Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Sep 03 2015

Heitkamp Announces Support for Iran Nuclear Deal

Includes Statements of Support from Former North Dakota Senators & Community, Religious, Military & National Security Leaders

FARGO, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today issued the following statement announcing her support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated between the United States, Iran, United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Heitkamp helped introduce the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which made sure Congress has a clear role in voting on any final deal.

“The decisions Congress makes relating to our military and our relationships with other countries are some of the most important ones we make as U.S. Senators.

“That’s why over the past few months, I’ve participated in dozens of meetings, briefings, and congressional hearings on the agreement. These meetings included classified intelligence briefings; updates from national security and non-proliferation experts; meetings with senior foreign diplomats from the countries that negotiated the deal; meetings with the White House, U.S. Energy Secretary, and other top Administration officials; discussions with other senators; meetings with advocates on both sides of the issue; and conversations with North Dakotans. I also read the deal and its technical annexes in their entirety, which I also made easily accessible for North Dakotans to read for themselves.

“I have spoken with all of the top diplomats of the countries that negotiated the deal with Iran – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia – and their view is unanimous: They will not go back to the bargaining table and attempting to do so would likely prompt the erosion of the sanctions regime. Sanctions only work if our allies maintain their sanctions as well – which is unlikely if the United States is seen as unilaterally walking away from a deal our allies are convinced makes the world safer. If we reject this deal, Iran will be closer to developing a nuclear weapon, and we will reduce our standing and authority in the world.

“During my discussions with experts and top officials, I asked hard questions and got answers about how the United States and our allies will verify that Iran will not have access to weapons-grade nuclear material, how we will enforce this deal, and how quickly we will be able to identify if Iran cheats. Here are the facts I learned:

  • Right now, even with sanctions punishing Iran, it is only two to three months away from having the material to develop a nuclear weapon.
  • This agreement dramatically reduces the chances Iran ever acquires a nuclear weapon by taking concrete, verifiable steps to constrain Iran’s possible uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing activities.
  • Iran will have to get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium and redesign its Arak heavy reactor so it is incapable of plutonium reprocessing, and won’t even have enough material to make a bomb. 
  • Iran will have to deactivate two-thirds of its centrifuges and abide by stringent restrictions on both enrichment and research and development. 
  • All of these commitments and many more will be verified through intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency of Iran’s known nuclear facilities, which the IAEA will have immediate access to, as well as international monitoring of Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain.
  • Because of the international inspection and verification measures in the agreement, the United States and our allies will have much greater access to intelligence on Iran and its facilities. If Iran seeks to cheat using secret facilities, we will find out. Top experts have confirmed to me they will quickly be able to detect even the smallest traces of nuclear material. If the United States suspects Iran of cheating, neither Iran nor Russia nor China could prevent inspectors from receiving access anywhere in the country, including military facilities and covert sites. 
  • As part of the deal, Iran committed to never develop nuclear weapons and agreed to permanently abide by enhanced inspection protocols.

“Based on these facts, I support the agreement because it is the best chance we have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and keep America safe. It is not a perfect deal nor is this deal about trust – it’s about making sure we have in place the strongest mechanisms possible to accomplish our goal by holding Iran to the most sweeping concessions about its nuclear program it has ever made.

“My decision is about seeking diplomacy rather than conflict. It’s about working with our allies to keep America and the world safe. It’s about learning lessons from the war in Iraq that we are better off when we build support and work with our allies than when we go it alone. After 15 years of American troops in the Middle East and American money spent on conflicts abroad, let’s give diplomacy a chance.

“As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, I played a role in imposing and monitoring the sanctions we currently have on Iran, and I know how effective they have been. Sanctions compelled Iran to make these concessions under the considerable pressure brought to bear by a unified international community. And they will not be lifted until Iran takes strong, specific, and verifiable steps – certified by the IAEA – to meet its obligations under the agreement. But sanctions have not and will not fully dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. The United States is, and must always remain, prepared to use military force to prevent that from happening – and in no way have we taken military options off the table. Our ability to use military force if Iran races toward a bomb is not changed by this agreement. Under this deal, if Iran cheats, the rest of the world will have seen the limits of diplomacy in dealing with Iran and will be more likely to support strong, unified action against Iran.

“Let’s be clear, Iran is a sponsor of terrorism and an abuser of human rights. This deal doesn’t change that. America’s terrorism sanctions will remain in place even if we agree to this deal. And the United States will continue to push back on Iran’s actions.

“Earlier this year, I helped introduce legislation – which Congress passed – to make sure Congress votes on this deal. In addition, I will work hard to make sure that Congress continues to hold Iran’s feet to the fire by maintaining sanctions on its support for terrorism, malign influence in the Middle East, and violations of human rights. I will also continue to support enhanced security cooperation measures with our partners in the region that are threatened by Iran’s behavior. And, I will continue to press for an end to the decades-old ban on exporting U.S. oil to support America’s economic and energy interests, while helping contain Iran’s oil exports on the world market.

“Taking all of this into consideration, it is my judgment that this deal is our best chance at preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and keeping Americans safe. It isn’t a perfect deal, but it is a good one. Americans deserve to see this deal through.”

Statements of Support for Iran Nuclear Deal

“No agreement is perfect or foolproof, but this pact has the best chance of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons short of an all out military attack…Our best choice now is to support the agreement. I believe it is in America’s best interest.”

-          Former U.S. Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota (8/23/15)

“The agreement reached by the parties is complicated, technical and specific. But most of the nuclear non-proliferation experts I respect agree that this deal will block all pathways to a nuclear weapon for Iran. Further, diplomats and experts who have worked in this area for decades believe that this agreement is the right path to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I am convinced that supporting this agreement is the right step for our country and is the right step to restrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons on our planet.”

-          Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan from North Dakota (8/6/15)

“As an American Jew, I have long believed that Israel’s long-term security can only come from good faith negotiations. I support the deal precisely because it will make Israel safer and more secure…We have more to lose by rejecting the agreement. I encourage North Dakota’s congressional delegation to support this deal.”

-         North Dakota State Rep. Eliot Glassheim (9/3/15)

“I urge Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to vote in favor of the Iran nuclear deal in order to make the United States, Israel and our allies safer. Through this deal, Iran has made the largest concessions to constraining its nuclear program ever.”

-         Hal Gershman, Grand Forks business owner and former Grand Forks City Council President (9/3/15)

“The agreement on the Iranian nuclear program is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See. It constitutes an important outcome of the negotiations carried out so far, although continued efforts and commitment on the part of all involved will be necessary in order for it to bear fruit.”

-         Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson (7/14/15)

“I think the United States scored a great success in creating this international coalition to face down the nuclear threat which threatens the world at large.”

-         Efraim Halevy, former chief of Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence agency (7/31/15)

“There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented…And if the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year…We agree with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who said on July 29, 2015, ‘[r]elieving the risk of a nuclear conflict with Iran diplomatically is superior than trying to do that militarily.’”

-         Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson, U.S. Air Force, former Deputy Commander of U.S. Strategic Command

-         General Merrill “Tony” McPeak, U.S. Air Force, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force predominantly under President George H.W. Bush

-         Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, U.S. Army, former Deputy Director of National Counter-Terrorism Center

-         33 other retired American generals and admirals (8/11/15)

“Let us be clear: There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone. The world’s leading powers worked together effectively because of U.S. leadership. To turn our back on this accomplishment would be an abdication of the United States’ unique role and responsibility, incurring justified dismay among our allies and friends. We would lose all leverage over Iran’s nuclear activities. The international sanctions regime would dissolve. And no member of Congress should be under the illusion that another U.S. invasion of the Middle East would be helpful. So I urge strongly that Congress support this agreement.”

-         Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush (8/21/15)

“What has emerged from the P5+1-led effort, first in the Lausanne Declaration and then in the final agreement, is a sound arms control agreement -- surely not perfect, but a set of intrusive and extensive measures that will hamstring any Iranian effort to break out for at least a decade, even longer. By all yardsticks, this is a very strong accomplishment.”

-         Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (8/5/15)

“We consider that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) the United States and its partners negotiated with Iran will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future non-proliferation agreements.”

-         29 top American scientists, including Nobel laureates (8/8/15)

Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at press@heitkamp.senate.gov