Three key members of the Obama administration — Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew — appeared on Capitol Hill Thursday to defend the Iran deal. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opened up the proceedings by expressing his apprehensions and alarm for the accord, explaining that lifting all major sanctions against the regime, allowing billions of dollars to flow into Iran’s coffers for their own nefarious purposes, is a dangerous precedent to set.
“I believe that you have crossed a new threshold in US foreign policy,” he told Secretary Kerry directly. “Where now it is a policy of the United States to enable a state-sponsor of terror to obtain a sophisticated, industrialized nuclear development program that has, as we know, only one real practical need.”
“That is what you’re here today to ask us to support,” he intoned. “I look forward to your testimony."
Nonetheless, Secretary Kerry defended the accord as “a good deal.” In part because experts from five other nuclear powers have signed off on it — not just his own diplomatic team — and in part because, absent a deal, Iran will most assuredly obtain a nuclear weapons capability soon.
“If this deal is rejected, we return immediately to this reality,” he stressed. “Except that the diplomatic support that we have built with all these other countries, that we have accumulated, would disappear overnight.”
“The choice we face is between an agreement that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program is limited, rigorously scrutinized, and wholly peaceful,” he said. “Or no deal at all. That’s the choice.”
Secretary Kerry also added that the "snap back" sanctions are not “off the table” if Iran cheats or disregards the rules of the agreement, and that this accord is the best deal possible given how far along Iran’s nuclear program already is.
"Whether we like it or not, Iran has developed experience with a nuclear fuel cycle,” Kerry stated. “They have developed the ability to produce the fissile material for a bomb. And we can't bomb that knowledge away. Nor can we sanction that knowledge away."
"The truth is that the Vienna Plan will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, more lasting means of limiting Iran's nuclear program than any alternative that has been spoken of," he added.
Sen. Rubio (R-FL), however, vigorously disagreed with Secretary Kerry and expressed skepticism.
“This deal is fundamentally and irreparably flawed,” he said. “I believe it weakens our national security and it makes the world a more dangerous place.”
“No matter what happens, Iran will keep the more than billions of dollars it is going to receive upfront, basically as a signing bonus,” he continued. “Iran will be allowed to continue to develop long-range ballistic missiles, ICBMs, that know only one purpose. And that is for nuclear warfare. And so all these promises they’re making about never pursuing a weapon, they are all revealed as lies as they are developing a long-range rocket capable of reaching this very room one day not so far off in the future. There’s only one reason to develop those rockets. That’s to put a nuclear warhead on them.”Rubio also noted that the deal does "nothing" to rescue the imprisoned or missing American hostages languishing in Iran — although he thanked Secretary Kerry for his efforts to bring them home.