not surprising that these critics now oppose the finished deal. But it is disappointing that they refuse to acknowledge, let alone take responsibility for, the dire consequences that would almost certainly result from killing it. It’s possible that there would not be a war if we reject the agreement. But what seems undeniable is that, if we and we alone were to walk away from an agreement that we negotiated alongside our international partners, that would be a grievous blow to our standing and our leadership in the world.
One of the worse results of the media allowing Republicans to get away with their Iraq invasion lies and continued denial to this day of the consequences of their agenda that led to the lies is that Republicans have never had to face reality, let alone learn from their mistakes.
Maybe it’s not possible for Republicans to learn from their Iraq decision, because they don’t view it as a mistake to invade a sovereign nation on a lie. If this is the case, they need to be held accountable. In any event, their thinking on matters of serious global import is critically flawed. They have placed partisan agendas ahead of the safety of the world and have chosen to undermine an agreement that world leaders are on board with.
There is no end to the war-mongering perfidy of the Republican Party. Senator Franken called out those colleagues who are gunning for war and those who tried to destroy our standing with world powers.
Watch Franken’s Senate floor speech here.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.