SENATOR ERNST: “So a whole of government approach, and I think that’s extremely important that we remember that, that we do not have to sign this agreement and that does not necessarily mean that we will be going to war with Iran. Is that your assessment?”

….

ADMIRAL RICHARDSON: “I think that there are other options besides going to war.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At today’s Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing to consider the President’s nominee for the top U.S. Navy post, Admiral John M. Richardson, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) asked questions regarding the United States’ response to and implications of the Iran nuclear agreement. 

After asking Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey a similar question yesterday, the Iowa Senator today asked Admiral Richardson his perspective on the President’s statement that the only alternative to the Iran nuclear agreement is war.

Senator Ernst also voiced concerns with Iran’s financial gain through the agreement and their increased ability to acquire advanced weapons and equipment. The Senator from Iowa asked Admiral Richardson about his thoughts on weapons and equipment Iran might purchase and stressed the critical nature of this global security issue: “I do think it is something that we have to be ever vigilant about. This is a very serious matter that we are facing today with Iran and its potentially increased military capabilities in that region.  This is not an American problem. This is not an Iranian problem. This is a worldwide problem.”       

Click here or on the image below to watch.

FULL TRANSCRIPT  

SENATOR ERNST: …Mr. Chair. Thank you, Admiral, for being here today, and I do want to take special time and thank your father, your wife Dana, and your daughter Rachel for accompanying you today. And Rachel, a special shout-out to you for serving at Walter Reed right now. I have a dear friend that recently went through the amputee center, so thanks so much for all your great service as well. Admiral, in reference to the Iran nuclear agreement, the Obama Administration has continuously said, over and over again, that the alternative to the Iran nuclear agreement is war. The President has made it clear in his statement that the only alternative is war, so as I’m out visiting with other people, that’s kind of the response. It’s picked up, and people are saying “Oh, we have to go to war if we don’t sign this agreement.” In your best military judgement, do you believe that the only alternative to this nuclear agreement is war?

ADMIRAL RICHARDSON: Senator, I think – my way of answering that would be that a major mission of our armed forces, the joint force, and certainly the Navy is to use all means necessary to deter that type of war, not only through preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon but also by deterring any kind of – many of the other tools that they use to disrupt activity in that region. So they’ve got considerable conventional forces, ballistic missiles, surface forces, they’ve talked about mining the Straits of Hormuz, they support terrorist organizations throughout the region. We need to use the full set of capabilities that the joint force and the Navy can deliver to deter that. And that military contribution is also just a subset of a “whole of government” approach along with our allies in the region.

SENATOR ERNST: So a whole of government approach, and I think that’s extremely important that we remember that, that we do not have to sign this agreement and that does not necessarily mean that we will be going to war with Iran. Is that your assessment?

ADMIRAL RICHARDSON: Ma’am, I do support a whole of government approach and –

CHAIRMAN McCAIN: Admiral, you were just asked to give your personal opinion if asked for it. The Senator is asking for your opinion as to whether there are other options besides going to war with Iran.

ADMIRAL RICHARDSON: I think that there are other options besides going to war.

SENATOR ERNST: Thank you, Admiral. Thank you. And Iran’s, since we’re on that topic, Iran’s military budget is approximately 11 billion dollars per year on defense. It’s posture, however, is bolstered by a variative, asymmetric, and relatively low cost capabilities and tactics including swarming at sea, artillery rockets, ballistic missiles, and UAVs. And as you know through this agreement Iran will gain about $150 billion due to sanctions relief and the ability to purchase more advanced weapons and equipment through the lifting of the UN arms embargo. And even if a small portion of the sanctions relief money is directed towards their military capabilities in Iran what types of weapons and equipment do you believe that Iran would purchase to improve its ability to project force within the Persian Gulf?

ADMIRAL RICHARDSON: Well ma’am I think that we would, as we have been throughout, be sensitive to the proliferation market and weapons. So I would be very concerned about them increasing their ballistic missiles force as well as their anti-ship cruise missiles, the mines and the surface combatants that you mentioned as well.

SENATOR ERNST: Okay, well I appreciate that and I do think it is something that we have to be ever vigilant about. This is a very serious matter that we are facing today with Iran and its potentially increased military capabilities in that region.  This is not an American problem. This is not an Iranian problem. This is a worldwide problem. So, I appreciate your attention to the matter. And I do look forward to supporting you in your confirmation. Thank you Admiral.

ADMIRAL RICHARDSON: Thank you ma’am.

SENATOR ERNST: Thank you Mr. Chair. 

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