Carper Statement on Implementation of Iran Nuclear Deal, Release of American Prisoners

WILMINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), a retired Navy captain and former naval flight officer who served three tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, released the following statement today on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the release of five American prisoners who had been unjustly detained by Iran. 

“This is an important day for American diplomacy. This summer, after years of difficult negotiations, the United States and its international allies brokered a historic deal to cut off Iran’s pathway to a nuclear bomb and, today, we’ve begun to see some of the fruits of that labor. Following many months of intrusive inspections, international weapons inspectors have concluded that Iran has followed through on its pledge to dismantle the large portions of its nuclear program that were not clearly intended for peaceful purposes. This is an incredible development, especially because of estimates by the intelligence community that the Iranian regime was mere months away from a nuclear bomb, threatening the security of the United States, Israel and other allies around the globe. 

“With this certification by international teams of inspectors, the United States and our European partners in this effort will begin lifting oil and financial sanctions that have crippled Iran for years. The process will begin gradually at first and, then, more quickly if Iran continues to abide by the letter and spirit of the agreement we reached last year. While some fear that Iran will use any new resources to fund terrorism and to strengthen its military, the fact is that most Iranians are far more focused on rebuilding their economy and critical infrastructure.

“By moving beyond the status quo and engaging meaningfully with Iran for the first time in decades, the Obama Administration has made dramatic improvements in our country’s ability to protect itself and its citizens. Through this diplomatic work, the United States has also secured the release of five American prisoners who were being unjustly detained by the Iranian government. Moreover, the establishment of a cooperative relationship with Iran helped to diffuse a tense situation earlier this week when Iran detained 10 American sailors who entered Iranian waters. The American vessels were somewhere they should not have been, and it was an honest mistake. But as a former naval flight officer who served five years in a hot war in Southeast Asia, and for another 18 as a P-3 mission commander, it is a mistake we never want to make. In years past, a misunderstanding like this might have led to military confrontation or worse, but because of our efforts, this was resolved peacefully and quickly. 

“I am relieved and encouraged by the release of our sailors, as well as the release of the other five American civilians. For years, I have personally undertaken efforts to push for the release of the three of them we knew to be prisoners, and have worked my colleagues and with our diplomatic corps to secure their freedom. On several occasions, I have urged high-ranking Iranian officials to release these wrongly imprisoned Americans, and I am delighted and grateful that our calls for their freedom have finally been heard. This is a welcomed day for these Americans, and my thoughts are with them and their families during this time. 

“I will continue, however, working with the Obama Administration to press for information regarding the whereabouts of Bob Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent whose family lives in Florida and who was last seen in Iran nearly a decade ago. Iranian officials have denied having any knowledge about Mr. Levinson, and it’s possible they are telling the truth, but our efforts to find him and bring him home will not cease.

“Finally, we owe a debt of gratitude to President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, and our entire diplomatic mission for seizing a small window of opportunity to engage peacefully with Iran to secure the historic deal that got us to where we are today. The world is safer because of their hard work.”

Yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified that Iran has completed the necessary steps under the JCPOA to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. Since the deal was reached in October 2015, Iran has:

         Dismantled the vast majority of Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges needed for enriching uranium for a nuclear weapon. Today, Iran is only left with 5,000 of the least sophisticated centrifuges.

         Shipped out or eliminated almost all of it 12,000 kilograms of weapons grade or near weapons grade enriched uranium.  Iran will now maintain no more than 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to levels consistent only with peaceful nuclear energy programs.

         Destroyed its heavy water reactor at Arak by filling it with cement in order to prevent the reactor from ever producing weapons grade plutonium needed for a nuclear weapon.

In exchange for meeting these obligations and others, the United States and the international community will begin lifting nuclear sanctions on Iran. However, the United States may still unilaterally re-impose these sanctions if Iran backtracks on its commitments or attempts to cheat on the nuclear deal. Moreover, sanctions imposed on Iran for terrorism, human rights and for developing ballistic missiles will remain in place and will not be removed as part of the nuclear deal.