Michigan Senator Gary Peters (D) says he is reluctantly supporting the Iran nuclear deal. In an interview with WDET’s Pat Batcheller, Sen. Peters says he does have concerns about the agreement, but adds that it’s the best way to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon short of imposing more sanctions on the country. Click on the audio player to hear the conversation.
Editor’s Note: The audio quality is poor. I have provided a transcript below—PB
Pat Batcheller: Why do you support the agreement if you have reservations?
Sen. Peters: “We need to move forward. The credibility of the United States about its partners that negotiated this deal is on the line. It’s important to move forward. I also in my statement, however, raised very serious reservations, particularly long term, in the fact that Teheran will continue to be able to enrich uranium, starting in year ten going into year fifteen. [It] will be able to have an industrial-style enrichment capacity to develop enriched uranium, which could lead down a pathway to a bomb. In fact, they may have a breakout period of just a few months to weeks at that time. And [I] realize it’s fifteen years away, but I think it’s very important for us in the world community to understand that we’ve got to reduce the potential for nuclear proliferation and need to be in a position where we’re not allowing countries to enrich at advanced levels. Not just Iran, but other countries around the world. I think it highlights a very serious issue that we have to address as a world community. And unfortunately, the agreement didn’t deal with that, but we will have time to deal with that in the years ahead.”
PB: If Iran were to violate this agreement, and given their track record, that’s a distinct possibility. People who support the agreement believe that diplomacy is the way to go before taking any military action. But if Iran violates the agreement, and it fails, doesn’t that guarantee war?
Sen. Peters: “Well, hopefully not. I mean, diplomacy should always be used before force, but certainly we’re dealing with some very serious consequences if Iran should possess a nuclear weapon. [It would] be destabilizing in the Middle East and also a threat to the United States. But the deal does call for a snapback of sanctions. We have to remember that some very tough sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. In particular, our banking sanctions. So those are things that forced Iran to negotiate because of the severe consequences on their economy. If there is a significant breach of the agreement, the snapback goes into effect and all of those sanctions come back online, which would hopefully bring Iran back to its senses that it would not rush to build a weapon. However, if they continue to do that, certainly the military option would always be on the table. But we’ve got to hope and pray that diplomacy works and we can continue to have a peaceful Iran in terms of its nuclear ambitions, although we have to be very concerned that Iran continues to be very actively engaged in terrorist financing. And there’s certainly some, I think, very legitimate concerns that the money is going to be unfrozen, and that will now come into the Iranian coffers, so it will be used to finance some of their terrorist activities around the Middle East. We have to be very vigilant for that as well. This agreement is not the end. It’s going to be a continuing effort to make sure that Iran, hopefully, at some point integrates into the world community, stops financing terrorism, and completely give up their ambitions to have a nuclear weapon.”
PB: A listener, while we were talking, has asked us through social media why it took so long for you to take a position on this.
Sen. Peters: “Well, it took time in the fact that there are a lot of folks who feel very, very strongly about this issue. I spent a great deal of time in the briefings, both classified and unclassified, here in Washington. I had personal conversations with President Obama, Secretary [of State] Kerry, Secretary [of Energy] Moniz, and a long list of experts, including folks in the private industry, the nuclear power industry. But then I wanted to make sure that I had time in Michigan to talk to local folks in Michigan. People have very strong passions on both sides of the issue. And then, ultimately, I spent spent the last few days in the Middle East, visited a number of countries in the Middle East, talking to prime ministers, foreign ministers, including our generals and military commanders on the ground in Iraq, Qatar and other places. I didn’t want to make a decision, so I came back from the Middle East, and I just came back from the Middle East this last Sunday.”