Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday introduced the Iran Nuclear Weapons Capability Monitoring Act of 2022, establishing a task force to monitor the nuclear weapons and missile capabilities of Iran.
The bill establishes a joint task force led by the State Department to monitor and regularly report to the appropriate congressional committees on Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile activities. The report will outline critical findings, including but not limited to, Iran’s ballistic missile activities, weaponization activities, and clandestine nuclear research.
Robert Malley, US Special Envoy for Iran, reacted to President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran saying the chance of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal “diminishes by the day.” Iran’s nuclear program was the key point in President Joe Biden’s July 13-16 visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Iran operates an estimated 18,000 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges and 1,000 second-generation IR-2 centrifuges at its two main enrichment facilities, Natanz and Fordow. It has a stockpile of about 15,500 pounds of low-enriched (under 5%) uranium, and about 440 pounds of 20% enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency believes, based on these figures, that Iran’s breakout time, when it produces 55 pounds of 90% enriched uranium – enough for a single nuclear weapon – was estimated to be one or two months.
“Little Boy,” the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 used 141 pounds of uranium that were enriched to an average of 80%.
“Breakout time” does not mean that Iran would decide to produce weapons-grade uranium at the two facilities because the risk of detection and an aggressive (i.e., military) international reaction would be very high.
“It is imperative the United States government stays focused on monitoring Iranian nuclear ambitions,” said Senator Graham. “This legislation requires reports to Congress from relevant agencies on the status of the nuclear desires of the Iranian regime in several key areas. The best way for American leaders to make sound judgments about Iran is to have the most current and reliable information available. Our legislation also requires our government to collaborate with regional allies like Israel. No matter what happens with the Iran nuclear negotiations, we must monitor the Iranian nuclear program like a hawk. I appreciate working with Senator Menendez on this legislation as he is a reliable and steadfast defender of Israel and an opponent of the Iranian regime.”
Chairman Menendez said, “I am pleased to have worked with Senator Graham to introduce this bipartisan legislation in light of the dangerous advancements in Iran’s nuclear program. With Iran’s unrelenting support of terrorism, its overmatching missile programs, and defiance in the face of international censure, there is no reason why the US Congress should not receive the most up-to-date information about Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities or the Administration’s diplomatic efforts to address the threats posed by them. That is exactly what this bill will do.”
The bill also compels the Secretary of State to submit an annual diplomatic strategy for engaging with partners and allies of the United States regarding the nuclear weapons and missile activities of Iran that will include:
- A description of efforts of the United States to counter efforts of Iran to project political and military influence.
- A description of a coordinated whole-of-government approach to use political, economic, and security-related tools to address such activities.
- A comprehensive plan for engaging with allies and regional partners in all relevant multilateral fora to address such activities.
The Republican Jewish Coalition on Tuesday applauded the Iran Nuclear Weapons Capability Monitoring Act, but for some reason credited only Sen. Graham. RJC National Chairman Norm Coleman said: “We are grateful to Senator Graham for stepping forward with legislation that addresses this challenge by ensuring that the State Department and other key agencies are exhaustive in gathering information about Iran’s illicit nuclear activities and requiring that such information be regularly shared with Congress.”
Would it hurt him to be grateful to Bob Menendez, too? He’s a friend of Israel, you know. He was an early advocate of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, sponsoring the Iran Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1998, which passed the House but failed to pass the Senate. And on August 18, 2015, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez announced his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, saying, “President Obama continues to erroneously say that this agreement permanently stops Iran from having a nuclear bomb, Let’s be clear: What the agreement does is to recommit Iran not to pursue a nuclear bomb, a promise they have already violated in the past.”
So, play nice, Norm Coleman. After all, you used to be a Democrat.