Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, an outspoken critic of the Iran accord, pledged in Pittsburgh on Tuesday that he would “do everything I can to try to defeat this deal.”
It’s a matter of national security, he said.
If the deal is not quashed by Congress, Toomey, a Republican, told the crowd gathered at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Iran will be able to procure nuclear weapons, and the security of both Israel and the United States will be threatened.
“If Iran is able to inflict harm on Americans,” he said, “it will inflict harm on Americans.”
Toomey detailed the reasons for his opposition to the deal at the event, which was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council. Those in attendance included both Jewish and non-Jewish community members, and the entire student population of the Hillel Academy High School.
Toomey said he had pored over the entire agreement, side agreements and classified information, and had consulted with various foreign policy experts, in coming to his conclusion that the deal was not only dangerous to national security, but failed to comply with the Obama administration’s stated goals of completely eliminating Iran’s nuclear program and creating an inspection and enforcement process that would detect “any cheating at all” on the part of the Iranians.
“If the president’s stated goals had been achieved,” Toomey said, “the deal probably would have been worth supporting.”
Toomey enumerated his concerns in trusting Iran: a 36-year history of a troubled relationship between Iran and the United States, which has seen no signs of improvement; “extremely aggressive regional ambitions” on the part of Iran, a regime that continues to “insist on the destruction of Israel’s very existence”; an “untrustworthy regime” that, even during negotiations was caught trying to buy nuclear components that it was precluded from buying; and the absence of a “meeting of the minds” that is necessary for any agreement to be successful.
Toomey contrasted the current Iran deal with the arms reduction agreement reached with Libya’s President Muammar Gaddafi.
“Muammar Gaddafi was a very bad guy,” Toomey said. “But after he saw what we had done in Iraq… he saw it was in his self-interest to abandon his nuclear program.
“In my view,” Toomey continued, “Iran has not come to the conclusion that it is in their best interest to abandon their nuclear program.”
Iran, Toomey said, “is showing no evidence they want to abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons,” making it “very difficult to negotiate a deal that will work.”
The senator explained his major objections to the deal, the first being its almost immediate release of about $100 billion to Tehran, “long before Iran complies with the agreement.”
The release of funds “should only come gradually” he said, “and only after Iran dismantles its nuclear program.”
The money Iran receives as a result of the deal would be used “to increase the funding of terrorism around the world, including rockets in Lebanon and Gaza.”
Toomey further criticized the deal’s allowance of Iran to maintain its enrichment program; and although it purportedly will be used to produce energy, “the technology to go to weapons grade enrichment is a small step.”
The deal also fails on the issue of inspections, Toomey said, which are to be conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“Iran has continually ignored the IAEA for years,” Toomey observed, adding that it has a history of “sanitizing” its nuclear sites prior to inspection, and “misleading inspectors.”
Pursuant to the terms of the deal, there are no “anytime, anywhere inspections,” Toomey noted. Rather, Iran will have at least 24 days to conceal its activities after the IAEA announces its intention to inspect.
Another problem with the deal, according to Toomey, is that “we still haven’t seen two secret documents,” one of which was leaked in part, and indicates that it is the Iranians that will conduct the inspections of their own facilities.
“It would be nice if we could see those agreements,” he said. Secretary of State John Kerry “hasn’t even seen the documents.”
Toomey is also concerned, he said, with provisions in the agreement that cancel all of Iran’s obligations if the U.S. re-imposes sanctions.
“Say Iran violates the agreement,” Toomey postulated. “And everyone acknowledges it. If we decide to restore some of the nuclear-related sanctions, Iran can walk away from the entire agreement.”
With that possibility looming, he said, “the administration will be very reluctant to re-impose sanctions.”
Toomey is worried about the “temporary nature” of the agreement, he said, adding that it paves the path to Iran’s nuclear proliferation in 10 years, even if Iran fully complies with the terms of the deal. And in five years, he said, the conventional arms embargo will be removed.
Pointing Paragraph 36 of the deal, Toomey said Iran will have “the right to walk away from the deal for any reasons, provided it gives 35 days notice.”
“Iran will no longer be obligated to any of its terms,” Toomey said, “but it can keep the money.”
Toomey stressed that he was also concerned that this deal would make Israel “much less secure.”
Once Iran obtains nuclear capabilities, he said, Sunni Arab nations in the region “won’t tolerate the asymmetry of their arch-rival Iran having nuclear weapons.”
Some of those states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, would be in the position to purchase nuclear weapons without having to develop them within their own countries, he said.
“Is there any region in the world where nuclear proliferation is a worse idea?” Toomey asked.
The Senator countered his own critics’ charges that the only alternative to the current deal is war with Iran.
“I don’t believe this is a binary choice between the agreement and war,” he said, adding that Obama’s promise to walk away from a bad deal was an indication that there could, in fact, be a better deal.
Toomey proposed re-imposing the sanctions against Iran that were lifted as a “reward” for it coming to the negotiating table, and to impose new, crippling sanctions that would incite the outcry of the Iranian public, and in turn, make it in the best interest of Iranian leaders to agree to a deal that would end its nuclear program.
Tuesday morning, three Democratic senators announced they would vote in support of the deal, which may pave the way for a filibuster of an attempt by those opposed to the deal to vote on a resolution disapproving it.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) all issued statements in favor of the deal, bringing the total of senators backing it to 41. That would be enough to keep a disapproval resolution from coming from the Senate and onto Obama’s desk to veto.
“It’s late the game,” Toomey said, “but it’s not over yet.”
“There is no bi-partisan support for the deal,” he told reporters after his address. “But there is bi-partisan opposition.
“I’m concerned this agreement doesn’t keep us safe,” he added, “but makes us unsafe.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.