By Bob Corker
As I traveled across the Volunteer State during August, I spoke with many Tennesseans about the nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States, and other world powers. While opinions of the agreement vary, there is perhaps no greater geopolitical issue facing the world today than preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.
A strong agreement that would stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and stand the test of time was always the goal of these negotiations. That’s why when President Obama declared in 2012 that he would only accept a deal requiring Iran to “end their nuclear program,” there was hope that an agreement could win bipartisan support.
Since the administration reached an agreement in July, Congress has scrutinized it thoroughly to determine whether or not it achieves that goal.
In the coming days, the House of Representatives and Senate will debate and consider a resolution to disapprove of the administration’s Iran deal. And while we have known from the beginning that stopping a potential bad deal with Iran would be a heavy lift, many felt it was important for members of Congress—on behalf of those they represent—to carefully review and vote on any final agreement.
That’s why I authored the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which passed the Senate overwhelmingly 98 to 1 and the House 400 to 25.
This legislation actually took power back from the president, and without it, he could have unilaterally implemented the deal immediately. The president never would have been forced to submit the agreement to Congress, and there would have been no review and no debate on this critical national security issue.
Unfortunately, instead of using their influence to highlight the consequences of a bad nuclear deal with Iran, some have done the American people a great disservice by spreading misinformation about the process by which agreements such as this one can be implemented.
The simple truth is this: Under our form of government, the president is able to decide whether he will submit such agreements as a treaty or an executive agreement. Treaties are binding on future administrations, whereas executive agreements can be altered by the next president. President Obama made clear from the beginning of the negotiations that he had no intention to submit this agreement to the Senate as a treaty and planned to implement it solely through U.N. Security Council actions with something called a “non-binding political agreement,” which does not require Senate approval under the Constitution.
That is why it was critical that Congress passed my legislation to give the American people a voice on this consequential issue that will affect future generations.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I organized more than a dozen hearings and briefings to review the agreement, and it is only through my bill that we have been able to expose how deeply flawed the Iran deal is.
Rather than end Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon, this deal legitimizes and industrializes their nuclear program over time.
Instead of holding the line on the once promised “anytime, anywhere” inspections, negotiators agreed to a managed inspections process that will require international inspectors to wait 24 days for access to a suspicious site.
Unfortunately, after only nine months, before the next president is sworn into office, the leverage shifts from us to Iran when all major sanctions are relieved. They will get access to roughly $100 billion in overseas assets within a few months, some of which will fund terrorism and instability. At that point, if the United States pushes back against violations of the agreement—or terrorism in the region or human rights violations—Iran can simply threaten to ramp up their nuclear weapons program.
Additionally, for some unknown reason, the administration thought it was sensible to remove the conventional weapons ban in five years, the ballistic missile technology embargo in eight years, and immediately lift the ban on ballistic missile testing.
All the while, Iran will be able to continue research and development, strengthen its military capabilities, have a far more rapidly growing economy, and once the major restrictions sunset in 10 to 15 years, as the president has publicly said, Iran’s breakout time will be reduced to almost zero by simply complying with the agreement.
I came to these negotiations with an open mind, but unfortunately, instead of achieving our nation’s original goal, this agreement paves the path for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to industrialize their nuclear program with a U.S. stamp of approval, which is why I oppose implementation of this deal.
While opposition to the agreement is bipartisan—with some of the leading Democrats on foreign policy issues, including Senators Ben Cardin, Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez, and Congressman Eliot Engel, announcing they will vote against the deal—it appears the administration has secured support from enough Democrats to sustain a likely veto of the resolution of disapproval.
Nonetheless, the American people deserve to know where their elected leaders stand on this consequential agreement. Despite the administration’s preference to bypass the American people, Congress will have a serious, robust debate on your behalf, and each member must decide if they truly believe this deal is in our nation’s interest and will actually lead to a more stable world.
Bob Corker, a Republican, is a U.S. senator for Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Note: The submitted letters and columns published in the Opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of Oak Ridge Today or its staff.