Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate today urging consideration of two amendments he has sponsored regarding the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.
The first amendment would require that President Obama certify when he submits the nuclear deal to Congress that Iran has publicly recognized Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
“And so the reason why the existence of Israel as a Jewish state is directly tied to this deal is simple -- we are about to turn over billions of dollars into their hands and we have every reason to believe that they will spend a significant portion of that money to destroy our strongest and most important ally in the region and one of our most important allies in the world,” Rubio said. “And so the first amendment I have offered is pretty straightforward. It calls for any deal to require that Iran recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.”
The second amendment would prohibit sanctions relief under an agreement with Iran until Iran has fully and verifiably implemented all of the requirements contained in the White House April 2nd outline of “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program.
“The second amendment I will propose is even more straightforward, even more on point,” Rubio said. “Here's what it requires. It requires that this final deal be the deal the president says it is. Here's what I mean by that. I filed an amendment that basically took the White House's own fact sheet. And, by the way, I have problems with that fact sheet. The deal as the president describes it is not a deal that I believe will work. It's not a deal that I believe will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But just to take them at their word, just to prove this point and to ensure that we are building safeguards into what we are doing here, I took the White House's own fact sheet, what they said the deal was about, and I say from this amendment that the final deal must be about those points, that the White House already says it is.”
A transcript of Rubio’s full remarks is available below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Floor Speech
April 29, 2015
Senator Marco Rubio: “Thank you, Mr. President. I, too, want to begin today by thanking the senator from Maryland, the senator from Tennessee for the work they've put into this process.
“This is important. It is important that Congress have a role in reviewing any deal that the president concludes with Iran. This is an extraordinary threat to the world. This is a nation that is run not by the individual that they're negotiating with. This -- Iran is a country that is governed and run by a radical Shia cleric, who has ideas about the future of the world that are frightening.
“What is more frightening in my mind is the information that we've received from this administration about the framework that they agreed to on the 2nd of April.
“It's a framework, for example, that would allow Iran to retain thousands of centrifuges and grant them the right to enrich uranium.
“It's an arrangement that would allow Iran to avoid dismantling its key facilities.
“It's an arrangement that allows Iran to continue to deny its past work on nuclear weapons.
“It's an arrangement that would allow Iran to retain a significant ballistic missile program, including efforts to develop a missile capable of hitting the very spot that we stand on right now.
“It's an arrangement that does nothing whatsoever on the cases of those Americans who are currently unjustly detained in Iran.
“It's an arrangement that does nothing to impact Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism or its brutal treatment of its own people.
“In fact, it's an arrangement that, if it goes through, will turn over billions and billions of dollars into the hands of the chief state sponsor of terrorism on the planet.
“And it's an arrangement that will do nothing to bring to Iran -- to an end Iran's self-proclaimed support at the highest level of their government for the destruction of the state of Israel.
“Since April 2 of this year, by the way, the Iranians have made very clear that they are not willing to do many of the things that the White House themselves has claimed is part of this deal. And we're going to get to that in a moment. But understand that when the White House announced this deal, they put out a fact sheet. They said, ‘This is what the deal is about.’ Iran is disputing it. They're not the same fact sheet. In essence, what Iran is saying was agreed to and what the United States is saying was agreed to are apparently, at this moment, two very different things. That alone should be concerning.
“And in addition to that, this deal is going to be a dangerous deal. A bad deal not just for the United States and our allies in the region, especially our allies in Israel, and that's why it's important Congress take a stand and ensure that this deal is not implemented unless its fundamental flaws are addressed.
“That's why I supported this legislation in the committee, because I voted on it so that we could be here on the floor to strengthen it. Not in a committee of just 20 members but here, with all of our colleagues over a number of days, potentially weeks so the country could see what's at stake.
“The first amendment that I'm going to offer up today and hope that we can overcome objections to is pretty straightforward. Here's what the amendment says. It says that no deal can go forward unless the president certifies that the Iranian leadership has accepted Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
“Why is that important? Because you're going to hear an argument that this has nothing to do with nuclear weapons, that this has nothing to do with the nuclear capacity of Iran. I'm going to make the argument that that's not true.
“The first reason is we have to understand why it's important for Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Israel's not just a country; it is a homeland for the Jewish people created in the aftermath of the Holocaust. With the belief that never again would there not be a place for the Jewish people to go and seek refuge and be able to live if they faced persecution, as they have for thousands of years, as they do even now. But especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust. So Israel's not just a country, it has a special and unique purpose that sets it apart from any other nation on Earth. It was created as a homeland for a persecuted people who survived, despite the death of 6 million human beings in the Holocaust, maybe more, and now has a homeland where they will be safe.
“It's also important to remember that beyond that, it is in the national security interest of the United States, because what is Israel? Israel is a pro-American, free enterprise democracy. I promise you that if there were more pro-American, free enterprise democracies in the Middle East, our lives would be a lot simpler and the world would be a lot safer and a lot better.
“But there is one and this country must always be firmly on the side of that one country, that's free enterprise, pro-American democracy in the midst of a region in chaos and in uncertainty.
“So why is that relevant to this deal? Here's why it's relevant. Because this is not just a deal about what Iran is allowed to do in their nuclear program. This is a deal that would lift billions of dollars worth of sanctions off of the Iranian government. So what is the Iranian government going to do when they get access to these billions of dollars?
“Are they going to donate it to charity around the world to feed the hungry and house the homeless? No.
“Are they going to use it to substantially improve the rights of their people in their own country? No.
“They're going to use those billions of dollars to do what they are doing now with less money, to export terrorism in every corner of the globe. Today Iran is an active sponsor of terrorism in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Bahrain, in Latin America and in Europe.
“This is the same government that tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador here in Washington, D.C. This is the same Iranian government that blew up a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. This is the same Iranian government that tried to detonate a bomb in Uruguay.
“They use terrorism the way Normal countries use diplomacy, and now we're going to turn over billions of dollars to them?
“And the reason why it has something to do with Israel is, what do you think they are going to do when they have even more money to carry this out? They're going to invest it not just in their nuclear program, they're going to invest it in their sponsorship of terrorism and they're going to invest it in their long-range rockets. And what have they told us they want to do with this increased capacity? What have they told us is the chief goal of this government in Iran? Why do they need this terrorism? Why do they need these weapons? Why do they need these long-range rockets?
“Well, let's take them at their word. Here's why they need it. They need it because, according to the Ayatollah in July of 2014, this was a tweet, ‘This barbaric wolf-like and infanticidal regime of Israel, which spares no crime, has no cure but to be annihilated.’
“In November of 2014, the supreme leader on his Twitter account, he posted a chart. It had nine key questions about the elimination of Israel. I'm holding it here but you can find it on-line. Why should the Zionist regime be eliminated? What does elimination of Israel mean in the viewpoint of the Imam? Meaning him. What is the proper way of eliminating Israel? Who will the proposed referendum, he's talking about a referendum, he's actually calling for a referendum in Israel, but the Jews can't participate in the referendum, according to him. Why do we oppose compromise proposals?
“The point is, this is a country led by a leader that has made it very clear repeatedly, time and again that one of their main objectives is the destruction of Israel and ending Israel's existence as a Jewish state.
“And you know, when someone says that over and over again, we should believe them. This is not for domestic consumption to make him look good in Iran the way some in the administration would argue. I believe they mean it. Do you know why I believe they mean it? Because they sponsor terrorism in an effort to kill Jews and Israelis.
“In January of 2015, a suitcase full of explosives were found near the Israeli embassy in Uruguay. The day after, an individual left a suitcase bomb near the embassy. A senior Iranian diplomat by the name of Ahmed Sabatgold left the country. Uruguayan authorities clarified a report that he had been expelled from the country. They said, no, they suggested that, in fact, he was a person of high interest with whom they would like to speak, but that he left the country on his own.
“And so the reason why the existence of Israel as a Jewish state is directly tied to this deal is simple -- we are about to turn over billions of dollars into their hands and we have every reason to believe that they will spend a significant portion of that money to destroy our strongest and most important ally in the region and one of our most important allies in the world. And so the first amendment I have offered is pretty straightforward. It calls for any deal to require that Iran recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
“The second amendment I will propose is even more straightforward, even more on point. Here's what it requires. It requires that this final deal be the deal the president says it is. Here's what I mean by that. I filed an amendment that basically took the White House's own fact sheet. And, by the way, I have problems with that fact sheet. The deal as the president describes it is not a deal that I believe will work. It's not a deal that I believe will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But just to take them at their word, just to prove this point and to ensure that we are building safeguards into what we are doing here, I took the White House's own fact sheet, what they said the deal was about, and I say from this amendment that the final deal must be about those points, that the White House already says it is.
“For the life of me, I don't understand why that would be controversial. My amendment is basically this. It says the deal has to be what you say it is. That's all my amendment says. And yet somehow I've been told that this is going to box the White House in. If it does, it boxes them in with their own words.
“But here's the reason I'm doing it.
“Because Iran apparently negotiated a very different deal than the one the White House thinks we have.
“For example, the White House says that this deal will impose permanent inspections on Iran. The State Department fact sheet: ‘Iran's adherence to the additional protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations.’ But the Iranian fact sheet says, ‘Iran will implement the additional protocol on a voluntary and temporary basis for the sake of transparency and confidence building.’
“Doesn't sound like the same deal to me. How about the inspection of military sites? The Deputy National Security Council, Ben Rhodes, on an interview on CNN said, ‘If we see a site that we need to inspect on a military facility, we can get access to that site and inspect it.’ But an Iranian Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, on April 9 said, ‘Visiting military centers are among the red lines and no visits to these centers will be allowed.’
“How about the scope of the sanctions relief? The State Department fact sheet says: ‘The United States and the European Union nuclear related sanctions will be suspended. All past U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issues will be lifted simultaneously with the completion by Iran of nuclear related actions addressing all concerns.’ But Iran says, according to their reached solutions, ‘After the implementation of the comprehensive plan of joint action, all the U.N. resolutions will be revoked and all the multilateral economic and financial sanctions by the E.U. and the unilateral ones by the U.S. will be annulled.’ So are the sanctions limited or total? We say they're limited. Iran says they're total.
“And finally, are the sanctions phased, well, there's two more, let me point, three more differences.
“On the timing of the relief. The United States in the president's news conference on April 2, this is a quote from the president, ‘In return for Iran's actions, the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions, our own sanctions and the international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This relief will be phased as Iran takes steps to adhere to the deal.’
“The president's basically saying every time Iran complies with a portion of the deal, an additional sanction will be phased out. It will be in steps. They do something, sanctions come off. Slowly. Trust but verify. That's what the American government says. That's what the president said in his own words.
“But Iran says, ‘We will not sign any deal unless on the very first day of its implementation, all economic sanctions against Iran are lifted all at once.’
“How about restrictions on enrichment? Are they restricted for 10 years or for 15 years? The United States and the State Department fact sheet says, ‘Iran has agreed not to enrich uranium over 3.67% for at least 15 years. They have agreed not to build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years. Iran has not agreed to enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for 15 years. Iran has agreed not to conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.’ That's a lot of 15 years.
“What does Iran say? Well, its foreign minister, on an Iranian state TV channel on April 4 said, ‘The limitations are for 10 years and then enrichment will continue its own scientific progress. We have accepted 10 years of limitations.’
“Last but not least, research and development. Is it limited or not limited? The United States, in our fact sheet, says it’s limited. Iran will not use IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least 10 years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1, the group that negotiated all of this. That's what the United States fact sheet says.
“But what does Iran say? Iran says no. Iran will continue its research and development advanced machines and will continue the initiation and completion phases of the research and development process of IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, and IR-8 during the 10-year period of the comprehensive joint plan for action.
“So these are at least -- one, two, three, four, five, six major points of difference where Iran is saying, the deal says one thing and the United States says the deal is saying another. And what my amendment does is it takes what we say the deal is and puts it in the bill and says, any final deal must be what you told us it is. Not what Iran says it is. And yet somehow apparently that's controversial.
“This is not a game. This is a very serious matter. Because this is a country, and I mean not its people, but its leaders, that have shown the willingness to sponsor terrorism and do atrocious things all over the world.
“When you read in newspaper about civilians being barrel-bombed and gassed and killed in Syria, you know why Assad is able to do that? Because of the help he gets from Iran.
“When you read about those rockets that flood into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and Haifa and cities all across Israel every couple years as Hezbollah launches attacks hiding behind human shields while they're trying to kill Israelis, you know why they're able to do that? Because of the help they get from Iran.
“When you read in the newspaper that yesterday the Iranian military hijacked a vessel in international waters, when you read that they tried to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., when you read that they tried to set off a bomb in Uruguay, when you read how in 1994 they did set off a bomb at a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is who we're dealing with here.
“And now they are on the verge of being able to enrich weapons-grade uranium and reprocess weapons-grade plutonium, and now they are headed quickly towards building a long-range rocket capable of reaching not just Israel but Europe and the United States?
“Let me tell you, because this president is about to sign a deal that will place in their hands billions and billions of additional dollars, and if this is the terrorism and the nuclear activity that they're pursuing now with sanctions on them, imagine how much more they will be able to afford to do once the sanctions are lifted? And that's why it is so relevant on both this point of Israel but also on the details of this deal.
“And, by the way, as I said -- and I'll repeat it -- the State Department fact sheet, what the president says the deal is, I am not comfortable with that either. I don't think that will work. It's not like I'm celebrating what they say the deal is. All I'm asking, though, is at a minimum, before you bring and sign a deal, at least be what you say it is. Don't come back here in six months and surprise us that, ‘By the way, it was the Iranian fact sheet that had it right and ours.’
“And so, I hope that we’ll be able to move on these amendments. I don’t think they undermine this one bit. I think they are relevant to the debate that we are having. I think they are relevant to the decision we're being asked to make. And it is about time that this body takes this up.
“Congress has an important role to play. The people of Florida that I represent speak on these issues on this floor through me and the senior senator from Florida.
“We have a right to have these issues debated. But this is not some minor issue that we're talking about. This is the security not just of our strongest ally in the region, but of our very own country. And so I hope we can have an opportunity to have debate on these amendments.
“And what you hear people say is, ‘Well, if these amendments pass, we're going to lose the support of the bill, the president might veto it.’
“Well, you know what? If you want to make that argument, make that argument. But let's have a vote on it.
“What's wrong with having a vote on the amendment? If you disagree with me, stand up and say you disagree with the amendment and you vote no. If you agree with the amendment but you're going to vote against it because you think it unravels this process that’s being put in place, then say that. But let’s have a vote on it.
“If you don't want to vote on things, don't run for the Senate. If you don't want to vote on things, don't run for office. Be a columnist. Get a talk show.
“Everyone who runs for office knows that what we are called to do here is vote on issues that sometimes we're uncomfortable on. And there is a microphone here at your desk. Come to the floor and give a speech and explain to the world why you are voting against a deal that requires Israel to have a right to exist. And if you say that you believe that Israel has a right to exist but you are voting against it because you don't want to unravel the deal, people will respect it. You can make your argument.
“But vote. But don't tell me we can't have votes on these things. You can argue that we shouldn't pass them, and I'll argue against you, but don't tell me that we can't even vote on it, because then what you're saying is, you want to be protected from taking a position on it. You don't want to take a position that you think is tough. And that I find to be unacceptable.
“And so, Mr. President, I ask for unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment in order call up the two amendments I just described, Amendment 1141 and Amendment 1148.”