Washington, DC– Following today’s vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement:
I have spent the past several weeks carefully studying the Iran Nuclear Agreement and searching for a better alternative, considering seriously the arguments posed by proponents and opponents of this agreement. I’ve met with President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, as well as former military leaders, nuclear physicists, and former IAEA inspectors. I’ve attended dozens of briefings and hearings, both public and classified. I’ve heard from advocates for Israel, met with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, as well as Ambassadors from France, Germany, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. I’ve met with community leaders, veterans, and intelligence experts on both sides of this debate. Across the state of Hawaiʻi, I’ve spent time with constituents, some who have expressed deep support, and others expressing great concern about this deal. You can investigate the agreement here.
The following is my conclusion:
I decided to vote for the Iran Nuclear Agreement not because it's a great deal, or even a good deal. I voted for it because I could not find a better alternative. There are two main alternatives—both of them bad.
Bad alternative #1: Get Iran and P5+1 to negotiate a better deal
Even if it were possible to get everyone back to the negotiating table (and most experts say it isn’t), it would take many months, if not years, to bring everyone back together with no guarantee of producing a better deal than we have now. Most importantly, in the interim, Iran would very likely go full speed ahead to develop a nuclear bomb, with no monitoring. Nuclear experts believe it would take Iran just 2-3 months—plenty of time for Iran to build a nuclear bomb before a more hawkish president enters the Oval Office in 2017. Why opponents of this deal trust that Iran would not use the many months or years it would take to get a better deal, to develop a nuclear weapon, is a mystery to me. They have a lot more faith in Iran’s commitment to remain non-nuclear than I do. This alternative presents too great a risk to be acceptable.
Bad alternative #2: Attack Iran now
Military action now would set Iran’s nuclear program back three or four years, at best. War would inflame the situation and create more chaos, leaving in its trail a cost that is impossible to predict, not only in terms of loss of life, but also on the American economy and the long-term strength of our military and national security.
Armchair generals don’t understand that while we have the power to decide when to start a war, we don’t have the power to decide when it ends, as we should have learned from our experience in Iraq and Libya. Once a war starts, it takes on a life of its own—usually far more difficult and more costly than anyone imagined it would be.
Those who argue that going to war now is better than later due to sequestration and its effects on diminishing our military capabilities should understand that it would be a lot less costly in dollars and American lives to instead end sequestration and other policies that are weakening our military.
If military action is required in the future, we will be in a stronger and more effective position having implemented the present agreement because of the unprecedented access and significant intelligence advantage that we gain through this deal.
All U.S. Options Remain On the Table
It’s important to remember that this deal with Iran does not render the United States impotent. The Iranian regime and the people of Iran need to know that if their government tries to produce a nuclear weapon, they will be hit with the full military might of the United States and the international community.
This deal does not prevent the United States from taking unilateral or cooperative action against Iran, whether it be for developing fissile material at the levels and amount necessary for a nuclear bomb, the development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) to deliver such a bomb, taking hostages, or engaging in state-sponsored terrorism. Nothing in this agreement limits our ability to enact sanctions, nor does it take the military option off the table. These critical issues must be dealt with alongside the implementation of this deal.
If the United States walks away from this deal, we won’t walk back into the world as we know it today. We will instead walk into a world of uncertainty, with Iran likely gaining billions of dollars from an unraveled sanctions regime, while continuing down their superhighway towards a bomb. The unprecedented constraints, intelligence, and IAEA oversight access gained with this deal will fall by the wayside. This would lead us to the strong likelihood of necessitating military action against Iran now, in order to temporarily destroy its nuclear program, and deal with the long-lasting consequences of such an attack, including the immeasurable costs to our nation.
This deal is far from perfect, so I remain committed to taking the necessary supplementary actions to prevent Iran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon or the means to deliver such a weapon. My vote today is a commitment to remain vigilant in enforcing Iran’s compliance to this deal. My vote today is a commitment to ensure that while Iran may be permitted a civilian nuclear program, it will never be allowed to produce highly enriched uranium or weapons grade plutonium. My vote today is a commitment to support our longtime ally and friend, Israel, by strengthening both its defensive and offensive capabilities. Finally, my vote today is a commitment to ensure that the United States remains in the best possible position of strength today, tomorrow, and every day after.