Sen. Portman on nuclear negotiations with Iran

Ohio senator speaks out


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 30, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, we told you about how the Iranians aren`t budging on moving any of that massive Iranian uranium enriched stockpile of theirs. Word is the administration could live with that, as long as the Iranians let weapons inspectors, well, keep tabs on that stockpile.

To Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who remembers the North Koreans promising us the same access, until they suddenly did not.

The senator with me now.

Here we go again.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R - OH: A good point, Neil.

CAVUTO: I have a sinking feeling, right?


Not only that, but the North Koreans actually kicked out the U.N. inspectors, the same inspectors now who would be monitoring this stockpile in Iran. And, frankly, if you look at what has happened just in the last year with, again, these same inspectors and how Iran has thwarted their efforts to effectively monitor what is going on now and look at the militarization part of their program, it doesn`t bode well.

CAVUTO: You know what I think? And you`re the expert here, but looking, did they have all this stockpile stuff, and we`re claiming they don`t -- they can`t do anything with it, we`re going to keep a close on it to make sure they`re not doing anything with it, how do we know? How do we know?

PORTMAN: Well, better to get it out of the country, and to allow them, if they would like to use their...

CAVUTO: Well, they`re saying no to that.

PORTMAN: ... their nuclear weapons program for peaceful means, in other words, have nuclear power, the Russians can provide that stockpile to them. We can provide it. We have lots of enriched uranium here in this country. We`re happy to provide it. And we have done this with other countries.

We have said, don`t go down this road enriching your own uranium. We will provide it to you.

CAVUTO: So, the fact that they are not going that route, and insistent that they are not going to go that route, is it me or did we do a 180 on saying, OK?

PORTMAN: Well, we shouldn`t do the 180 because it`s an indication of the fact that they don`t intend to use this lowly enriched uranium for peaceful purposes. Rather, they want to have that stockpile there to potentially enrich it further and use it for other purposes. And that`s a big concern.

They also, as you know, have a heavy water facility with plutonium that is only used for nuclear weapons.

CAVUTO: Right.

PORTMAN: So, all the indications are that they`re really not willing to make the kinds of concessions they should be willing to make if they indeed are not going to pursue nuclear weapons.

CAVUTO: But time is on their side, because the more we jawbone back and forth, deal, no deal, whatever, it`s not like Iraq in 1980, where Israel could take out the nuclear installation. Now the talk is, it`s all over the place. They don`t know all the places, right?

PORTMAN: Yes. And we do know that there`s an underground facility that is well-fortified. And the question is whether centrifuges can continue to operate there.

The leaks from the talks indicate that that might be again a concession that they are not willing to make. And that concerns us a lot because it`s a hardened facility. Look, I think we need to see two things. One, we need to see an enforceable agreement. That means monitoring. And you have stated that well.

But, second, it means enforceability in terms of us being able to apply sanctions, if, in fact, they don`t prevent the -- in other words, there needs to be some consequence. And then, second, we have got to be sure that they can`t be a threshold nuclear power, in other words, be able to get right up to that point of just taking a year or less to be able to become nuclear, because if that happens...

CAVUTO: But they can do all of this without checking with you, right, without checking with Congress?

PORTMAN: Well, you have got to have the monitors in place.

In terms of Congress, that`s a whole `nother issue.

CAVUTO: Right.

PORTMAN: If this agreement is going to last sort of the test of time, of course it should come to Congress. Otherwise, it`s this administration. Nineteen months from now...

CAVUTO: Well, what if it doesn`t? Can sanctions be lifted, as Iran wants, without Congress involved in that part of it?

PORTMAN: There are some things the president can do administratively. That`s true.

But over the long haul, you have got to have Congress. Congress uniquely can impose sanctions, remove sanctions. This requires legislation. So, of course the Congress should be involved. And, by the way, there`s a bipartisan concern here.

CAVUTO: That`s right.

PORTMAN: This is not just Republicans. You have presidents of both parties and...

CAVUTO: And 367 representatives, over 100 Democrats, all urging....


PORTMAN: The presidents of both parties have come to Congress with these kinds of agreements. And it`s not always easy to deal with Congress. But it`s the right thing to do.

And, again, that will give this agreement this longevity that it needs, rather than being just for the time period of the Obama administration. So, hopefully, he will come to Congress.


PORTMAN: I think you`re likely to see legislation being introduced that will be bipartisan that asks for that.

CAVUTO: We will see tomorrow if they even get a deal.

Senator, real quickly, your thoughts on what is going to be a very crowded field of Republican candidates?

PORTMAN: Well, I think...

CAVUTO: Do you think we get to Cleveland without a nominee?

PORTMAN: Yeah. Look, I think, first of all...

CAVUTO: Yes, we do, or that they don`t...


PORTMAN: Well, no, I think we will have a nominee before Cleveland.


PORTMAN: By the way, tell people, Cleveland is -- Cleveland is the Republican National Convention, in my home state, which I`m really happy about and really proud of Cleveland for getting it.

CAVUTO: Right.

PORTMAN: But, yeah, I think probably after Super Tuesday, the field begins to sort out a little bit. So, that`s...

CAVUTO: But where are you if we`re not in that position?

PORTMAN: That`s a year from now, by the way.

CAVUTO: If your guys are not in that position, there is not a nominee who has cobbled together the delegates necessary, would that worry you?

PORTMAN: Do you mean, does it worry me to have a brokered convention?

CAVUTO: Exactly.

PORTMAN: Could be kind of exciting, you know?

CAVUTO: All right. All right.

PORTMAN: The key is that we all come together.

And, by the way, Reince Priebus, chair of the RNC, I think has done a smart thing by having that convention early. One, it gives us the opportunity to pull together...

CAVUTO: We will see. We will see.

PORTMAN: ... but, second, to use that general election money.

CAVUTO: There`s a lot of that, Rob Portman.

PORTMAN: It`s a good field, though, Neil.


PORTMAN: It`s going to be interesting.

CAVUTO: It`s going to be a crowded one.


CAVUTO: Rob Portman, senator from the fine state of Ohio.

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