September 2, 2015
Dear Dr. Manousos,
Thank you for writing to me with your support of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States. I appreciate hearing from you, and welcome this opportunity to respond.
After much deliberation, study, and discussion with both opponents and supporters, I have decided that I will vote to support the Iran nuclear deal.
My decision was not an easy one. I attended briefings, studied the classified documents in the Capitol basement, and read position papers both for and against. Many on both sides of the issue reached out to me, answered my questions, and kept me informed throughout the debate. There has been a great deal of honest and sincere advocacy all around, and I thank those who care so deeply about this issue for their input.
However, I have concluded that the issue of utmost importance here is ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran would be an unacceptable danger. Iran's rhetoric about destroying Israel presents the real threat that one nuclear bomb from Iran could wipe out the Jewish state forever. Allowing the existential threat to Israel's existence to become even slightly more real cannot be an option. The stated threats to Israel, Iran's bellicosity in the region, and the nuclear arms race they would almost certainly trigger are the reasons we and the world's major powers put crushing sanctions on Iran in the first place. And in fact, if the worst-case scenario becomes necessary, and that is military action against Iran, it would be much more difficult to do so if Iran did actually have a nuclear weapon.
Currently, Iran can produce enough material for a nuclear weapon in 2-3 months. This deal would prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon for 15 years.Under this deal Iran must take several unprecedented steps. They must reduce their existing uranium stockpile by 98%, reduce the installed number of centrifuges by two-thirds, and only use their oldest versions for 10 years. They must ship all spent fuel from the Arak reactor out of the country forever, and end any plutonium production at the heavy water reactor at Arak, while not developing any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years. In order to produce a bomb, they would have to enrich uranium up to about 90%, but for 15 years, they can only enrich uranium up to 3.67%.
Certainly, the Iranian government has demonstrated that they are not to be trusted. That is why this deal goes further than any agreement in history and offers real verification measures. This includes inspection of Iran's uranium enrichment sites, centrifuges, and uranium ore supply chain for up to 25 years.
This deal is not perfect. I have listened carefully to the critics, talked to the experts and have weighed the arguments.
First, critics say that the deal does not stop Iran's nuclear program forever, as critical provisions end in 15 years. However, the 15 years that we do have provide the ability for us to know much more about Iran's nuclear capabilities. And under this deal and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is still permanently banned from ever having a nuclear weapon. With the knowledge we have and will have acquired, even if Iran does proceed, in 15 years, the U.S. will have the time and intelligence to intervene before a nuclear weapon could be produced.
Secondly, critics say that the Iranians will cheat in the inspections. However, this deal is constructed so that Iranian activity is independently monitored and verified at every step throughout the process by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA.) Even for inspections of past military dimensions at Parchin, the taking of soil samples will be under close observation by IAEA inspectors, under a protocol that has been upheld by nuclear experts around the world. Overall, the entire Iranian supply chain will be inspected, so there are no ways to secretly acquire uranium. And if they did, there would be no place to enrich it. Iran cannot clandestinely build an entire nuclear enrichment facility without our intelligence agencies noticing the construction and many wires necessary to provide enough power. This is how we were able to observe their nuclear program previously, and doing so now will only be easier with inspectors on the ground.
Third, critics focus on the sanctions relief that Iran will receive, saying that the Iran will be an even greater threat by using this money for terrorism. I share this concern, and this is why I have pushed for greater assurance that we continue with sanctions related to terrorism and human rights. This is also why I welcomed the President's letter of August 19, which confirms our commitment to Israel's security, and to working with our allies and partners to vigorously deal with Iran's destabilizing activities in the region. The U.S. commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge will ensure that – so long as Iran is restricted to conventional weapons, as is achieved with this deal – we will maintain a military superiority to Iran.
There are those that say we should reject this deal, and go it alone, assuming the other partners in this deal will come back eventually. I do not believe the other partners will come back, after having negotiated in good faith for 2 years. For the Europeans, negotiations have been taking place for as many as 12 years. Nor do I believe that using our financial system to shut out all who do business with Iran is possible without triggering a global economic crisis. It would only damage our position as the world's only reliable superpower.
It is true that we will continue to face the challenges of a hostile Iran in the coming years, but now, we can do so for at least 15 years without the threat of a nuclear bomb. Considering the anxiety of recent years when the prospect of a military strike on Iran felt imminent, this deal is a welcome alternative.
We have the choice of two historic firsts. One, a never before seen inspections regime that assures us of a nuclear free Iran. Or two, America walking away from a deal that we negotiated with other world powers, abdicating our global leadership at a moment of crisis. There are risks with accepting and rejecting the deal. But the risks of rejecting it are too great. For the sake of our security, the security of our allies, and our position as a trustworthy global leader, I have concluded that we must support the Iran nuclear deal.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Democracy works best when we stay in touch, so I invite you to visit chu.house.gov and sign-up for e-mail updates at chu.house.gov/signup. And get late-breaking news at facebook.com/repjudychu and twitter.com/repjudychu.
I am honored to serve you, so please never hesitate to call or write in the future.
Judy Chu, PhD
Member of Congress