tv Senator Chris Murphy on Iran Nuclear Agreement CSPAN January 30, 2017 1:35pm-2:17pm EST
for a public office without being rich and politically connected and still be able to serve. because that's what public office is about. we should -- everybody should have an opportunity, if they want to run, they should have an equal opportunity to run. and right now you have a congress who pretty much -- that is pretty much controlled by multimillionaires and corporations, right? you have all the super pacs investing, you know, billions of dollars in campaigns trying to buy seats. i did it the old-fashioned way. and the support i got was union workers, representing the working class people of the country and so, you know, it is an honor to be the first latino to serve in the house of representatives from nevada. but i think more importantly now another young latino, latina, from nevada can say, you know what, i can be rubin kihuen. some day we might have the first latino president and it might come out from nevada.
>> please take your seats. good to see you. the senator doesn't have a lot of time here so -- okay, welcome everybody. and welcome, senator murphy, from connecticut to come all the way here from connecticut to come see us. we're honored to have you here. i've known the senator for probably 11 or 12 years. i knew him when he was a senate -- when he was in the connecticut state senate and then when he ran for congress we got to know each other and now the senate.
and i want you to know that he -- he sort of violated the senate rules by being a very active junior senator from connecticut. he's not laid back. he has a point of view. he's working across the aisle with -- with republicans. he has famously involved himself in gun control, particularly -- famously also had a filibuster which he started on his own to get a gun control bill. he's been active in many domestic areas. but what astounded me in my experience with him over the last many years is a degree to which he has become such a knowledgeable person on foreign affairs. he travels. he talks. and he listens. and i watched him perform among
many different audiences. and there are few people in the senate that i know and i met 50 over the last two years over this deal, who have a grasp of this issue to the extent that he does. and you'll hear from him today, i'm sure, the grasp he already has of this immigration issue. and he'll probably have something to say about that. but i have a personal pleasure and a great honor to present the junior senator from connecticut. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you. well, thank you very much, ambassador luers. let me just return the compliment and the admiration. but, bill and his brilliant wife wendy have been great friends of mine, counsel to me. i was, you know, the chair of
the public health committee in the state legislature. i don't have any family background in politics or international affairs. so my learning curve is as a freshman congressman and even more so as a new member of the foreign relations committee was and still is steep. bill is one i've come to rely on for good advice and friendship. i still remember sitting in my office with bill and tom pickering when they had this germination of an idea that no one else was willing to talk about, this idea that you could have a conversation with the iranian government that could end up making this world safer place. it was an off limits topic to congress at the time. you almost felt like you couldn't publicize the meetings you were having with this -- with these rebels in the iran project and yet today we are in a world that is safer because of the work that bill and so many others did.
thank you so all of the partners who made this possible, to the atlantic council especially. you've been great friends too. so i would love to leave as much time for questions as possible to the extent that i'm a member of the political branch that is here today, i'm sure folks have questions about what is going on. i have them as well. and, you know, i think one of the things we know is that president trump is doing everything he said he was going to do on the campaign trail. and that was one of the big open questions that optimists, many of them democrats, many of them trump voters, convinced themselves would not work out the way that it has. a lot of people said that this was all campaign rhetoric, that he doesn't really mean it, he doesn't believe it in his heart, and you will see a pivot occur once he becomes president. and it was reinforced by the fact that when his nominees for
defense, and secretary of state, for homeland security, came and testified before the relevant committees, they didn't seem too shy to directly contradict some of the policies that president elect trump, candidate trump said he would bring to the oval office. so, again, you could stand back and tell yourself, okay, this isn't really going to happen. this is going to be different than what he said, and, yet, on policy after policy in the first ten days it is pretty clear that he meant everything that he said. and i'll talk a little bit later at the end of my remarks about the muslim ban, the executive order. but that's a perfect example of campaign rhetoric that has now turned into policy. so for everybody that thinks that he is not going to rip up the jcpoa, remember how this administration has played out thus far. remember that up until -- through first ten days, he has
done everything that he promised he would do. and that inside information that we all thought that we had, that he wouldn't put into place the ban on muslims, that he wouldn't do this or that, has not been reality. so i think we have to start from a defensive posture here. and we have to continue to remind our colleagues, republicans and democrats, that all of the armageddon predictions that were made about the iran nuclear deal have simply not come true. that iran, with minor exceptions, has complied with all of the expectations and requirements of them, they have concreted the iraq plutonium reactor, they have gotten rid of 97% of their stockpiles. they have not contested the inspection regime. they have not -- and they have done all that while not
realizing the economic benefit that rouhani and czzarif and others promised the country. because of the existing set of sanctions that didn't go away, because of the understandable general reluctance of commercial interests to do business with iran, this bounty that many of those in favor of the deal promised has not come true. and yet despite that, despite the fodder that had been handed to hard-liners, the regime has by and large, with almost no exception, stuck to their requirements under the agreement. and so we need to continue to come back over and over again and tell this story. and talk about how, you know, a variety of opponents of this deal are now begging the administration including sort of the mainstream israeli defense
establishment to hold on to it and to continue to enforce it. but i also think we need to be cognizant of what is happening in iran today and you talked about this, i'm sure. i missed the first panel and we will talk about it. the hard-liners see an opportunity, an opportunity to force donald trump to unwind this deal himself. they see an opportunity to have the failure of the deal be on america's hands. we all knew that was the game they were going to play from the start, but they now have a new opportunity. a reckless unplanned, unstrategic american administration who might fall for a tactic run by the hard-liners forcing the international community to blame the united states, not iran, for this deal being scuttled. it is why many of us have urged a cautious approach, even under the obama administration to a
conversation about new sanctions against the iran regime. now, let me be clear. i supported the nuclear agreement, i think i was one of the first to announce support in the senate. specifically because i don't believe that that agreement disallows congress from passing new sanctions on non -- just to sanction nonnuclear behavior. and i certainly would count these ballistic missile tests, reports as you've been sitting here, of potentially another ballistic missile test, i certainly think that those actions warrant a discussion about sanctions in the united states senate. i think that the actions that the iranians have taken to allow for the slaughter of civilians inside syria warrant a conversation about sanctions. but it should be a careful conversation that acknowledges the potential resip rickal actions taken by tehran.
and i think we sort of need to step back and look at this ban on immigration in the context of the same conversation. this is seen bit iranian regime as a new set of sanctions. now that's not the right way to look at this. this isn't in response to anything they did with respect to the nuclear agreement, but it clearly empowers the hard-liners. when the relative moderates and, of course, moderate is a truly relative term in iran, are running around talking about this new opportunity to engage with the west, this imperative, this need, this mandate to re-establish persian greatness by becoming part of the international community again, it scuttles that entire argument to now have the trump administration labeling not the
iranian regime, but the iranian people as enemies of the united states. when we engaged in sanctions, against foreign governments, we try to the extent possible to level them first against governments. and only second against people. and even when they ultimately affect people, economic sanctions are sort of, you know, targeting broad commercial interests and the results filter down to affect people. and immigration ban is fundamentally different, right. it is not leveled at political leaders. it is not leveled broadly at the economy. it is not leveled at high ranking commercial interests. it is leveled directly at the people of that country, under the assumption that everyone in that country is a threat to the united states. and despite all of the terrible stuff that the iranian regime has done to fund and to sponsor terrorists and terrorists and radical organizations in the middle east, there is no
evidence that the iranian people pose a security threat to the united states. that's just fundamentally not true. and this ban on immigration from iran to the united states is a gift to the hard-liners. at a moment in which we should not be giving them gifts. this is a tenuous moment for -- for, again, the relative moderates inside iran with the death of ayatollah rafsanjani. this is a movement that doesn't need another body blow and yet they got it. and so if your goal in the end is to make sure the radicals and the hard-liners, those that do regularly profess the death of israel, who do want to pursue a policy of wreaking havoc in the middle east, who wouldn't be afraid of war with the united states, if you pursue -- if you believe that we should pursue a policy that doesn't effectuate that end, then the decision to
hand them a victory, a recruitment tool, is maybe the dumbest part of this executive order. and that's saying a lot. and so i think that politically as we try to make the case to republicans about why they should join us in opposing this order, we need to do it for national security reasons. and it is all contextual within the discussion over the jcpoa because every time you empower the hard-liners and conservatives inside iran, you're making it more likely they're going to set in place a set of events that will ultimately lead to that agreement collapsing and for iran to get back on a path to a nuclear weapon, which is what many inside want. and i know that it is a bipartisan imperative to stop
iran from getting a nuclear weapon. i tried to tell people during that debate that there are lots of debates in the united states senate in which we disagree on the end, end, right? not just the means, on healthcare. we disagree on the end, on climate change. we disagree on the end in iran policy. we didn't want iran to get a nuclear weapon. we just disagreed on the way to get there, whether through diplomatic means or military means. well, now that we know that the diplomatic means is working, i do think there's the opportunity in the context of this executive order to bring republicans and democrats together. it's taking republicans a little bit longer than we would have hoped. we didn't see a lot of comment on friday and saturday, but on sunday you saw a ton of the republicans coming out and saying for national security reasons this is an ill-thought out idea. and i do think while they might not have listed the nuclear
agreement in their statement, you have to view it in that context because even those that voted against it are now either quietly or publicly calling on the administration to uphold it and to focus on enforcement rather than abandonment. i said to a lot of people that, you know, it feels like i have a totally different job today than i did for the first four years in the united states senate, right? you know, i think we're all sort of rethinking how we order our days, what we spend our time on, trying to figure out a new what matters, what doesn't, what the rules are, what the rules aren't, but what i do know is that the work that you have done, the people in this room, the pioneers behind the iran project, without it we would not be at the point we are today. and without your continued engagement i know he will do what he says he will do. so the fact that this room is filled and there are lots of
others who care about remaining loyal to this agreement and to the historic benefit for national security that it has caused, it makes me a little bit more confident that despite an incredibly tult chous time we'll be able to hold the line. so to bill and barbara and everyone else, all the ambassadors here that are present, thank you very much for having me. i look forward to your questions. [ applause ]. i think i'm going to sit here and do questions. yes, go ahead. lead the way. yeah. >> thanks. very basic question -- is there anything that congress could do or that you could imagine it doing on the visa and immigration ban at this point, or do you think it's going to work its way through the courts? >> so i'm introducing legislation later today that
will fore stall implementation of the executive order simply by defunding. i'll introduce a bill later today that will cut off all funds for the implementation of the order. another senator will introduce legislation that will rescind the order through a different means. by the end of the day there will be legislation that republicans can look at and potentially sign on to that will stop this order from going into effect. we are talking as we speak with republican senate offices about their willingness to join us on this measure or potentially a future measure. i would be really surprised if there are 60 votes in the senate for a piece of legislation that rescinds the order, though not shocked. i would be more than surprised if there are votes or even the willingness to call a piece of legislation like that in the house of representatives, and as i was describing this bill that i was working on to my
8-year-old on sunday, he said, yeah, but, dad -- this is my 8-year-old, dad, doesn't the president have to sign it? and i said, yeah, that's true. that's true. so the courts remain our better remedy here. and you'll hear a lot about the legal argument. it seems pretty clear to me that on immigrant categories the 1965 law is dispositive. you can't discriminate based on religion or national origin. a little bit less clear as to how that prohibition against discrimination applies to refugees, but clearly there's a prohibition on non-refugee immigrants to this country. so, i think the pathway is much more likely to go through the court system. and i think if i can get to a sort of deeper, political level here, you know, the reason, as i understand or as i read it, that republicans are unwilling to
join us, is not because they disagree with the position we're taking. not because they agree with the ban, but because i guess they just have more important irons in the fire right now as far as they're concerned, that they want to get through these budget reconciliations, the affordable care act repeal and the trickle down tax cut before they start, you know, creating lines of cleavage with him on other issues. so they don't want to lose his support for their economic agenda and their health care repeal agenda, and so they're trying to sort of stay close to him right now. listen, i think this has catastrophic implications for the country. i think we're shrinking in the world's eyes every single day, but that's my read of why you haven't seen more bipartisan work on this issue since friday.
[ inaudible question ] >> voice of america persian tv. executive director of ftd today mentioned about upcoming sanctions in the congress, iran's other activities. so what is your focus on that? do you have enough votes to object to that in the senate and in the congress? >> you know, i think my approach will be serious and careful, as i said you know in my opening remarks, i think iran has conducted itself in a way -- especially with regard to their activity in syria and their continued violation of u.n. resolutions on ballistic missile tests to warrant a conversation about sanctions.
i think the question is whether we can right size that conversation and that policy. there is clearly appetite amongst republicans to rush headlong into a new sanctions bill. many of them are doing that because they seek to unwind the iran nuclear agreement. others are interested in it not because they want to kill the deal because they actually believe in additional sanctions. i think it's a serious conversation we have to have and i don't think i can tell you whether there are the votes to pass it or defeat it unless we know what we're talking about. i think it's a very delicate conversation. >> assuming you are prescient
and president trump does abdoe vat or avoid the jcpo, could you comment and speculate on some of the consequences here what we might do in the region and elsewhere as to how you could see this unwinding more than just the treaty? >> if it unwinds you're saying? >> yeah, sure. well, if trump abrogates the treaty and the other partners do not, then how do you see the consequences and what is your response to that? what do you think can happen? >> yeah, well -- i mean, it's -- if we were to abrogate the treaty and by extrapolation then reimpose sanctions, even if the europeans continued to abide by the treaty, i can't understand how the hardliners wouldn't prevail inside iran and restart in some way, shape or form their previous nuclear program. now, maybe they rush to a
weapon, but they certainly put themselves in a position similar to what existed prior to the agreement where breakout, you know, is months rather than years. and, you know, that would scare the hell out of me given the way this administration has conducted itself in the first ten days to think that iran could get to a weapon within a handful of months if our foreign policy melted down. you know, boy, that's a truly scary proposition. and listen, we're going to -- we don't know yet what this administration's appetite is for military action. we get -- we literally get two diametrically opposed views on alternating days, right? we hear sort of trump, you know, attack lindsey graham and john mccain for wanting to start world war iii and yet he already started to dramatically ramp up
military activities inside the middle east, witness first american being killed inside yemen this weekend. and certainly some of his nominees, you know, come from a fairly traditional neo-conservative knock them in the teeth school of international thought, so it's just really unclear if we ever got to a position where we felt like the iranians were close to breakout, you have some people in that administration who i am convinced would recommend military action, but then you have another sort of school of rhetoric from trump himself that, you know, suggests otherwise. it's real hard to tell how it would play out. hello, i'm a reporter with politico. during a conversation between german kans lor angela merkel and president trump on saturday, she reportedly reminded him of the united states treaty obligations under the ja knee vee refugee retention to take in
war refugees on humanitarian grounds. my question to is you do you think president trump's executive order is in violation of international law? >> i'm so focussed on u.s. law now that i can't give you an opinion on international. we first start with our own law and then we move to international law. i'm convinced this order is in violation of u.s. law, and i guess i won't profess to have an opinion on international law. >> don lamb, university of chicago. and i want to ask you, senator, whether russia and putin may have a positive role, believe it or not, to play in persuading this administration to keep the jcpoa in place? >> boy, it's hard to -- it's
hard to think of russia having a positive role in this administration, but i will -- no, i will submit that they were straight players, you know, for most of the way on this negotiation from every read-out of those in the room. and, you know, given the muck and the mire that is russia's involvement in the middle east today, they likely don't have reason to, you know, try to have things get even messier through a nuclear armed iran or a sort of addendum military confrontation between the u.s. and iran over a potential nuclear iran. so, yeah, you can certainly envision the russians playing a role here to convince trump to stick to the deal. but just remember, everything that we assumed about the u.s./russia relationship is up for grabs right now. so we -- over the last four years at least -- knew what we
could work with them on and we had been successful at times in compartmentalizing that, right? we could compartmentalize questions about iran, we could compartmentalize to a extent questions about counterterrorism and that wasn't affected by the udder dysfunctionalty of our relationship on other issue. i just don't think you can assume that that continues because there are going to be some parts of the relationship that might become more functional if we, for instance, drop sanctions. and there are other parts of the relationship that might become much more dysfunctional, like the potential crisis unfolding in the ball cans today and all of that may cause these relationships like this over the jcpoa to get more topsy turvy. >> thank you for coming.
i just had a quick question. you said you're going to introduce legislation which probably is not going to be signed by the president. what do you think other people could do, people started donating to aclu to help them, you know, whatever they do, what could other people do in terms of fighting the executive order? thank you. >> listen, i think -- this is a broader statement, but one of the lessons over the last ten days and i don't want to get too political here is that political action matters. i don't think it's coincidental that republicans came out in opposition or in critique of the ban only after there was a massive public uproar to it, not just on the coasts, but, you know, in alabama, right, there were 3,000 people who came out in alabama to protest this action over the weekend. and so i do think that engaging
in peaceful dissent is a means to push -- especially on this issue -- to push republicans who in their gut and in their head know what's right and know what's wrong, for political reasons they've chosen not to verbalize it. so i think action in the way that we've seen thus far, you know, is effective here. there are other places where it may not be effective. it might not be effective on the white house, it seems to have the opposite effect since friday, saturday and sunday, but certainly on congress it has an effect. >> my name is dick -- down here is mr. ricks who is the president of the peace corp. veterans of iran, so between us, we carry a certain amount of soft power weight, you might say. the question arose in the last session precisely it was asked
before, what can we do, other than reach out to congress? are there other means of support in this country for the education of both ends of the political spectrum, both ends in iran and in the united states on the question of the jcpoa? >> well, we need to build a massive political movement around selling soft power. and that sounds like an oxymoron, how do you build a political movement around selling soft power, right? it is never historically sold that well and that's why we have hard power because it sells a lot more easily, you know, connects with people's gut much better than soft power does, but you know, we didn't necessarily have to do that for the last eight years. we didn't get a lot of soft power in the eight years. we had a president who talked a lot about it even if he didn't submit budgets that backed up that talk with appropriations. we now have to do that.
we need to explain to people, you know, think about russia. we need to explain to people about how russia exerts influence in the world. yes, it has a much more modern military than it did ten years ago. it's inserting its power through bribery and intimidation and energy bullying. we have no ability to meet those strengths with commensurate strengths and tools here in this country. and it comes back to this question of supporting the iran nuclear agreement, right? the iran nuclear agreement was made real because of the work of diplomats, right? and yet diplomacy is woefully underresourced all around the world. we have more members of military bans today than we do diplomats in the state department. you want to learn the lessons of the jcpoa, you want to respond to the new threats that are presented to the united states, we have to build a grass roots
movement in which people and existing political groups that already have power decide to care about or add to their advocacy smart power. many of you have worked with me on a new budget for international affairs that dramatically pluses up support for non-military tools that the president has. its in its final stages. i'll be unveiling that new budget, that new way of funding international affairs very shortly and i hope that that document is going to be part of that exercise. >> good afternoon. i'm a member of the atlantic council. senator murphy, thank you very much for being here. thank you to atlantic council for organizing such an amazing event. my question to you as some of the sound-minded people around our current president like general mathis had numerous times basically emphasis on the
fact that this agreement is an agreement that is signed by the united states of america. so, i think he wanted to make sure that the united states has on international stage keeps its promises, otherwise nobody else in the world would ever sign any agreement with the united states. so what do you think? thank you. >> well, i think it's -- i think we don't nknow yet what influene mathis is going to have in this administration. he clearly had no influence on the executive order signed friday, but at least as trump profess professes, he has influences on other questions like the administration's position on torture. he makes a strong case, right? we all believe it. we all know why that's true, but, you know, step back and start to consider what this administration's motives are. think about the fact that right now it looks as if the most
powerful person in the administration has professed a desire to completely destroy national and international institutions, right? this is what steve bannon has said. and so if your agenda is to destroy institutions, then stairry desigh sis, right, consistency of opinion and policy, not really something that you care about when you wake up every morning. so i think we're -- you know, we're just learning about what it is that drives this administration and it may not be the things that drove every other administration, right? it may be that they are interested in inconsistency rather than consistency. and that's something that would be very difficult for everybody to get used to and very, very dangerous, in my opinion. >> yeah, one more. >> yeah.
>>. >> edward lavigne. if we look at coming legislative fights over non-nuclear sanctions on iran, even though the bills will not go to the foreign relations committee, it is likely that the foreign relations committee will be looked to as one of the centers of expertise. and i wonder how the democrats on the foreign relations committee are going to react to these proposals, given that some of the senior democrats on the committee who were not known for their love of the jcpoa. >> i wonder, too. listen, i think it will in part depend upon the intent of the proposals. again, i can't speak for every, you know, every democrat and every republican, but i do think that there's a consensus, even
amongst those who voted against the agreement that the best course of action today is to enforce it and to keep it in place. and i think i can actually speak for, i think, ranking member carden has publicly stated that he thinks that our policy today should be to enforce the agreement rather than to abandon it and i also think he's voted that way. so, i think in my guess would be that democrats who either voted against it or were very openly critical of it will try to divine the motivations behind the sanctions bills being presented and game out what the result of those sanction bills will be because i do think you have a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle who don't want this thing to ultimately fall apart. you know, but again, i come back to what i said at the beginning, i do think it's important to remember that even for those of us who are the most ar dant supporters of that piece of
legislation, we made it clear that we were not fore stalling our ability to vote for sanctions later on. and why did we say that? in part because we wanted to convince our colleagues that the jcpoa was not a referendum on all of iran's activity, right? the biggest sticking point in that debate the reason it might not have passed because the opponents wanted to say that you shouldn't sign any agreement with iran until we settle all of our issues with them. and we said, no, no, no, no. we need to settle the nuclear issue. while admitting that we leave unsettled issues over human rights, ballistic missile tests, support for terrorism. well, if i want to be consistent in that position, then i have to be open to conversations about new sanctions. and if it is true they launched another -- they did another ballistic missile test today, then they know exactly what conversation is coming in this congress and they shouldn't be surprised by the fact that we're going to open up that debate.
again, we have to engage it in very carefully. we have to game this out, you know, one or two or three steps at a time, but i have to be intellectually consistent and that means engaging in that conversation, not prejudging the outcome but engaging in it. take one more. >> one more question. >> sure. >> senator, do the events of the past weekend change your decision or thinking in terms of voting to confirm rex tillerson? >> i think i was the first to announce my opposition to tillerson, so, no, i will not be voting to vote for tillerson based on this weekend's events. yeah, no. well, one of the things it does here is congress did give both mathis and kelly, you know, a little benefit of the doubt based on the fact that in their
confirmation hearings they opposed president trump's policy on the muslim ban. and then, you know, maybe it's not -- i don't know what happened. reports are that they weren't consulted on this or maybe kelly was being consulted as it was being put into place, but, you know, clearly they didn't have any impact on trump's decision to impose this reckless harmful, dangerous ban. so to the extent that nominees are trying to push their candidacies by telling democrats that they are going to stand up to president trump, that has a lot less purchase -- should have a lot less import than it did before friday because we were told that mathis and kelly would tell the president how dangerous it would be to ban muslims from entering the united states, either they lost that case, didn't make it or were never consulted. and so i think that just speaking on my behalf, that makes me less willing to support
a nominee simply because i think that that nominee is going to be a sane, reasonable voice inside the administration. that doesn't seem to have been born out with respect to some people's belief about what the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security were going to add to this administration. again, we're in the middle of this right now, so i got to head back to re-engage in this particular debate, but again, this is tremendously important time for you all to be focussing on this and to barbara and bill and everybody else, thank you very much for having me. appreciate it. [ applause ]. ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated as the senator exits the room. thank you very much.