U.S. Sen. James Lankford said Obama’s Iran deal is deeply flawed and should be about stopping Iran’s nuclear program rather than “slowing it down.”
In August, Lankford spoke on the floor of the Senate and outlined his opposition to Obama’s proposed deal.
“There are loopholes in this agreement big enough to drive a truck through… I cannot support this agreement with Iran,” he said.
Lankford, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has read the deal and has grave concerns about its implications for security and proliferation. He has concerns with Iran’s ability to delay inspections of suspect nuclear sites for weeks and an end to the U.N. conventional weapons ban on Iran. Lankford said enrichment and research and development loopholes that could allow Iran a path to a nuclear weapon.
“It’s a national security issue, and it’s a world security issue,” Lankford said.
The deal has been scrutinized by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. Lankford met with Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, Secretary of Energy Earnest Moniz and Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss details.
Lankford wanted information on how the inspections would be conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) because that issue was dealt with in broad terms in the actual agreement.
“But I have been told over and over again by the administration and by officials that the United States will not have a role in determining how the inspections will be done and that they will not even see the methods of how we will do inspections before they actually begin,” Lankford said. “They told me they had been orally briefed on the process but they have not actually seen it, which means they haven’t seen it. I can’t see it. It seems odd to me that the final aspect of the agreement that actually gives the greatest detail of how the inspections will occur, none of us can actually see.
“It’s difficult to have this ‘trust but verify’ attitude when we are actually not given the ability to verify how they’re verifying and to see how much trust is actually being given in this process.
“The White House has told us over and over again that if you don’t like this deal, there’s two options: it’s either war or you provide a better solution. I’m telling everyone let’s slow down, let’s look at both of those things and let’s also back up and see where we are.”
The United States and even the United Nations have had a long-standing policy that Iran should not enrich uranium. That includes six U.N. resolutions to that effect.
“Why? Because Iran is the single largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Lankford said. “Iran has propped up the Assad regime in Syria. They are sending the soldiers to walk side by side and to fight with Assad right now and hold up that Syrian government. Iran is paying for and propping up the coup that’s in Yemen right now on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.
“They are still chanting in the streets death to America, and they are actively pursuing larger and larger weapons. I think there is a reason to take this seriously.”
Lankford said Obama’s deal actually pushes America closer to war with Iran because the conventional weapons ban is lifted.
To pacify Israel and other Gulf states threatened by lifting the ban, the Obama Administration offered them greater weapon technology and access to more weapons.
“So help me understand why encouraging the Middle East to start dialing up with more and more weapons on both sides of this doesn’t actually curb us towards war even faster,” Lankford said.
The agreement is structured to be approved in order by the United Nations, the European Union and finally the U.S. Congress.
“That was intentionally done to try to add pressure to this Congress to say you can’t turn away from this, the rest of the world has signed on to it, so you can’t turn away from it,” Lankford said. “This Congress should not process things under fear, and this Congress should not process things saying you’re the last in line so you better sign up to where the rest of the world is. We have to look at this because we are directly affected by this.
“Remember, Iran has said over and over again that the United States is the great Satan in the world, and anyone who believes that Iran wants to be able to come alongside of us and be a peaceful member of the club is not actually reading what Iran is actually saying.”
In August, Bloomberg reported that the French senior diplomat, Jacques Audibert, the senior advisor to the president, the individual that led the discussions in Iran with the P-5 plus one group, the one that was in the room earlier this month, directly disputed Kerry’s claim that a congressional rejection of the Iran deal would result in the worst of all worlds, the collapse of sanctions and Iran racing to a bomb without restrictions.
“The French senior diplomat actually said if Congress votes this down, there will be sabre rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end, nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table and negotiate a better deal that will be to our advantage,” Lankford said. “Let me run that past you again. He said he thought if Congress voted this down, we would get a better deal. That means two things. One is he believes again that Iran will come back to the table on this, and he also believes there is a better deal out there, that this is not the best deal that we could get.”
Some of Lankford’s concerns are:
- The difficulty of identifying nuclear locations in a nation the size of Texas.
- Getting permission for inspections from the Iranian government could take at least one month.
- The IAEA can really only track for uranium but not everything else that goes into making a bomb.
- Iran has said there will be no inspections at military sites.
“We have incredible people that work in the intelligence community, that work for us, that most Americans will never see and will never meet, but there are some amazing patriotic Americans. But they can’t see everything, and they can’t catch every needle in the haystack that is in Iran,” Lankford said. “It would help the intelligence community, it would help us in our inspections, if we had access to the previous military dimensions for the nuclear weapons program that Iran has had on board, but the agreement itself only says we have to get all things from right now forward and that we don’t have to have the documents previous.
“And if we do, Iran will actually pick the documents that we see previous in their nuclear practice. So now we have to find a location with no previous documents with no way to be able to really see what research they’ve done and how advanced they are.”
Iran does have to decrease the number of refuge centrifuges. They have to pull out what is a known stockpile and reduce that.
“But Iran can continue to enrich uranium with 5,000 cascading centrifuges – just in smaller amounts and using their older centrifuges,” Lankford said. “Again, that sounds like a win but there’s no reason if you have peaceful purposes for uranium to keep 5,000 centrifuges spinning. If you’re only doing it for peaceful pumps. Iran can keep testing their centrifuges and small cascades, their IR-6’s and 8’s, and development on their most advanced form of centrifuges. Worst of all, they can keep over a thousand of their most advanced centrifuges still in the cascade and in their most heavily fortified facility – they just have to promise they won’t put uranium in that. But they can continue testing and development so when that time comes, they’ll be ready to be able to accelerate uranium faster there. So basically they can do everything in the process except put uranium at that point. We’re allowing them time to increase their research.”
And the billions of dollars released to Iran held due to sanctions will encourage terrorism in Yemen and Syria, Lankford said.
“This administration has said they desperately need the money for their infrastructure,” Lankford said. “They’re getting billions of dollars. You’re not going to tell me a major portion of that is not going to be used for terrorism.”
Lankford said he was “appalled” over the lifting of sanctions on the leader of the Quds force, General Suleimani, who personally coordinated the creation, distribution and installation of improvised explosive devices in Iraq designed to kill Americans. “This leader personally was engaged in killing hundreds of American soldiers in the war in Iraq, hundreds,” Lankford said. “The sanctions on that general is lifted so he can have normalized relationships worldwide and four American hostages remain. Can someone tell me why the murderer general of Americans, his sanctions are lifted but American citizens still remain hostages in Iran?”
Lankford said the biggest surprise was the loophole that if Iran is attacked, America is bound to defend them. “As they continue a nuclear weapons program, if a country steps in and attacks them and says no, you can’t do that, that’s a violation, we’re going to stop that, the United States is now agreeing to come to defend Iran as they’re advancing a nuclear program?,” Lanford asked. “Have we lost our mind? The administration, when asked about this said it won’t happen. If it won’t happen, why did we put it in the agreement? Why is it there at all?
“There is a better agreement out there. And we should push to get it.”
A vote is set on the deal in September. Obama pledged to veto any resolution of disapproval. But even a no vote in Congress would not prevent Obama from releasing the economic sanctions if Iran said it is curbing its nuclear program.