WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman John Carney (D-DE) today released the following statement on the nuclear agreement with Iran:

In 2010, before I was elected as your congressman, I visited the state of Israel with several other Delawareans. The trip was a transformational experience. As a lifelong Catholic, visiting the Holy Land had a deep spiritual impact on me. And it also seared in my mind the vulnerability of the state of Israel. We met with several representatives of the Israeli government, one of whom was the country’s expert on Iran. The picture he painted of Iran’s nuclear program, and its potential impact on the region, convinced me of one thing I have never forgotten: a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to the state of Israel. Coming home on the plane, I resolved that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would be one of my highest priorities if elected.

That’s why I believe that whether or not to approve the nuclear deal with Iran may be the most significant vote I will take as your member of Congress. It has far-reaching implications for our national security, the continued existence of the state of Israel, and America’s role on the global stage. Over the past several months, I’ve heard from thousands of my constituents, leaders in the Jewish community, members of the Administration’s negotiating team, experts on nuclear weaponry, scientists, Vice President Biden, and President Obama. And I have read the text of the agreement and the classified documents that go with it -- all with the goal of answering the question: is this deal better than no deal at all?

That’s the choice I believe we face. Some whom I respect deeply believe the United States can reject this deal, go back to the negotiating table, and hammer out a new, better deal. I simply do not believe that is possible. Our negotiating partners have made clear that the international sanctions regime that forced Iran to participate in the talks will collapse if the U.S. rejects this deal. Our options for preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon will diminish, bringing us closer to the moment every one of us wants to avoid -- U.S. military action against Iran.

This deal has strengths, and it has shortcomings. Most important, the agreement severely curtails Iran's nuclear program by blocking its pathway to a bomb. It rolls back its level of uranium enrichment, it removes the vast majority of the Iranian stockpile of uranium, and it cripples the plutonium reactor at Arak. These reductions have been praised by nuclear scientists, including Secretary Moniz, and characterized as “remarkable changes” by former Secretary of State General Colin Powell.   

The agreement also provides an extensive and intrusive inspections regime to make sure these reductions are implemented and to oversee each step of the scaled back enrichment process going forward. Under the deal, Iran will be subject, in perpetuity, to wide-reaching and verifiable inspections of declared nuclear sites. And the agreement has teeth -- its provisions are enforceable.  

I am under no illusions, though, that we can count on Iran to adhere to this deal in good faith. Given our experience we must assume that Iran will try to cheat.  If that happens, the U.S. can and will exercise our prerogative under the deal to “snap back” the sanctions regime.  Importantly, we don’t need permission from China, Russia, or any other country to do so. Should that response prove ineffective, the simple reality is that we may still be compelled to use military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities. If using military force does become necessary, though, we will be taking that step armed with intelligence from inspectors on the ground made possible under the deal. And we will be more likely to have the world community on our side having tried diplomacy first through this agreement.

Alternatively, if we reject this deal, it’s clear to me that the rest of the world will begin lifting its sanctions, giving Iran many of the benefits of the deal -- namely, sanctions relief -- without the significant reductions in its nuclear program.  As a result, Iran's nuclear program will remain on its current course, which means its breakout time to a bomb will continue to be in the one-to-two month timeframe. Simply put, the bomb will be more readily achievable, and, if we reject this deal, we'll be worse off than we are today. If we are forced to take military action to destroy Iran's nuclear capability, we will be going in blind, and alone.

I agree with the concern that in freeing up some of Iran’s assets, this deal could return funds to one of the world’s most notorious sponsors of terrorism. Many of my constituents and my colleagues in the House have articulated the need for the U.S. to do more, outside of the nuclear agreement, to confront Iran on this front.  I raised this concern directly with President Obama. He assured me that the U.S. is prepared to do more to confront the Iranians on their development of conventional weapons, their support of terrorist groups, and their human rights violations. We can do this by providing more support to Israel and our allies in the region and by imposing more effective economic sanctions outside of this agreement. I urge the President to make good on this pledge sooner rather than later -- so that Iran knows we’re serious, and so that Israel and our allies in the region are protected.

I have heard the arguments on both sides, and I believe that it’s a very close call. But in the end, I have decided to support the agreement, because I have concluded that this deal is better than no deal at all. The hard truth is, I believe those are our only two choices at this juncture.