I strongly support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the Iran nuclear agreement— and urge members of Congress to do the same. 

Advocating for nuclear risk reduction measures in Congress is common. Passing legislation, even in one House, is difficult. Getting such legislation signed into law is rare. Having a constituency that encourages this work makes it easier for the member. Oregon has been one such state. 

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Oregon has a proud history of involvement in efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Physicians, lawyers, educators, clergy, blue and white-collar workers, business owners and community activists are all involved. So it is not surprising that Oregon often sends advocates of nuclear risk reduction to represent them in Congress. 

Three decades ago Rep. Les AuCoin (D-Ore.) led the effort that thwarted the development and implementation of anti-satellite weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union. To this day, neither Russia nor the United States has deployed these weapons.  

In 1992, Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) and I successfully sponsored legislation to impose a moratorium on U.S. nuclear explosive testing. President George H.W. Bush reluctantly signed the legislation into law and the United States has not tested a nuclear weapon since then. 

And in 1994, Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-Ore.) succeeded in passing legislation banning the development of nuclear weapons of less than five kilotons. 

Bipartisan leadership on nonproliferation is also found between states: the now famous Nunn-Lugar amendment authorized funding to secure and destroy large numbers of nuclear weapons and materials in countries of the former Soviet Union. This highly successful threat reduction program is the work of a Democrat from Georgia and a Republican from Indiana.     

Today, Congress faces another major nuclear policy decision. Members of Congress will vote by mid-September on a historic nonproliferation agreement between the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Iran intended to prevent Iran from becoming the 10th nation to acquire nuclear weapons. The stakes don’t get any higher. Rejection of the agreement would open the way for Iran to expand its nuclear capacity and deny us the option for tougher inspections. 

The agreement is not a panacea for peace with Iran, nor is it intended to be. But it is one of the toughest nonproliferation agreements ever negotiated.  If implemented, it will enhance the security of the United States and the world. The agreement is even stronger when judged against the alternatives, all of which would be riskier and likely less effective than the current deal. 

The agreement blocks Iran’s ability to make weapons grade uranium and plutonium, either of which can fuel a nuclear bomb. 

The deal stymies Iran’s plutonium pathway by requiring Iran to destroy the current core of its Arak nuclear reactor and replace it with one that will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. In tandem with this, Iran has committed not to reprocess any spent nuclear fuel for at least 15 years. 

Iran’s uranium pathway is blocked by a combination of requirements. Iran must remove and place in verified storage over two-thirds of its centrifuges used for enriching uranium and reduce by 97 percent its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and cap this stockpile at 300 kilograms for 15 years.  The result of these, and other measures, increases the time required for Iran to amass enough bomb-grade uranium for one bomb from the current 2-3 months to 12 months or more. This provides more than enough time to take political or other actions to respond to a potential violation of the agreement. 

Perhaps most importantly, the agreement creates an unprecedented three-dimensional spider-web of verification and monitoring provisions to ensure transparency and compliance. These include 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s uranium mines and mills, centrifuge workshops, and all known nuclear sites. 

The deal also institutes a unique time-bound process to ensure prompt access for international inspectors to all undeclared sites, including military sites or any other sites that may be of proliferation concern. Failure to allow access within 24 days qualifies as a breach to the agreement.   

To punish violations, the deal includes an unprecedented provision that ensures the United States could snap United Nations Security Council sanctions back into place if Iran fails to meet its commitments. 

The Iranian people will benefit from their government’s adherence to the agreement. Successful implementation will ultimately lead to the removal of nuclear-related international economic sanctions against Iran. It is a phased approach: specific acts of implementation by Iran are to be met with easing of specific sanctions. Current human rights, terrorism and other sanctions against Iran will remain in place.  

While the United States will continue to have differences with Iran in many areas, this deal is about ensuring Iran can’t threaten America and its allies under the cover of nuclear weapons. Congress should give this agreement the chance to succeed. 

 

Kopetski served in the House from 1991 to 1995.