MANSFIELD, Ohio — Wednesday, the day President Barack Obama garnered enough support in Congress to be able to bypass bipartisan opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, a town hall meeting discussing the Iran nuclear deal was held in Mansfield. U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) held the meeting, in conjunction with the Ashbrook Center, that featured John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, speaking in opposition to the plan.
The deal, titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is an agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and was signed on July 14, 2015 in Vienna. The purpose of the deal is to limit Iran’s nuclear program to thwart the development of nuclear weapons.
“It’s a real honor for me to bring in one of the world’s, not just the U.S.’s, experts on international and national security. And obviously the incredible work he did when he was representing us at the U.N. in a pretty tense time with North Korea back in 2006, kind of leading the world’s effort against what North Korea was doing at the time with nuclear weapons and missiles, has an incredible reputation,” Tiberi said.
Ashbrook Center Executive Director Roger Beckett mediated the discussion; and after introductory remarks, Bolton launched explanation of his opposition to the Iran nuclear plan.
“It’s a bad deal,” he said.
“I think Iran achieved almost every one of its major strategic objectives. They now have a path to nuclear weapons; they get some $150 billion, by most estimates, in assets unfrozen; they get the sanctions lifted; there are inadequate provisions for inspections. As somebody who has negotiated more than my share of arms control and nonproliferation agreements, this is one of the worst deals that we’ve signed off on in a long time,” Bolton said in remarks prior to the meeting.
Both Bolton and Tiberi hope Congress will have an opportunity to debate the deal before Sept. 17, when they are expected to vote on it. The support President Obama achieved, attaining backing from 34 senators, is the minimum needed to guarantee U.S. approval despite objections from Congress.
“The real issue is not deal or no deal,” Bolton said, “or deal the way the president sets it up, as if this is the only option. The question is what should we do to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons; and of course, it’s not our decision alone to make. The Israelis are not going to sit by idly here.
“But the question for the country really is even more urgent than Iran because if Iran proceeds to deliver nuclear weapons capability, it’s a signal for would-be proliferators all over the world that they can, with a little persistence, they can also get nuclear weapons. That’s what proliferation is all about. The global implications are truly significant.”
Tiberi said during President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, the president expressed his goal to achieve a nuclear agreement with Iran, to make Iran nuclear-free. One of Tiberi’s concerns is that he feels the President “created a false choice.”
“That is, either you support this agreement, or we go to war,” Tiberi said of the “false choice.” He said today, the 60-day window that was to provide for national review of the agreement and to allow Congress to have a vote has disappeared.
“What is clear today,” Tiberi said, “is a couple things. Number one, that period will expire on Sept. 17. Number two, the House will vote next week and we have the votes in the House to disapprove that agreement. Number three, the Senate, which is a little bit different body than the House, as you may know, the majority is Republican. But 60 votes is the key to avoid a filibuster.”
But Tiberi said it actually takes 67 votes to override a Presidential veto and the President needs 34 senators to support the deal, and Wednesday morning he achieved that goal with the addition of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) adding her support.
Now, Tiberi said, the President will try to stop a vote from occurring, requiring 41 votes.
“This deal legitimizes Iran’s ability to have nuclear weapons—period, end of story,” Tiberi said, noting his opposition.
Former ambassador Bolton opposed and “led the world’s charge” against North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, said Tiberi. And in 2006, the United Nations ushered in strong sanctions against the North Korean efforts. He also led the Security Council to end the 2006 Hezbollah war on Israel.
Bolton said the American people understand very well that the first function of the government is to protect the country from international threats. The American people expect their leaders to act, he said.
Bolton explained what he sees as some of the reasons why the deal won’t accomplish its objective in “the most volatile region in the entire world.”
He proposed potential responses to nuclear threat could have included stricter sanctions and better enforcement of those sanctions. He said the current sanctions have not slowed down the nuclear weapons program or slowed down Iran’s support of terrorism.
“Now, under the terms of the deal signed in Vienna, we’re going to give all that up. We’re going to unfreeze what many people estimate to be something in the range of $150 billion of frozen Iranian assets that under the process and under the timing played out of the Vienna deal, will go to them very quickly beginning most likely early next year,” Bolton said.
“We have no control over it [what they do with the money], Bolton added. “Some have called it the signing bonus for Iran to sign,” he said to audience laughter. “You have to ask, what’s our signing bonus—zero.”
“The next piece of leverage we give up is the economic sanctions,” he said. He said the Russians didn’t uphold the sanctions well to begin with and the deal will allow them to potentially sell weapons to Iran and sign contracts to build additional nuclear reactor for Iran. Additionally, he believes China will benefit greatly from gas and oil trade.
“This is why the remedy in the deal, the so-called ‘snapback’ provisionfor sanctions is never going to work, Bolton said.
“It’s never going to work because even when we find Iran in violation of the deal, which we will—I think they’re in violation already—the Europeans, and the Russians, and the Chinese are going to prevent the sanctions from coming back into effect. So this is a mechanism that is doomed to failure.”
What price did the Iranians pay for the lifting of the sanctions and unfreezing the assets, Bolton asked.
He said the agreement includes modest restrictions on their existing capabilities to enrich uranium. He believes they should not be able to enrich uranium at all. “But Secretary [John] Kerry’s answer was, ‘Well, okay I guess we’ve got to give in to them.’”
“Wrong answer,” said Bolton. “It really is a diplomatic Waterloo that has happened here, because the restrictions the Iranians have agreed to are easily reversible, and I think they’re in violation of their commitments already. Even if Iran complies with this for eight or 10 years until it expires, they’re free at that time, free of the inspections, free of the constraints that economically were imposed on them to march toward nuclear weapons.
“But I think it’s much worse than that. I don’t think they’re waiting.”