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Engel Remarks on Iran Nuclear Deal Oversight

ENGEL REMARKS ON IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL OVERSIGHT

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks at a full Committee hearing on oversight, implementation and its consequences of the Iran nuclear deal:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you for, for calling this hearing.  To our witnesses: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  I’m grateful that the Administration has kept Congress up to speed on the Iran nuclear deal throughout the process.  And I know there are many areas where we can continue to work together on this issue.

“Ambassador Mull, it’s good to see you again.  Assistant Secretary Countryman, we’re glad to have your voice in the mix as well, although we miss you in the Balkans.  And Acting Under Secretary Szubin, you’re doing great work, despite the fact that you have to do your job with one hand tied behind your back. 

“We hear a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about how we need to do all we can to curb rogue regimes and terrorist groups.  Well, one easy thing for our Senate colleagues to do would be to bring your nomination up for a vote.  It’s been too long, and it should happen.

“Commentary and analysis about the Iran deal has become the latest cottage industry in foreign-policy circles.  I’m sure at this point, most of you know my refrain: I opposed the deal.  I voted against it.  I thought we could have done better.  But, now that it’s in place, we need to ensure it’s implemented to the letter and continue to hold Iran’s feet to the fire with respect to the regime’s other dangerous and destabilizing activities.

“Today, I hope our witnesses, who are on the front lines of implementation, can help us cut through the speculation and political noisemaking around the deal, and give us a clear picture of how things are moving forward.

“For example, we keep hearing that because Iran hasn’t yet realized the anticipated windfall from sanctions relief, the Administration is going around the world trying to drum up business for Iran.  Now, in my experience, when something sounds like a political attack, it’s usually because it is.  I don’t think we should be making any concessions to Iran beyond the scope of what’s in the deal.  But it’s perfectly reasonable for the United States to clarify for businesses what kind of transactions are now in bounds and what remains against the law. 

“In my view, at the end of the day, if businesses continue to shy away from investing in Iran, Iran’s leaders have no one to blame but themselves.  After all, with its history of corruption, money laundering, support for terrorism, human-rights abuses, and an illegal ballistic missiles program, Iran doesn’t exactly seem like a smart bet for investing.  That’s why the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, continues to designate Iran as a high-risk jurisdiction.

“So hopefully our witnesses can shed more light on why sanctions relief has only led to a trickle rather than a surge for, for Iran, and how the United States has responded as this aspect of the deal has unfolded.

“I’d also like to hear about what we’re doing and what we plan to do to pressure Iran on other areas of concern.  As President Obama wrote during the consideration of the Iran deal, he ‘made sure that the United States reserved the right to maintain and enforce existing sanctions and even to deploy new sanctions to address those continuing concerns, which we fully intend to do when circumstances warrant.’  I don’t think we should be shy about slapping new sanctions on Iran.  Again, if the situation’s circumstances warrant.

“After Iran’s ballistic missile test late last year, the Administration did impose new sanctions.  That was the right thing to do.  The test was a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolution governing the nuclear deal.

“But Iranian money continues to flow to Hamas to rebuild its network of terror tunnels.  Hezbollah has stockpiled thousands of rockets courtesy of Iran’s generosity.  It’s fair to say that Hezbollah would not exist if it wasn’t for Iran.  The Assad regime, Iran supports them.  Hezbollah has propped up that Assad regime.  It couldn’t do it without Iranian help.  Shia militants in Iraq, and Houthi fighters in Yemen, can still count on Iran’s support.  And we have intercepted ship after ship carrying Iranian weapons.

“So what’s the plan to deal with all these problems?  How will the Administration use the authorities it already has?  What can Congress do to make sure this Administration and future Administrations have all the tools they need?  How can we—and our allies—compel Iran to change its behavior?

“I look forward to hearing our witnesses’ thoughts on these areas.  I thank you all again for your service and your testimony.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And I yield back.”