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Engel Remarks at Hearing on Iran Agreement

Engel Remarks at Hearing on Iran Agreement

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WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at the Committee hearing with Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on the Iran nuclear deal. This hearing is part of the 60-day review period allowing Members of Congress to assess the deal and its implications for U.S. national security and American interests abroad.

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening this hearing.

“Secretary Kerry, Secretary Lew, Secretary Moniz: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Thank you all for your dedicated service.  No matter what side of the issue anybody is on, I don’t think anyone here doubts your commitment to the United States and your good intentions on this deal.  Thank you for the time you’ve taken over the last week to engage with Members of Congress on the proposed deal.  And thank you for your testimony today.

“Congress gave itself 60 days to renew this deal. And I sincerely hope my colleagues take full advantage of this time to study this agreement, to ask questions, and to make an informed decision when the time comes.

“We’ve had many months and many hearings to discuss the different aspects of a nuclear agreement with Iran.  But at this point, we’re no longer dealing with hypotheticals.  We have a specific deal on the table, and we have to decide if that deal advances the national security interests of the United States and our allies. 

“To answer that question, to be fair, we also need to ask ourselves, ‘What is the alternative?’  Absent this deal, would the international sanctions regime and the P5+1 coalition hold together?  If this deal fails, how would we get the Iranians back to the table?  Would new sanctions have to be coupled with military action?

“As I continue to review the deal, though, there are a number of issues that I find troublesome.  I hope the three of you will address them in your testimony and as you answer the Committee’s questions. 

“First, I continue to have concerns that international inspectors will not have immediate access to undeclared sites.  

“Under the agreement, Iran has 14 days to grant access.  If Iran refuses access after that time, then members of the Joint Commission could take another week to resolve the IAEA's concerns.  After that, Iran has three more days to provide access.  So we’re already nearly a month after inspectors first wanted access.  But if Iran continues to say no, another month could go by while this dispute is resolved.  That potential length of time gives me pause.  I’d like to know how we can be sure Iran cannot use these delays to sanitize sites and get away with breaking the rules. Already, we’re seeing Iran’s leadership declare that military sites will be off limits to inspectors.  If this is Iran’s version of transparency during the implementation of the agreement, we’re getting off to a bad start.

“I’m also troubled by reports about how the arrangement reached between Iran and the IAEA on how Parchin will be inspected. 

“Secondly, I have concerns about the sunset of the international sanctions on ballistic missiles and advanced conventional weapons.  Now, my understanding was these weren’t on the table during the talks.  So I was disappointed to learn that after a maximum of five and eight years, respectively, they’ll be terminated.   I’d like to understand why we allowed this to happen, and what we can do to ensure that this doesn’t make a terrible situation in the region get even worse.

“I’m also concerned about what Iran’s leaders will do when sanctions are phased out and new resources come flowing in.  We’re talking about tens of billions of dollars.  Of course, I’d like to see Iran’s leaders use this money to help the Iranian people.  But even with tough international sanctions in place, Iran has bolstered Hezbollah, Shia militias, Hamas, and the Assad regime.  If this deal goes through, how would you propose to keep this newfound wealth out of the hands of terrorists and tyrants?

“Next, while I’m glad that Iran will be limited in its development of advanced centrifuges for eight years, I worry what happens down the road.  After the research and development ban expires, Iran could quickly move towards the next stage of its enrichment activities.  I’d like to know what other provisions in the deal, if any, will mitigate this risk.

“Finally, I have a fundamental concern that 15 years from now, Iran will essentially be off the hook.  If they choose, Iran’s leaders could produce weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium without any limitation.  They could use advanced centrifuges to speed this progress even further.  This amounts to Iran being a legitimized nuclear threshold state in the year 2030.  My big question is this: what happens then?  Are we back to square one?  Is this deal just pushing the pause button for 15 years?

“I must also say that I have trepidation, barely a week after the Iranians signed the deal with us, there was the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah, chanting, ‘Death to America, Death to Israel.’  You would think that after an agreement was signed with us, there might be a modicum of goodwill that perhaps they’d keep quiet for a week or two, or a month, but it went back to business as usual.  How can we trust Iran when this type of thing happens?  It’s very disconcerting.

“So I’m looking forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses on these issues.  Again I thank you for your service and hard work and I yield back to the Chairman.”