This is one of the most important foreign policy decisions that our country has faced in years. Over the past several weeks, I have read the agreement and reviewed the classified portions multiple times. Additionally, I met with Valley residents, read constituent inquiries and spoke with policy experts who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
After weighing the pluses and minuses, I have come to the conclusion that although the agreement is not perfect, it is our best option to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East because if Iran complies, this agreement will ensure a nuclear-free Iran for the next 15 years.
The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran has loomed over the global community for far too long, and we have to face the reality that Iran is two to three months away from developing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. The deal blocks all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon through a number of requirements such as setting a maximum uranium enrichment level well below weapons-grade, dismantling the Arak heavy water reactor, reducing the number of centrifuges for enriching uranium, and decreasing Iran’s uranium stockpile by more than 98 percent.
Furthermore, the uranium supply chain will be monitored from the mines to research and development facilities so the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors should quickly know if Iran tries to divert uranium to covert facilities. The IAEA will have managed access to all suspected nuclear facilities as well as daily access to all declared nuclear sites. I support the IAEA’s inspection regime, the most rigorous in history, and recognize that it sets a strong precedent for addressing other illicit or rogue nuclear programs in the future.
Finally, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was not negotiated only between the United States and Iran but with the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the European Union, China and Russia. Their willingness to go forward with lifting sanctions, whether or not the United States supports the deal, means this agreement will go into effect regardless of U.S. approval. One of my fears is that if we walk away from the agreement, then the United States and Israel could become isolated from our allies in dealing with other threats in the Middle East and throughout the world.
Many leaders who are experts in Middle East relations, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, support the deal with the caveat that it needs to be part of a larger approach. Panetta presented five steps for a comprehensive approach that strives not only to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon but also focuses on strengthening the global coalition to prevent terrorism. They are as follows:
▪ Enforce the deal.
▪ Maintain a strong military presence.
▪ Expand intelligence capability.
▪ Make it clear that force is an option.
▪ Bolster the Middle East coalition.
I intend to do everything I can to ensure that this agreement is part of a larger strategy. Following through on this comprehensive strategy is imperative because the simple fact is we do not trust Iran. The regime’s disregard for human rights and role as a terrorism financier deeply troubles me. However, by blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, the agreement gives the United States and our allies more space to address those issues without the omnipresent threat of nuclear war. Additionally, lifting sanctions has the potential to support a middle class that we hope could be a viable force against the extremist regime currently in power. We must also reaffirm our continued support for Israel.
This agreement does not exist in a vacuum; it is neither the start nor end to the United States’ involvement in the Middle East. All options remain on the table, including military force. The JCPOA must be part of a larger, comprehensive strategy that Congress and the president should do everything possible to pursue, and I will certainly do my part.
This was a difficult decision to make, and I greatly appreciate all of the correspondence and inquiries I received regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Representing the residents of California’s San Joaquin Valley is an honor and privilege. While I respectfully disagree with those who oppose the agreement, many who are friends and whose opinions I very much respect.
I support this agreement because it is our best option, and the reality is we are not going to get a better deal.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, represents California's 16th District, which includes all of Merced County and portions of Fresno and Madera counties.