The congressman representing the country’s largest military district took questions from constituents concerned about Iran getting a nuclear weapon.
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who will oppose the Iranian nuclear agreement in its current form, said everything he has read demonstrates that the Iranian regime holds an “apocalyptic worldview.”
“The radical Islamic groups and the leadership itself, which I see as a form of radical Islam, they hold an apocalyptic worldview and they talk about the destruction of Israel,” he told the participants of the town hall, which took place online and over the phone.
“Israel is a great ally to us and we cannot consider what’s good for America without simultaneously, in the context of the Middle East, without considering how it affects Israel.”
Rigell told his constituents he has “wrestled” with whether or not to support the agreement.
“I cannot wrap my mind around their [Iran’s] mindset and if anyone on the call tonight can prove me otherwise, please call the office and send me the material. I want to see it.”
Rigell, who served in the Marine Corps Reserve, said the regime is moving the entire region away from peace but every Iranian does not agree with their actions.
“I think many of them want peace, especially the younger generation,” he said.
Rigell, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, was asked if the current agreement would prevent terrorist groups from taking over any nuclear sites in Iran.
“I had not considered that. To me the risk within the administration itself, the regime itself, is sufficient,” he said.
Rigell said the agreement does not “eliminate” or “dismantle” any significant parts of Iran’s nuclear program.
“We’re simply managing it. I really think that’s the only conclusion that could be reached on that,” he said.
Some callers were concerned about the U.S. government’s ability to prevent Iran from secretly developing a nuclear weapon.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the “side-deal,” which the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency has reached with Iran, contains a massive loophole.
“In that deal, Iran would be self-verifying and self-inspecting this Parchin facility. In other words, weapons inspectors will not get physical assess to the site,” he said.
When asked if there is an alternative to the current agreement, Rigell said America’s “economic leverage,” along with its European allies, is sufficient at this time.
“We could continue to put enough pressure on this regime to say that the changes that we are asking for are serious and they are substantive but we are not asking to renegotiate the whole agreement,” he said.
Rigell said Congress has the option to modify the agreement.
“I’m confident in this. I’m saying that among the alternatives that are available to us, that one is the best alternative,” he said.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently warned Congress about the consequences of undermining the deal.
“If we are the ones who unilaterally undermine this agreement, it’s not going to be a very good day after. Again, it’s hard to imagine that we would not lose the unity of the international collaboration,” he said.