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Mr. GRAHAM. If I could respond, I guess the essence of what we are trying to say is we believe Iran is the problem, not the solution, to the Mid East and the world at large. There has been bipartisan support for curtailing and controlling and eventually eliminating the Iranian nuclear program. There has been bipartisan support for our friends in Israel, and we want to keep it that way. We want to make sure Congress speaks with one voice, that we are helpful when we can be, and that we offer criticism at an appropriate time.
I guess the concerns we have about this agreement are that it is getting to be more like North Korea in a fashion that makes us all uncomfortable. If you interject billions of dollars into the Iranian economy now, without dismantling the centrifuges, I think you have made a huge mistake.
What are we trying to accomplish? We are trying to make sure the Iranians do not have the capability to develop a nuclear weapon. The first question you have to ask: Are they trying to build a nuclear powerplant--a nuclear infrastructure for commercial purposes--or are they trying to create capability to produce a weapon? Trust me on this: Nobody goes about building a commercial nuclear program this way. They are trying to build a nuclear weapon. Why? Because that would give them influence in the region they have never had. It would give Iran a strong standing in the historical Sunni-Shia conflict between the Persians and the Arabs. And as a consequence, it would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Mid East, because the Sunni Arabs are not going to allow the Shia Persians to have a nuclear capability.
They also believe, fairly rationally so, if they get a nuclear weapon, the regime is probably home free; that the West is going to back off, much as we did in North Korea. So the decision of how to handle this program is probably the most important decision President Obama will make in his second term and will be one of the most important decisions the world makes for the future of our planet here going into the 21st century.
Mr. McCAIN. If my friend would yield for a question, the Senator from South Carolina and I have known the Prime Minister of Israel rather well over the years. Obviously, the first target of Iran, in the case of a nuclear weapon, would be Israel. Iran has never stepped back from saying that Israel should be wiped from the face of the Earth. Has the Senator from South Carolina ever known a time since the creation of the State of Israel that the United States and Israel have been further apart; that there has been more open disagreement and, indeed, tension at a level the likes of which we have never seen? And does it not appear by not including Israel in any of the negotiations, to start with, but also there seems to be a complete disregard of the knowledge, information, and frontline status of Israel in this whole issue?
Mr. GRAHAM. Well, I think it is pretty obvious the tensions are growing, and not just with Israel. I believe the Obama administration's eagerness to reach a deal is unnerving to the people in the region, and not just Israel. The Israelis and the Sunni Arabs are being pushed together in an unprecedented fashion. We are hearing out of the Arab community the same concerns as out of the Israeli community. So that is an odd alignment.
Mr. McCAIN. And haven't the Saudis already basically let it be known if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon they will be right behind them?
Mr. GRAHAM. Oh, absolutely, it will create an arms race.
There is a positive note here: The Congress itself. The Congress has not been confused. We are more together on this issue than we have ever been. The Congress passed 90 to 1 a resolution rejecting the idea of allowing the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon and trying to contain them. The idea of containing a nuclear-armed Iran is not a good idea. We fear they would share the technology with a terrorist group that would wind its way here to the United States. And Israel believes they could never have a moment of peace with a nuclear-armed Iran. Containment won't work.
Secondly, the Congress, 99 to 0, said: If Israel has to defend itself against a nuclear-capable Iran, has to intervene to stop this existential threat to the Jewish state, that we would provide political, economic, and military support. So the Congress has been very much together.
The next thing we hope to do is have a resolution, bipartisan in nature, that defines the end game. What are we trying to accomplish? We don't want a war. Nobody wants a war. The idea of the Iranians having a commercial nuclear powerplant is OK with me. Mexico and Canada have commercial nuclear power facilities. They just don't enrich uranium. They buy the product from the world community. They don't have enrichment and reprocessing. I don't mind the Iranians having a nuclear powerplant for commercial purposes as long as the international community controls the fuel cycle.
Here is the problem: They are insisting on the right to enrich. And the problem is you can take uranium and enrich it to a certain level for commercial purposes, and with today's technology you can break out and have a nuclear weapon very quickly.
Mr. McCAIN. May I ask, aren't the parameters of this proposed agreement to allow them to continue to enrich materials?
Mr. GRAHAM. The concern the Israelis have, and that my colleague and I have, is the number of centrifuges available to the Iranians is into the tens of thousands now, pushing from 18 to 24,000. Who really knows. But the advanced centrifuges we are talking about can take 3.5-percent enriched uranium and go to 90 percent to get a weapon in just a matter of weeks, if not months.
So here is the rub: I think Congress will speak with one voice. We don't mind a commercial capability for the Iranians as long as you control the fuel cycle. As to the previously enriched uranium, particularly the 20 percent stockpile, turn it over to the international community. That is the U.N. position. Stop enriching. There is no right to enrich. At the end of the day, this plutonium heavy water reactor that you are building is a threat to Israel beyond belief. Dismantle that reactor. You don't need a heavy water plutonium-producing reactor to engage in commercial power production. These are what we would like to let the administration know would be a successful outcome regarding the Congress. They actually mirror the U.N. resolutions.
I am hopeful we can find a way to end the nuclear program in Iran which would be a win-win situation for the Iranians and the world at large. But what we can't afford to do is get it wrong with Iran. These negotiations, the interim agreement, as Senator McCain stated so well, sent chills up the spine of almost everybody in the region. So if the Iranians insist upon enriching, to have the ability to take the uranium and enrich it in the future, I think is a nonstarter. That would be incredibly dangerous, and we will wake up one day with a North Korea in the Middle East. If the Iranians get a nuclear weapon, it will be far more destabilizing than North Korea having a nuclear weapon on the Korean Peninsula. It will open Pandora's box.
I am hopeful the administration will go into the next round of negotiations eyes wide open, understanding where the American people and the international community are and the people in the region and if we get a deal, it is a good deal. But what is a good deal? To make sure the Iranians can have a peaceful nuclear power program but can't get a bomb. The only way they can get a bomb is to have enrichment capability as part of an agreement. Mexico, Canada, and 15 other nations have nuclear powerplants for commercial purposes, but they don't insist on enriching uranium to provide the fuel. If they insist on enriching, that tells us all we need to know about what their true intent is.
I thank Senator McCain for bringing his voice.
Mr. McCAIN. It is also true that the right to enrich is undercut by their many years' record of deception and efforts at acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Finally, again, I want to emphasize our Israeli friends are on the frontline. It is not the United States of America that the ayatollahs have committed to ``wipe off the face of the earth,'' that have been dedicated ever since the Iranian revolution to the extinction of the State of Israel.
So shouldn't we pay close attention? We aren't dictated by Israeli behavior, but shouldn't we profit from their experiences? Twice the Israelis have had to act militarily against nuclear facilities. Twice they have had to do that in order to prevent in one case Syria and another case Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons which would threaten them with extinction. Now this agreement, clearly, in the words of the Israeli Prime Minister, is something that is very dangerous to the very existence of the State of Israel.
Again, Israel does not dictate American policy, but to ignore the warnings of literally every expert in the Middle East--especially that of Israel, including Arab countries--I think is ignoring evidence and opinions that are very well informed. To get an agreement for the sake of an agreement, in my view, would be a disaster.
Mr. GRAHAM. Would the Senator yield? To conclude, why are the Iranians at the table? Because the sanctions are working. The Congress has passed tough sanctions. To the Obama administration's credit, they put together an international coalition--unprecedented in nature--which has gotten the Iranians' attention and we are at the table. The last thing we want to do is relieve the pressure because that is what got them there. There are two things they must understand: Until you abandon your nuclear quest for a bomb and replace it with a reasonable solution for commercial nuclear power aspirations, we will continue sanctions. The threat of military force is also one of the factors that got them to the table.
Jay Carney said yesterday: If you push for new sanctions, you are inviting war. I would like to respond. I think the reason we are having a peaceful opportunity moment here is because of the sanctions. If we back off now and infuse billions of dollars into the Iranian economy and leave the centrifuges in place, we are inviting an attack by Israel. If you don't shut down the plutonium heavy water reactor, Israel is not going to sit on the sidelines forever. So to not have a continuation of sanctions until we get the right answer is going to invite more destabilizing in the region.
We have to realize that Israel is in a different position than almost anybody else. They are close. The Iranians have talked about wiping them off the map. When it comes to the Jewish people, they don't take that stuff lightly anymore. When they say ``never again,'' they literally mean it. Can you tell the Prime Minister of Israel--given the behavior of the Iranians in the last 30 years--that they are just joking? Can you tell the people of the United States, if the Iranians got a nuclear weapon, they wouldn't share it with a terrorist group to come our way? Name one thing they have produced they haven't shared.
So this is a moment of history. This is the biggest decision President Obama will make, and I would like to help him make the right decision. I would like to help the world resolve this problem without a war. But here is the situation we find ourselves in: If we attack Iran to stop their nuclear program if we couldn't get a peaceful ending, we would open Pandora's box. It would be difficult. But if they got a nuclear weapon, it would empty Pandora's box. That is the world in which we live. We have a little time to get this right. I hope we can.
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