Congresswoman Anna Eshoo

Representing the 18th District of California

Iran

The destabilizing and confrontational actions of the Iranian regime, in particular its nuclear program, pose a significant threat to the United States, Israel, the countries in the region and beyond. Throughout my 22 years in Congress, I have supported concrete and unambiguous diplomatic actions to deter the regime from pursuing such a program, including the crippling and effective sanctions that helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table.


The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

An open letter to my constituents of California’s 18th District,

So many of you have contacted me about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement between the P5+1 (United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran. I appreciate hearing from you on this critical issue which will be one of the most consequential votes I will take in my congressional career.

The destabilizing and confrontational actions of the Iranian regime, in particular its nuclear program, pose a significant threat to the United States, Israel, the countries in the region and beyond. Throughout my 22 years in Congress, I have supported concrete and unambiguous diplomatic actions to deter the regime from pursuing such a program, including the crippling and effective sanctions that helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table.

According to our intelligence community, despite these actions Iran’s breakout time (the time it takes to produce enough fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon) is currently only two to three months. As an 8-year veteran of the House Intelligence Committee, I know first-hand the serious implications of this reality.

After years of sanctions, ground work and months of direct negotiations, the U.S., together with its diplomatic partners, produced extraordinary concessions from Iran and brought together support from the entire United Nations, including the European Union, Russia, and China.

I’ve read the nuclear proposal thoroughly, attended multiple classified and unclassified briefings by Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. I’ve read the classified sections made available to Members of Congress, and I have also met with many constituents to listen to their views and concerns, both in my Palo Alto District Office and in Washington, D.C.

The JCPOA will reduce the number of Iran’s centrifuges by two-thirds; prevent Iran from producing weapons-grade plutonium; and halt construction of a heavy-water reactor being built in Arak which could produce weapons-grade plutonium. Iran will also be required to get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, and halt enrichment of uranium above 3.67 percent purity. Iran currently possesses enough enriched uranium to produce ten nuclear weapons. With the deal, Iran would be reduced to having a fraction of what is needed for a single nuclear weapon. Iran will be allowed to have nuclear power plants for peaceful purposes, but it cannot pursue development of nuclear weapons under the agreement.

The agreement contains the most rigorous inspections, restrictions and verifications ever negotiated by the United States on every aspect of Iran’s nuclear program, including the supply chain, research and development programs, and nuclear facilities. Iran must provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, with regular and unrestricted access to its uranium processing facilities; the Arak reactor site; centrifuge plants; and other operational facilities.

If Iran does not comply and the non-compliance is verified by an expert panel established under the JCPOA, the U.N. and U.S. sanctions will be reactivated. This “snap back” provision automatically restores sanctions on Iran and cannot be overturned unless a simple majority of the panel (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, the European Union and Iran) votes to reverse them. At the very minimum, this deal will quadruple Iran’s current breakout time from two to three months to one year and the world would have more time to prepare and respond accordingly.

Congress has 60 days to review the agreement. After the 60-day review, Congress can vote to accept the agreement, reject it, or take no action. If Congress accepts the agreement or takes no further action, the agreement will move ahead as agreed upon and Iran must begin to draw down its nuclear program in October 2015 (90 days after the announcement of the deal). Should Congress reject the agreement, President Obama has stated he will veto the legislation. At that point, Congress would need a two-thirds majority in each chamber to override the President’s veto.

Some critics suggest that the U.S. should walk away and demand more concessions, however, there is absolutely no guarantee that the P5+1 countries would remain committed with the U.S. to continue to impose multilateral sanctions in the aftermath of a rejected agreement, or return to the negotiating table. Additionally, in the absence of the agreement, Iran will continue to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for one to two nuclear weapons every year and the consequences would be immediate and dire.

I have come to the conclusion that the JCPOA is the right path forward to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. My decision is not based on trusting Iran. To the contrary. The regime has a long list of offenses that I deeply object to, but there must be a mechanism in place to keep them from becoming a nuclear power. Nor would I suggest the agreement is perfect. But, in my view, to reject it would be a grave mistake for the United States, a repudiation of our allies in the effort, a danger to Israel and further deterioration in the Middle East.

More than 100 highly regarded experts from all aspects of our defense and diplomatic communities have stated their support for the agreement. They have worked under Republican and Democratic presidents and include military generals, ambassadors, secretaries of state, secretaries of defense, members of our intelligence community, experts in nuclear non-proliferation, scientists, and others. I’m providing a list of some of these prominent individuals who have announced their support for the JCPOA.

I thought it would be helpful to constituents to list out the most frequently asked questions regarding the nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran with answers.

I welcome any questions, comments, and critiques you may have.

Most gratefully,

Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress