By Peter Roskam
In 2005, North Korea announced plans to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief from the international community. The agreement was hailed as a historic breakthrough by many, who believed diplomacy had successfully averted a nuclear-armed North Korea. A year later, however, North Korea took the world by surprise by successfully detonating its first nuclear device -- the product of North Korea's self-described "peaceful" nuclear energy program.
Now Iran is attempting the same ruse by claiming their nuclear development is a civilian energy program, and the Obama administration is flirting with a dangerous nuclear deal that would reduce pressure on the regime. But the intent of the Iranians to develop nuclear weapons capability is clear. Iran operates thousands of advanced centrifuges and is building a heavy water plutonium reactor -- both technologies used to develop nuclear weapons. International inspectors are routinely denied access to sites suspected of weapons testing in direct violation of international obligations. And Iran is currently sitting on a massive arsenal of advanced long-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
A nuclear-capable Iran would pose a monumental threat to U.S. national security and endanger thousands of American troops serving overseas. It would spark a nuclear arms race in an already-volatile Middle East. Warheads could fall into the hands of Iranian terror proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, who have thousands of advanced rockets ready to launch at a moment's notice. And the Pentagon estimates that Iran will be able to flight test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the United States by 2015.
Time is not on our side. Iran has accelerated its installation of advanced centrifuges over the past year while steadily growing its stockpile of weapons-grade enriched uranium. The Arak heavy water reactor will begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by early 2014 -- giving Iran an alternative path to the bomb. And a study last month estimated that Iran may be weeks away from being able to build a nuclear weapon. These developments reinforce speculation that Iran may reach its nuclear breakout capacity much sooner than the world anticipated.
Recently, Iran signed a limited agreement with the UN to allow international inspectors improved access to its nuclear facilities. But unfortunately the White House continues to push a suckers deal to ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for cosmetic concessions that would do little to prevent a nuclear Iran. The agreement would cripple U.S. negotiating leverage while buying time for the mullahs to continue uranium enrichment. It's a win-win for Iran, which would get sanctions relief and keep its nuclear program, which is why the deal cannot go forward.
My colleagues and I will continue to fight to intensify pressure on Iran until it abandons its quest for nuclear weapons. This begins with the Senate promptly acting to pass the critical, House-approved Iran sanctions package. We must continue to implement crippling economic sanctions in order to extract substantive nuclear concessions. Years of diplomacy have only moved Iran closer to, not further from, building a nuclear bomb. So while we hope to achieve a peaceful resolution through negotiations, we must maintain a policy to prevent, not contain, a nuclear Iran.