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Mr. GRAHAM. Senator McCain is absolutely right. The interim deal does not dismantle the centrifuges. They are spinning as we talk. They disconnect, not dismantle, some advanced centrifuges that have been installed.
What people need to realize is that the Iranians, over the last decade--particularly the last 3 years--have developed a very mature enrichment program: 18,000 centrifuges. They do not need 20-percent enriched uranium anymore for these new centrifuges to get to 90 percent, which would produce a uranium-based bomb; they can do it with a 3 1/2 -percent stockpile.
So I guess this is the basic question for us as a nation and the world at large: Do you believe the Iranians when they say that they are not trying to develop a nuclear weapon, that they are only trying to develop peaceful nuclear power? Do you believe them when they make that claim given the reality of their enrichment program, their lying, and their cheating? If their goal is to enrich not for peaceful nuclear power purposes but to make a bomb, how do you get them to change their goal?
I think what Senator McCain is pointing out is very important. The interim deal, like it or not, has legitimized enrichment in Iran. How do you go from not dismantling the plutonium reactor--complete dismantling, shutting down and dismantling the centrifuges--and turning the stockpile over to the international community after the interim deal--how do you go from there to the end game? We are so far away from an acceptable outcome.
I hope people understand what the French are saying. The French are telling us they do not believe that the Iranian negotiators and the Iranian regime are serious about abandoning an enrichment program that could break out and produce a nuclear weapon.
I appreciate Senator McCain's leadership on these issues. Syria, Iran--you name it, he has been there.
I would like to ask this question to Senator McCain: Does the Senator believe the Iranians when they say they are not trying to acquire a nuclear weapon? From the U.S.-Israel point of view, what would happen to our nations if they had that capability?
Mr. McCAIN. May I say to my friend that one of the things that would happen right away--I think it is well known; it is not a secret--is that many nations in the region would then quickly acquire nuclear weapons. The wealthiest ones might just buy one from Pakistan. That is not a secret.
But could I ask my colleague this: So therefore we now have a period of 6 months which originally was stated as the end goal, that an agreement would be made and finalized and would be ready to be put into effect. But then we hear: Well, maybe it is going take more than 6 months.
One, haven't we seen that movie before--extended and protected negotiations, and then the centrifuges, as the Senator from South Carolina mentioned, continue to spin.
Also, wouldn't it be appropriate for the Congress to say to the administration--and, more importantly, to the Iranians--that after 6 months, my friends, the screws are going to tighten because if they cannot get an agreement in 6 months, then it would be appropriate for there to be additional pressures that would then hopefully be incentives for them to reach a final agreement rather than the status quo, which most of us believe is not satisfactory under this 6-month period.
Should there not be some sanctions that would kick in after a 6-month period, and then the Iranians would know that if they do not reach an agreement, then the sanctions will be more severe?
Perhaps my colleague can explain to me why the Secretary of State and the administration seem to be so opposed to us putting more pressure on the whole process to be finalized. Six months seems to be a reasonable length of time to get that done.
Mr. GRAHAM. Well, the Senator is right. This interim agreement has not been implemented yet. They have 6 months to reach a final agreement but also an additional 6 months beyond that--a year, basically--to drag out these negotiations.
The Senator asked the ultimate question. Does the Senator not believe sanctions are the only reason the Iranians are at the table?
I compliment the administration for putting together an international regime to take the sanctions that Congress has passed--over their objections, I might add--to really inflict pain on the Iranian regime--unfortunately, the people too. But that is the only reason they are at the table.
But here is the analysis, as I understand it. People in the administration believe there is a moderate element and a hard-line element. Iran is telling the United States and the P5+1: If you threaten us with any more sanctions, we will walk away. We are not going to negotiate with a gun to our heads.
Now, these are the people who have been using a lot of guns and have put a lot of guns to people's heads and actually pulled the trigger, killed hundreds of soldiers in Iraq, and have created chaos and mayhem in Syria. They are one of the biggest supporters of state terrorism. But that is an odd thing for them to say, when I believe the only reason they are at the table to begin with is because of sanctions.
So my belief is that new sanctions tied to the end game--and this is what we have been working on in a bipartisan fashion. It is not just keeping the sanctions alive for the next year; it is tying their relief to an outcome that we all want.
I want a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear program. If they want a peaceful nuclear power program, they can have it; just control the fuel cycle. That has been my position.
If they want an enrichment capability that has to be monitored by the U.N. and it is robust and the only reason they will not break out to get a nuclear weapon is because of U.N. inspectors, that is North Korea.
The movie the Senator talked about is the movie called North Korea, where you would impose sanctions, you would relieve them, you would give them money, you would give them food, you would reinstate sanctions, and you would have U.N. inspectors to control the progress. The program was never dismantled.
Don't repeat the mistakes in Iran that were repeated in North Korea. Dismantle this program before it is too late.
To the administration, we are trying to help, not hurt. I do not believe there is a moderate element when it comes to the Iranian nuclear power program. I think that is a facade. The new President is a charming fellow on television, but he was a nuclear negotiator in 2004 and 2005 for the Iranian regime and openly bragged about how much advancement they made during his time negotiating toward an enrichment program that could produce a bomb.
So this idea that there are hard-liners and moderates when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program is a miscalculation. So we are working on bipartisan sanctions, to continue them, and they can only be relieved when we dismantle the enrichment program, when we dismantle the plutonium reactor, the heavy water reactor that has nothing to do with producing nuclear power for peaceful purposes, and remove the stockpile as the U.N. has recommended. The U.N. resolutions are in force today, are on the books today. This agreement is to the left of the U.N.
So the reason we are pushing sanctions in a bipartisan fashion is we want to avoid a conflict. The Iranian nuclear program has to be stopped one way or the other--through diplomacy and sanctions or through force, unless--that is the option. I cannot imagine a world with Ayatollahs with nukes. It would create a nuclear arms race. The Senator just got back from Saudi Arabia. Sunni Arab nations would want their own nuclear weapon, and we would be on the road to Armageddon. Israel--my God, how could they sit on the sideline and watch a nuclear weapon be produced by people who threaten every day to wipe them off the map?
We are hoping we can produce sanctions that would enable and enhance the administration's opportunity to get a peaceful resolution. Sanctions and diplomacy end the program in a peaceful way. This is our last chance. If we get this wrong, history will judge us poorly. They are trying to get a nuclear weapon. They are hellbent. The only thing that will stop them is pressure.
I want to ask the Senator a question. Why are Japanese banks and other business entities rushing to do business with Iran when the interim deal--relief and sanctions--do you believe that the international community is of the mindset that the sanctions are breaking down, that they are trying to jump ahead of each other to do business with Iran, and that if Congress passed a new round of sanctions, it would stop that breakout? Do you think that makes sense?
Mr. McCAIN. Well, I think it might. I think this whole perception of the United States around the world, of our weakness, whether it be manifested in the Middle East with recent--I am sure my friend from South Carolina saw the comments of the former high-ranking member of the Saudi Government. The Japanese are now starting to go their own way because they believe the American pivot is not reality. There are manifestations of this perception of American weakness all over the world. So I am not sure they believe we are serious here or most anyplace else.
The Senator from South Carolina raises an excellent point. I seem to remember that during the days of the Cold War we used to look at the reviewing stand on the May Day Parade, and we would point out one guy and say: Well, he is a moderate. He is a soft-liner. Well, he is a hard-liner. You know, we hope that--fill in the blank--is going to really have a beneficial effect and that the Russians are going to change and blah, blah, blah. There was always this belief about hard-liners and soft-liners. We know now from history that was never the case.
So now we look at Iran. Oh, there are the hard-liners and the soft-liners. Doesn't that ignore the fundamental fact that there is one man who governs Iran and makes all the decisions? That guy is the Ayatollah. Now that Ahmadinejad, the hard-liner--and Rouhani, by the way, as the Senator from South Carolina mentioned, bragged and bragged about how he deceived the Americans and the other countries when he was the negotiator for Iran. Now he is the moderate. Now he is the good guy. So all this is fraud.
But I guess the other point that I think really needs to be made that we forget is this: In Syria and in Iran--this administration, this President, and this Secretary of State look at these countries as an arms control issue. They look at Syria as an arms control issue while from helicopters they are dropping bombs that are killing and massacring women and children, while they are committing the most atrocious acts--on the one hand, the Secretary of State and his friend Sergei Lavrov are removing chemical weapons from Syria while planeloads of weapons from Russia fly into Damascus, and they kill people. I am not sure whether a mother in Syria can discriminate whether that child was killed by a chemical weapon or by a conventional weapon.
So here we have the Iranians committing acts of terror all over the world, sending the Iranian Revolutionary Guard into Syria, training Bashar Assad's troops in Iran and sending them back, sending in supply after supply of weapons to kill Syrians, plots to kill even the Saudi Arabia Ambassador here in Washington, DC. Yemen has tried to smuggle in a whole boatload of weapons from Iran. The list goes on and on of their Persian ambitions throughout the Arab world and the world, but, by golly, we trust them to sit down and negotiate with us seriously on the issue of nuclear weapons. This is the most narrow view of Iran that has ever happened in history.
So I do not see how we can judge Iranian seriousness about really wanting to rein in and eliminate their progress toward nuclear weapons without considering their behavior throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East, which is one of aggression, terror, and outright murder of people and destabilizing the entire region to the Iranian advantage.
Mr. GRAHAM. Well, I think the point Senator McCain is making is dead-on. Is it not true that our government has designated the Iranian regime--their government--as one of the largest state sponsors of terrorism in the world? Is that correct?
Mr. McCAIN. True.
Mr. GRAHAM. Now, here is the question. It is a good question. If they had a nuclear weapon, would they be likely to end such activity or would they be more effective in expanding it?
Mr. McCAIN. May I interrupt? I forgot one aspect of Iranian behavior that is the most egregious: their sponsorship of Hezbollah. There are 5,000 Hezbollah from Lebanon, sponsored by Iran, who are killing Syrians as we speak at the bidding of the Ayatollah and maybe Rouhani, who is supposed to be a moderate.
Mr. GRAHAM. I think what the Senator has just described--the litany of chaos and mayhem spread by the Iranian regime that he knows probably better than anyone because he spent so much time there--it is Hezbollah but also Hamas. They are all in. The people who create the biggest upheaval for Israel are all in for their buddy Assad, the butcher of Damascus. Without Iran's support, one of the most evil people on the planet would not have a chance.
Doesn't the Senator believe we are in a proxy war between us and the Iranians in Syria? That if we don't--and our actions towards whether we are going to use force or we are not going to use force, with Assad winning--that our policies toward Syria are affecting the regime's belief about what we may do about their nuclear program?
One thing that might reset our resolve as a nation is for the Congress to impose additional sanctions so the Ayatollahs will not be confused about our lack of will in Syria when it comes to their nuclear program. The bottom line is, after our debacle in Syria, doesn't the Senator think we have a problem with the Iranian regime of taking us seriously?
The international community is now breaking the sanctions. If new sanctions were imposed in a bipartisan way, that is the best way to reset the debate.
Mr. McCAIN. I would also point out, one, if we are looking for one bright spot, that we see countries in the gulf and the Middle East aligning with Israel in a way that we have never seen before. Shouldn't we listen to the Prime Minister of Israel, which is the first target of Iran? It is the country about which the Iranians said, and have not renounced, that it is their commitment to ``wiping Israel off the map.'' Does the Senator think that maybe relations between ourselves and Israel are at the lowest ebb?
Does the Senator think it is an accident when now the Saudis and leaders of other countries are outspoken in their derision of the United States for a lack of leadership in the Middle East?
Finally, isn't it interesting that the Russians, for the first time since 1973, when Anwar Sadat threw them out of Egypt, are now major players in the Middle East?
Mr. GRAHAM. I think the whole Middle East is going in the wrong direction at warp speed. Congress has some obligation to speak up, to do something about it, and to try to help the administration when we can.
No. 1, a new round of sanctions, if we could muster bipartisan support, would send a great message to the Iranians: We don't see you the same as we do Syria.
There was a lot of confusion and differences in the body about what to do in Syria.
The Senator has been right for 3 years on this whole topic, but we are where we are. So a new round of sanctions, bipartisanly passed, would tell the Iranians that the American Congress and people look at them differently than the problem in Syria.
It would also be a statement in the international community: We are resolved to get this program dismantled by using sanctions. We are not backing off, so stop this breakout.
Finally to our friends, to the Israelis, to the Sunni Arab States, wouldn't it be welcome news to be tougher on Iran and to have the Congress reinforce the message to the Iranians that we are going to keep in place sanctions until they dismantle their program? Wouldn't that be some welcome news in a region that is absolutely desperate for some good news from America?
Mr. McCAIN. I think so.
I thank my colleagues for their forbearance. I agree with the Senator from South Carolina.
I think it is imperative for the Congress and our role in the U.S. Government that these sanctions be enacted. The administration has plenty of time to negotiate, but we want to be prepared for failure. There is no reason not to make those preparations.
I began our conversation with the comments of the foreign minister of France. That concern is shared by many of our friends and allies both in and out of the region.
I note the presence of the Senator from Mississippi on the floor. I am sure he has some very important words that will be translated into English.
I yield the floor.
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