Donnelly said, “A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an unacceptable threat to the security of the United States and our allies. Only one thing can truly guarantee Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon – the steadfast resolve of the U.S. and our allies to stop them. That is and must remain our nation’s policy, and we must be prepared to follow through on it.
“With or without this deal, the day may come when we are left with no alternative but to take military action to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. Taking that path would be a difficult and costly choice. Nobody knows that cost better than those who have put their lives on the line for our country. If that day does come, and I am faced with a vote to authorize military force against Iran, I owe it to the men and women of our Armed Forces and to the people of Indiana to have exhausted every other option to stop Iran before we would consider putting any of our servicemembers in harm’s way.
“That is why, despite having questions about Iran’s intentions, I am willing to give this agreement the opportunity to succeed. While I share the concerns expressed by the agreement’s critics about what may happen 10, 15, or 20 years from now, I cannot in good conscience take action that would shift the potential risks of 2026 and 2031 to 2016.
“Finally, we have done too little for too long to cut off Iran’s support for terrorists and other proxies throughout the region, from Assad in Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and many more. It is time for the U.S. to lead our allies in a clear and decisive strategy to push back against Iran’s actions. I have raised this issue repeatedly as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I will continue to do so until we see action.”
Since 2006, the United States, along with the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council (Great Britain, France, Russia and China, or the P5) and Germany (+1) have been engaged in talks with Iran to address concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities. In November 2013, the P5+1 announced an interim deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program while negotiations continued, and in July 2015, the group announced a proposed final agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly referred to as the Iran deal.
Donnelly has long-supported diplomatic efforts, including both tough sanctions and the P5+1 negotiations, to address the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. He has cosponsored bipartisan legislation imposing sanctions on Iran in Congress, including the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015. In February, Donnelly joined a bipartisan coalition, including six Democratic and six Republican senators, to introduce the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law, requiring that Congress review and approve or disapprove the Iran deal before it can be implemented.
As Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on the Senate Armed Services Committee, with oversight of U.S. nuclear weapons programs and global non-proliferation efforts, Donnelly has participated in dozens of classified and open hearings, meetings, and conversations about Iran’s nuclear program and the proposed agreement in Washington, in Indiana, and during recent trips to the Middle East. He has discussed the topic with the Obama Administration, U.S. allies in the Middle East, members of the P5+1, nuclear scientists, intelligence analysts, military leaders, and national security and foreign policy experts. Donnelly has listened to the views of Hoosiers across Indiana, both supportive and critical, including receiving input from former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Lugar served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is an internationally-recognized leader on nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Lugar forged a bipartisan partnership with then-Senate Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn to author landmark legislation to dismantle and destroy weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act remains in force today, and Lugar continues to advance efforts on nuclear non-proliferation through The Lugar Center. To read Lugar’s recent op-ed on the proposed Iran agreement, click here. While serving Hoosiers in the U.S. House of Representatives, Hamilton chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. Since leaving the Congress, Hamilton has advised on some of the most important assessments of U.S. national security strategy in the Middle East, including his leadership of the Iraq Study Group and the 9/11 Commission.
Prior to the interim agreement established in November 2013, even in the face of international sanctions, Iran was rapidly expanding its nuclear program with more than 19,000 centrifuges; a stockpile of more than 11,000 kilograms of enriched uranium, including highly enriched uranium at the 20% level; and a heavy water reactor capable of producing weapons grade plutonium.
Under the final agreement, Iran must get rid of 98% of its stockpile of enriched uranium, two-thirds of its centrifuges and the existing core of its heavy water plutonium reactor. It will be barred from producing or acquiring highly enriched uranium or weapons-grade plutonium for 15 years, permanently barred from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and subject to the most comprehensive and intrusive inspections regime in history.