Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Lee Zeldin (1st District of New York)
Watch Rep. Zeldin’s remarks here.
WASHINGTON – On July 10, 2018, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) delivered a 17 minute speech on the House floor, regarding the Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Here are Congressman Zeldin’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, last month, President Trump correctly withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Tonight, during this hour, several Members of Congress will be speaking here on the House floor regarding the administration’s strategy to curb Iran’s malign interests in the region and ensure Iran is no longer rewarded for its bad behavior.
The Iran Deal was fatally flawed for what was in it…and fatally flawed for what was not in it.
First, it is important to reflect on key lessons that should be learned from the manner in which the United States made several bad errors negotiating this so called “deal”.
We must learn these lessons to make sure history does not repeat itself.
First, the U.S. signed a preliminary agreement in 2013 that preemptively traded a large portion of our leverage even before formal negotiations had begun.
The Iranians came to the table desperate for sanctions relief. They were not there as freedom-loving, good citizens of the world; nor were they aspiring to be. The leverage was sanctions relief, which is proof the sanctions were working.
Non-nuclear activities weren’t also on the table, but should have been, because once you negotiate away the leverage that brings the Iranians to the table you have no leverage left to deal with everything left you still need to deal with.
Second, the United States underestimated just how desperate the Iranian leadership was for this deal in order to stay in power. There was no reason for the United States to assume the position of weakness it did in the negotiation. We should have been by far the stronger party in the talks.
For some very odd reason, the United States continued to negotiate from weaker and weaker positions for no good or acceptable reason.
Next, one red line after another set by the United States was crossed with no consequences, further weakening our negotiating hand.
The United States also very much cared about hitting target dates for the negotiation that Iran had no issue whatsoever with missing. That too further weakened our negotiating position.
When the President of the United States and his administration gets rolled by a foreign adversary, all Americans get rolled. That is a huge problem.
This was made worse, by paying a $1.7 billion cash ransom to get our hostages released. Pallets of unmarked cash had to be airlifted and delivered at the same exact moment of our hostages being released or they would not have been released. That’s a ransom whichever way you want to cut it.
Paying this cash ransom to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror showed the ridiculous lengths the Obama administration was willing to go, at any and all costs, to appease Iran and show weakness to other American adversaries witnessing this play out.
Recent reports revealed that the Obama administration misled the American people and granted a license letting Iran access the U.S. financial system when U.S. government officials pledged they would never allow Iran to access U.S. investments or markets.
This Iran Nuclear “Deal” provided Iran with a jackpot of up to $150 billion in sanctions relief, without even asking for a signature.
Secretary Kerry called it an “unsigned political commitment.”
Ben Rhodes, the White House’s taxpayer funded fiction writer, created an echo chamber to promote a false narrative and sell a devil’s bargain of a deal to the American people.
Even Democratic Members of Congress were feeling the heat from the White House, forced to support what they were privately admitting was an unsigned, unchecked, bad deal.
Secretary Kerry admitted that this “deal” was never intended to receive Congressional approval.
He said this wasn’t a treaty because a treaty would have been “impossible to pass.”
Now that sure does not sound like the legal definition of a “treaty” does it?
The U.S. should never have entered this historically bad deal to begin with and really could have done such a better job negotiating it.
As I mentioned earlier, the Iran Deal was fatally flawed for what was put in it, and fatally flawed for what was left out of it.
Next, I will discuss some of the reasons why it was fatally flawed for what was in it.
The JCPOA isn’t a pathway for how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. It’s actually a blueprint for how Iran obtains a nuclear weapon.
Two of the biggest issues with what is in the JCPOA is its flawed verification regime and highly problematic sunset provisions.
President Obama said that the Iran Nuclear Agreement was not based on trust, but verification.
How do you support a deal based on verification when you don’t know what the verification is?
The secret side deals between the IAEA and Iran outlining the verification regime are still a mystery to the United States and were never submitted to Congress.
It has since been learned though that Iran collects some of its own soil samples and is the inspector of some of its own nuclear sites. Crazy right?
Even former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted he hadn’t read the verification regime in those secret side deals when I questioned him about it at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last Congress.
The United States made a slew of permanent concessions in exchange for temporary concessions on the part of the Iranians, a point which comes into much greater focus as the sunset provisions are analyzed.
The sunset clause undermines any reasonable justification for the deal providing Iran the capability to attain a nuclear weapon within just a few years even if it didn’t cheat at all on the deal. And that of course is in addition to the $150 billion jackpot of sanctions relief.
Under the JCPOA, Iran was still allowed to assemble a limited amount of advanced centrifuges that could enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon within one year.
However, Iran has even violated those minimal restrictions numerous times.
Iran has spun more IR-6 centrifuges than permitted under the JCPOA. It has assembled more IR-8 rotor assemblies than it’s permitted to. It has attempted to acquire carbon fiber that it had agreed not to. It has stockpiled more heavy water than what was allowed under the JCPOA.
With regards to verification, the Iranians have said before, during and after this agreement was entered into that no one will inspect their military sites.
And on top of it all the United States agreed not to have any American weapons inspector participate in any inspections.
The IAEA on its own has failed to conduct a thorough review of Iran’s nuclear testing capabilities.
As just one example, in September 2015, when Iranian officials granted limited access to IAEA inspectors at the Parchin facility, although environmental samples revealed chemically man-modified particles of natural uranium, the IAEA did not pursue an explanation or even an inquiry.
This Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a House of Cards.
So what are we doing here people? Not only was a better deal absolutely obtainable, but no deal would have been better than this agreement.
Next, I will discuss in further detail why the JCPOA was fatally flawed for what was not in it.
When Secretary Kerry chose to ignore Iran’s bad, non nuclear activities in the region, he negotiated away the leverage that could have curbed Iran’s malign influence in the region.
You cannot separate Iran’s ballistic missile development designed to deliver a nuclear warhead from its nuclear weapons program.
Iran has continued to pursue it’s ICBM development in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Iran has also continued to finance terror as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and work to overthrow foreign governments.
Iran supports Assad in Syria, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen.
They have consolidated massive territorial control building a land bridge between Tehran and Beirut; a direct threat to the security and stability of regional partners such as Israel and Jordan.
By failing to address Iran’s non nuclear activities, the JCPOA has given Iran more resources to pursue its hegemonic, terrorist ambitions in the region.
These are unfortunately just a few of Iran’s bad activities.
Since the JCPOA was entered into, Iranian aggression in the Middle East, including Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, has only increased.
Iran has launched as many as 23 ballistic missiles since the conclusion of the July 2015 nuclear deal. They have illegal financed terrorist activities wreaking havoc in the Middle East. Iran has recommitted to wiping Israel off the map calling them the little Satan, and chanting Death to America in their streets and in their parliament calling the US the great Satan, all while unjustly imprisoning American citizens.
In the past two years, Iran has blown up mock U.S. warships, seized one of our naval vessels and subsequently held hostage and publicly embarrassed 10 American sailors.
Remember Secretary Kerry’s reaction to Iran holding hostage and embarrassing our sailors? His response was “thank you”…”thank you”. He defended the whole situation as evidence of a better relationship with Iran. Talking about living in an alternate universe of reality.
One fundamental question is often misunderstood and in many cases not even asked: What leverage could we have moving forward to tackle all of Iran’s threatening actions if we eliminate the sanctions that brought Iran to the table in the first place?
President Trump is absolutely correct to reimpose the toughest sanctions against Iran’s oil and financial sector and IRGC officials, agents and affiliates.
In order to regain the leverage that brought the Iranians to the table, we must increase financial pressure so that Iran does not have the ability to back terrorist groups across the world and keep their economy afloat.
With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor, John Bolton, working so closely to our President to counter Iran’s aggression, I feel confident when they say, “No path to a nuclear weapon, not now, not ever.”
The onus is on Iran. If they like the sanctions relief and want to keep the sanctions relief, the United States has just a few very reasonable requirements. The verification regime needs to be fixed. The sunset provisions need to be lifted. And the other bad, nefarious, illegal, terrorist activities must end.
If there are any other nations around the world that want to keep the sanctions relief in place, then convince Iran to change its behavior and agree to the U.S.’ very reasonable demands.
It is very telling that so many nations in the Middle East are supportive of President Trump’s determination to push back against Iranian aggression.
In 2009, millions of Iranians poured into the streets to protest the fraudulent reelection of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The United States and rest of the world then offered zero support following that undemocratic election. President Obama said it was all none of our business, which proved to not only be wrong, but also a huge error in judgment.
We must learn our lesson from 2009 and not repeat that same mistake.
The U.S. must support the millions of Iranians who continue to march in the streets desperate for support to help them turn the tide in Tehran and all throughout Iran.
Now in 2018, Iranians have once again courageously poured into the streets to protest the brutality of President Hassan Rouhani’s regime.
Over the past few months, we have been witnessing the largest protest in Tehran since 2012.
Keep in mind that whenever we hear about how the most moderate candidates get elected in Iran that is after the 12,000 most moderate candidates are denied access to the ballot in the election. The only choice has been to pick a pro-regime hardliner and we should be under no illusions otherwise.
By withdrawing from the JCPOA, President Trump is sending an important message to the Iranians that America will not accept a regime that tortures its own people, funds terrorist activities, and vows for the destruction of the United States and our great ally, Israel.
The United States is a nation that is not even close to equals with Iran.
We are the greatest nation in the world and we must reposition our posture from one of weakness to one of strength.
That is all that this adversary respects.
We cannot be silent when tested not because we want war but because we want to prevent it.
No longer will we be treating Iran like Israel and Israel like Iran.
Throughout the next hour, we will discuss the President’s correct decision to pull out of the agreement as well as the urgent need to eliminate Iran’s problematic nuclear and non-nuclear activities.
Joining me tonight, are Members of Congress from across our great country, who are deeply passionate about America’s best interests, and supportive of the President’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Deal.”