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Engel Remarks on the Risks of Economic Engagement with Iran

ENGEL REMARKS ON ECONOMIC ENGAGEMENT WITH IRAN

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a full Committee hearing on the risks of economic engagement with Iran, and its involvement with terrorism, missiles, and corruption:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you for calling this hearing.  And to our witnesses: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  We value your time and your expertise, especially as the implications of the Iran deal began to fold.

“I was chuckling this morning that it occurs to me, there’s a lot of Iran expertise on Capitol Hill today.  We have a presidential candidate up here meeting with the Speaker who told AIPAC about the Iran deal: ‘I’ve studied this issue in great detail.  I would say actually greater by far than anybody else.’  So perhaps, he should be one of our witnesses.  But I’d rather have, I’d rather have all of you, the three of you today, instead.

“When the details of the agreement were released last year, it appeared that when sanctions were lifted, the Iranians would receive a windfall to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.  Last month, Secretary Kerry said that Iran has only come into about three billion as a result of sanctionsrelief.

“Now, I’m not losing sleep because Iran can’t get its hands on huge sums of money.  But it is worth asking, now that the deal is going forward, why is Iran seeing just a trickle instead of a surge?

“The explanation, as I understand it, couldn’t be less of a surprise.  Banks don’t want to do business with Iran.  They understand the risks.  They see the same patterns of dangerous behavior that the rest of the world has seen for years: an illegal ballistic missile program, support for terrorist groups, human-rights abuses, corruption and money laundering. 

“So, it’s no wonder that the Financial Action Task Force—what we call FATF—continues to designate Iran as a high-risk jurisdiction.  Just like Iran’s leaders, Iran’s financial institutions don’t play by the same rules as the rest of the world.  As a result, international businesses and financial firms want nothing to do with Iran.

“So what does this mean for the deal?  I certainly don’t think we should be making any concessions to Iran beyond the scope of what’s in the deal… as you know, I voted against the deal. 

“In my view, it’s reasonable for the United States to clarify what’s against our law and what’s not, what kind of business transactions are now in bounds, and what kind of activity might run afoul of other laws and sanctions.  But we’ve lived up to our end of the bargain.  I didn’t like the deal, but I have no doubt that we’ll keep our word.

“At the end of the day, if Iran’s leaders are unhappy with the reluctance of the global business community to play ball, they have no one to blame but themselves.  If Iran wants to shed its pariah status, it needs to abandon the activities that led us to isolation the first place.  Stop supporting terrorism.  Stop suppressing the human rights of the Iranian people.  Stop building ballistic missiles.

“Incidentally, that’s where our focus should be as well: continuing to hold Iran’s feet to the fire in all of these areas.  And I know the Chairman and I have had many discussions and we will hold Iran’s feet to the fire.

“Secretary Kerry told this Committee last summer, ‘We will not violate the JCPOA if we use our authorities to impose sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights, missiles or any other non-nuclear reason.  And the JCPOA does not provide Iran any relief from U.S. sanctions under any of these, of those authorities or other authorities.’ That’s a quote from Secretary Kerry.

“So when we see ballistic missiles with the words ‘Israel must be wiped out’ etched on the side in Hebrew from the Iranians; when tens of millions of dollars go to Hamas to rebuild its network of terror tunnels; when thousands of rockets end up in Hezbollah’s hands; when Iran continues to prop up the Assad regime, Shia militias in Iraq, and Houthi fighters in Yemen; when we intercept ship after ship carrying… Iranian weapons, we need to consider whether we’re putting those existing authorities to their best use.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about what more we can be doing to compel Iran to change course away from all these harmful and destabilizing actions.  I look forward to your testimony.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”