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Foster Debates Iran Deal On House Floor

Sep 11, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11) spoke in favor of the Iran nuclear agreement on the House floor.

Video of Foster’s speech is available here.

Text of Foster’s remarks is below:

As the only Ph.D. physicist in Congress – in fact, the only Ph.D. scientist of any kind – I have taken very seriously my responsibility to review the technical aspects of the proposed agreement.

And after over a dozen briefings, many of them individual classified briefings by the technical experts who supported our negotiators, I have come to support the deal - not based on trust of Iran, but based on science.

So I would like to take a moment to make four technical points that underpin my support of this deal.

First, in regard to the claims that “Iran gets to be in charge of inspecting itself” in investigations of its past weaponization activities. This is simply not true.

The investigations will be carried out by a team of IAEA inspectors, using equipment and sampling kits prepared by the IAEA, with samples being sent to the International Network of Analytical Laboratories, of which a number of U.S. laboratories are members.

I urge my colleagues who harbor doubts about this inspection regime to avail themselves of classified briefings on the details. What I can say publicly is that our technical experts have full confidence in the technical inspection capabilities of the IAEA.

Secondly, in regards to the 24-day inspection delay, which has been a source of concern for many, including myself. Under the proposed agreement, Iran’s declared nuclear facilities will be available for anytime, anywhere inspection. However, for undeclared facilities, including military facilities, Iran has the opportunity to contest what is normally a 24-hour inspection regime under the Nonproliferation Treaty with Additional Protocol, for a period of up to 24 days. This is clearly not ideal.  It is a negotiated number.

However, when I looked closely at the many steps that must be taken to produce and to test a nuclear weapon, the ability to detect activities in a window of 24 days vs. 24 hours has limited operational significance. This is because while many steps towards weaponization can unfortunately be hidden from even a 24-hour inspection – like design and testing of non-nuclear components – but the moment that Iran touches nuclear materials it will be subject to detection by the IAEA, even months after any attempted scrubbing of the facility.

Thirdly, I support the Administration’s estimates of a one-year minimum breakout time. This is the reaction time that the world community will have for a diplomatic, economic, and military response if Iran decides to resume its nuclear weapons program. Because of the importance of this issue, I have spent a great deal of time and effort personally vetting this estimate. The breakout time calculation is complex because there are many possible paths to obtaining the fissile material needed for a first weapon, and each of these must be examined. After many hours of study and detailed questioning of our experts, I have concluded that the one-year estimate for the minimum breakout time is accurate.

Fourth, in regards to the weaponization timeline. This is the time needed by Iran from the point it possesses a sufficient quantity of nuclear material for a first weapon, to the time that it takes to assemble and test that first nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, Iran has made significant progress towards weaponization, including such items as the multipoint initiation system for implosion devices that is referenced in the IAEA report in 2011. Moreover, if Iran breaks out of this agreement, it will resume weaponization activities during the same year that it takes to accumulate fissile materials for a first weapon.

Therefore, I concur with the assessment that in the context of a one-year breakout effort, the additional time for weaponization may be small. 

However, at the end of this agreement, when the breakout time to obtain fissile material is shortened, the weaponization activities become the dominant factor in the timeline.

This underscores the importance of maintaining maximum visibility into all aspects of the Iranian nuclear capability – a position that is surely strengthened by the adoption of this agreement – and also of significantly strengthening the Nonproliferation Treaty for Iran and for all other nuclear threshold countries.

This must be the work of the coming decade, so that by the end of the main terms of this agreement, Iran and its neighbors in the Mideast and around the world will be bound by a much stronger and more verifiable Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As was emphasized by former Senators Dick Lugar and Sam Nunn, two gentlemen who have actually reduced the threat of nuclear war, instead of just talking about it, this is not a perfect deal, but it is the best path forward and our best chance to achieve our goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

So I urge my colleagues to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the best opportunity to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

And remember, we did not negotiate this deal alone, but if we walk away, we walk away alone.

I thank the Ranking Member for yielding and yield back.