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Shaheen: We Should Examine Iran Nuclear Deal Closely, Not Be Misled By 'Red Herrings'

Chris Jensen for NHPR
Shaheen in 2014

President Obama says all of Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon are cut off under a landmark agreement announced today. 

The agreement requires Iran to remove two-thirds of its centrifuges and get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of uranium. In exchange, Iran will receive relief from sanctions that have put an enormous strain on that country. Now, President Obama is seeking approval from Congress, which has just begun a 60-day review of the deal.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen joins us to discuss the deal.

Congress now has 60 days to take a look at this deal. Where do you stand on this?

Well, I think it's very important for me and for Congress to take the time that we have to carefully go over this agreement. You know, we're at day one. It's hard for me to understand how people can - without having looked at the agreement - decide whether they're for it or against it. So, I think the important thing here is that we keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

I think diplomacy is a much better  way to do that than going to war, and I want to have a chance to look through this deal very carefully and see the verification mechanisms that are in it. I want to hear from the IAEA for how they're looking at verification. I want to make sure that we know what's going to happen with the sanctions snap-back, so what happens if Iran doesn't fulfill their part of the agreement, how will then the sanctions goes back into place. There are multiple aspects of the deal that we need to examine very closely and I hope that Congress will take the time to do that. 

So the deal is for a 15-year period. Lots of folks are saying that it's great for this 15 years but what happens after then? You said a concern of yours would be preventing some kind of nuclear war. Is it good enough for you to prevent it for just a 15-year period assuming that's what this would do?

Well, there are certain aspects of it that are 10 years, there are some provisions that deal with 15 years, and there are some that are indefinite. So, one of the things that we will be able to do is to address the whole Iranian nuclear program from research to looking at the supply chain required for a nuclear weapon and so I think we need to look at all of those. But look, the fact is, we're going to know more about the Iranian nuclear program as a result of the agreement than we know now. And so we're going to be in a better position to respond to that. And at the end of whatever period that the agreement takes, we still have the options that we have now, to take military action.

The fact is, this was a negotiated agreement with our international allies, and we need to stay unified with them because one of the reasons those sanctions worked and were so binding was because our European allies were a part of that effort.

So am I hearing that you will indeed support this?

No. As I said to you, I want to have a chance to look at it very carefully. But I think we should not be misled by red herrings that are put out there about potential options. The fact is, I think a negotiated option, if it gets us to where we want to go, is the better option than a military option. And I'm going to look very carefully at this agreement to see how it deals with verification, how it deals with limiting Iran's path to a nuclear weapon. We have heard that it cuts off all those pathways to a nuclear weapons. Well, I want to the chance to look at it very carefully and see if it does that.

The deal includes lifting sanctions based on Iran's nuclear activities, but it doesn't lift sanctions that were put in place because of human rights abuses or because of state-sponsored terrorism. Should this agreement have addressed those sanctions in some way?

I think we need to continue to take every action that we can to address Iran's human rights abuses, to address their efforts to promote terrorism in places around the world, but we know that these negotiations were limited to their nuclear program. I think we need to look at the deal based on what the mission was, which was to limit their nuclear program and ensure that they didn't get a bomb.

Throughout nearly two years of talks, US officials have said that, "No deal is better than a bad deal." Do you believe that's the case? 

Well again, I'm going to look at this agreement very carefully and look forward to having the chance to do that in the Foreign Relations Committee and also in the Armed Services Committee, and having a chance to question objective, independent experts to get their take on it. So, I think we're at the beginning of this process and I look forward to getting as much information as I can.

When the sanctions are lifted, Iran will have access to billions of dollars in assets, and they'll also gain much more revenue from exports that they haven't been able to export during the sanctions. Are you concerned about what a wealthy Iran could do after this 15 year agreement ends?

You know, I'm concerned about Iran and about any country in the world that promotes terrorism. But the fact is, they're going to have to take certain actions as I understand the agreement in order to have the sanctions relief that they are looking for, and if they don't perform as they've agreed to in the negotiations, then it's my understanding that those sanctions are going to snap back into place and that's one of the things I'm interested in looking at as we're studying agreement. I think that again, we need to take the time, we need to look carefully at this agreement, and make a decision based on what's in it.

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