Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran in an op-ed published today in The Washington Post. Cardin is also a co-sponsor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which mandated legislative oversight of any deal.
Cardin began by praising the limits that the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), placed on Iran’s known nuclear program. But he concluded that the negatives of the deal outweighed the positive elements. Specifically, Cardin pointed out that the deal would strengthen Iran’s economy and nuclear program, which would make enforcement of the deal more difficult.
The JCPOA legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program. After 10 to 15 years, it would leave Iran with the option to produce enough enriched fuel for a nuclear weapon in a short time.
The JCPOA would provide this legal path to a country that remains a rogue state and has violated its international nonproliferation obligations for years. It would provide Iran with international endorsement of an industrial-scale nuclear program. Worse, Iran would be economically strengthened by frighteningly quick relief from sanctions and international economic engagement. If Iran violates the agreement, building international support for new sanctions would take too long to be effective. A military response in this scenario would be more likely, although disastrous.
The agreement talks about normalization of economic relations with Iran and states that the parties shall “implement this JCPOA in good faith . . . based on mutual respect.” But there cannot be respect for a country that actively foments regional instability, advocates for Israel’s destruction, kills the innocent and shouts “Death to America.”
Cardin also pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has incomplete of Iran’s past illicit nuclear research, noting uncertainty that the secret deals governing IAEA inspection routines would give the agency the information it needs. “After numerous hearings and briefings, I am still not confident that we will fully resolve outstanding concerns on this topic,” Cardin wrote. A hearing on the subject last month featuring IAEA director general Yukiyo Amano left Cardin unsatisfied, leading him to say to reporters, “Every time I get more information it raises other questions.”
Cardin also challenged the administration’s argument that rejecting deal would either hurt American influence or lead to war, writing that Europe will still follow America’s lead, while Iran still desperately needs sanctions relief and could be amenable to further negotiations.
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