Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Correspondence on Iran with Congressman Ted Deutch

Honorable Congressman Deutch:
As your constituent and supporter I am disappointed. You have stated clearly your active opposition to the multinational accord hammered together by the JCPOA that in effect turns back the clock on Iran’s potential nuclear weapons capability. I believe your position is wrong.

The United States, you know well as member of the FA committee, is not alone in the world, and that works both ways. All other signatories of the accord, and most importantly, France, Russia and China, will lift all sanctions and restrictions in the short term whether there is an accord or not. This makes it imperative to have an accord that allows stringent verification and inspection of potential nuclear plans in Iran by the IAEC and other relevant multinational organizations. The aggregate opinions of former US Ambassadors to the UN, Secretaries of State from both parties, the leadership of the armed forces, and nuclear scientists and physics Nobel laureates clearly are an indicator that this is a good deal for America and the world. By taking sides against it you cater to some of your constituency no doubt and, definitely, to many of your campaign contributors. But this is not leadership on your side, it is a surrender of courage.
As a supporter of democracy, peace and common sense I urge you to reconsider the options. If the US Congress rejects the deal and overrides a presidential veto—which could happen—then the other members of the JCPOA will lose any and all reason to comply with any of the intentions of the accord and Iran (according to leading nuclear scientists) will have nuclear weapon capability within weeks. Negotiating with Iran if it has a nuclear arsenal will be extremely harder than negotiating with them without one.

You are personally and directly responsible for opening this window of opportunity that weakens America’s standing with its allies and endangers the world. The opposition to this accord is similar in tone and source as that of the Republican Party regarding the ACA: it is a bad law that needs to be repealed and replaced with an undefined “better” one. Demagoguery at its peak. Pandering to contributors at its worst.

Carlos J. Rangel 


September 1, 2015

Mr. Carlos J. Rangel

Dear Mr. Rangel:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the recent agreement between the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China) and Iran over its illicit nuclear program.  Your views on this issue are very important to me, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As a Florida State Senator and now as a Member of Congress, I try to apply the same process to every issue: study it, consult experts, speak with constituents, and then do what I believe is best for our country. That's why I have spent so much of my time in Congress fighting to expand Social Security, defeat trade deals that disadvantage American workers, and get big money out of our elections. I have also devoted myself to strengthening our national security, from speaking loudly and unapologetically on behalf of global human rights to working with our allies to take on common threats like terrorism, fundamentalism, and poverty.

For ten years now, I have been deeply engaged in issues related to Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program. During my time in the Florida Senate, American soldiers were being killed in Iraq, a war we should have never started, and often by Iranian proxy groups. Iran was evading weapons inspectors, using the Islamic Revolutionary Guard to launch attacks, and funneling missiles to Hamas and Hezbollah. That's why I passed the law that made Florida the first state in the country to prevent taxpayer funds from financing Iran's illicit quest for nuclear weapons - divesting $1.5 billion as a result.

Since arriving in Congress in 2010, I have helped pass federal laws exposing business dealings in Iran, cracking down on Iranian human rights abusers, and applying crippling sanctions to Iran's oil and gas industries. These were among some of the powerful sanctions responsible for driving Iran to the negotiating table.

Throughout the P5+1 talks with Iran, I remained in close contact with President Barack Obama's negotiating team, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew. During these many conversations, I laid out several issues that I felt had to be addressed for any potential agreement with Iran to move forward. On July 14, 2015, it was announced that the P5+1 and Iran had reached a final agreement over its illicit nuclear program. The language of the deal was delivered to Congress, along with classified and unclassified annexes to the deal. After a 60-day congressional review period, a vote will be held on this agreement this September.

Assessing this proposed nuclear deal with Iran is not a role that I take lightly, especially with four Americans, including my constituent Bob Levinson, currently held in Iran.

I also want you to know that I share the Obama Administration's commitment to a peaceful and diplomatic solution with Iran, and wholeheartedly reject the notion that the only alternative to this deal is war.

Too many of my colleagues in Congress are trying to turn this vote into a partisan fight. They should stop. I still believe that people of good faith can disagree honestly. For weeks, I have reviewed this agreement in classified intelligence briefings, met with European and Middle East ambassadors and other foreign officials, and held discussions with security and nuclear experts on this deal's terms.

These discussions have ultimately led me to conclude that several of the issues I have long raised as critical to any deal are not adequately addressed in this agreement. I cannot support it in its current form. While the deal restrains the Iranian nuclear program by restricting the amount of enriched uranium that Iran can keep in the country and limiting the number of advanced centrifuges capable of enrichment, it also includes several provisions that I believe undermine its enforceability.

Given Iran's history of cheating, evading, and delegitimizing international weapons inspectors, I am alarmed by the fact that this deal makes reinstating sanctions of today's intensity nearly impossible. Instead of front-loading sanctions relief to Iran, this deal should have required the incremental lifting of sanctions in return for Iran meeting strict benchmarks. The lack of anytime, anywhere access to known and unknown sites only invites Iran to cheat with the knowledge it can walk away from this agreement at any time and with billions of dollars in sanctions relief in tow.

Likewise, the unwarranted giveaways for Iran tucked inside this deal are also concerning. Lifting the arms embargo in five years lets Iran procure the sophisticated missile defense systems they need to guard the nuclear weapons they want. And suspending the ballistic weapons ban after eight years allows Iran to develop the technology to deliver a weapon anywhere in the world.

Finally, this deal may temporarily slow Iran's nuclear enrichment, but it speeds up the enrichment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian terror proxies that endanger security and stability in the Middle East. Opening Iran up to foreign investment, increasing its oil exports, and unfreezing over $100 billion in assets means more money to Hamas for building terror tunnels in Gaza, more weapons for Hezbollah in Lebanon, more slaughter at the hands of Bashar al Assad in Syria, and more violence worldwide.

As a believer in diplomacy and international cooperation, arriving at this decision was not an easy one. And while we may end up on different sides of this debate, I know that the times we agree will still far outnumber the times we don't.
Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions you may have or anytime I may be of assistance to you.  If you would like to be updated on these and other issues, please stop by my website ( and sign up for my electronic newsletter.  I hope you will find these tools to be valuable resources in keeping up with events in Washington and South Florida.

Ted Deutch
Member of Congress



Honorable Congressman Deutch:

Thank you for your long and detailed response to my letter regarding the JCPOA agreement, otherwise known as “The Iran Deal.”  I understand your position yet still disagree with it. I sympathize and share with your feelings and misgivings, including the anger for our neighbor Bob Levinson’s captivity. But I do feel that, down the road, a spelled out and engaged relationship is a better path to achieve America’s security, peace and other goals.

Treaties, pacts, agreements and understandings are the closest thing to laws that exist in the international community. Opposing a law because it is believed that in the future it will be broken is a spurious argument. Laws require sanctions in order to be effective. From what has been publicly disclosed and internationally agreed by all parties and the UN, this agreement has an automatic, non-negotiable snap back sanction mechanism. The absence of law—or any true possibility of having a “better one”—is many times worse than a law that is difficult to enforce.

Of course there are factions within Iran that will try to use this deal to “enrich” their own terrorist objectives and infrastructure. But it is easier to detect, control, rein in and eventually make irrelevant those objectives if Iranian society is fully engaged internationally as opposed to existing in isolation as a rogue state.  As you say, people of good faith can have true disagreements. Countries can have these as well, yet coexist pacifically. That must be the long term objective: creating conditions and removing obstacles for such coexistence. We have to believe that with its intelligence capabilities, the savviness of its diplomacy and business community, as well as its “big stick,” America is strong enough to lead in this course of action.

Your description of your level of study and consultation invested in this matter seems to suggest that you know things that are not known to the general public with no access to such classified matters and high level conversations.  Your history in legislative actions targeting Iran also gives you credentials in the matter, no doubt. It is when such level of involvement exists that decision making tends to set root safely in past actions, alliances and precedent. This instead of “choosing to cut loose the shackles of the past,” as has been said by Mr. Obama. Indeed, it is sometimes hard to see the forest when focusing on the trees.

As always, with my continued support,

Carlos J. Rangel


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