July 14, 2016

Cardin Remarks at Hearing on ‘Iran Nuclear Agreement – One Year Later’

WASHINGTON The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing Thursday entitled ‘The Iran Nuclear Agreement: One Year Later’. The following remarks, as prepared for delivery, were offered by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Committee’s Ranking Member:

“Thank you, Chairman Corker, for convening this hearing today.  Mr. Nephew and Mr. Dubowitz welcome back to the Committee. During the Congressional Review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), both of you testified for many committees in the Senate and the House.  At the time all of us were grappling with the implications of this complex and historic agreement.  Your testimony and thoughts were extremely helpful then and I’m sure they will be equally illuminating today.       

“This hearing on the one year anniversary of the signing of the JCPOA provides us with an opportunity to reflect on its implementation, and what has been achieved in rolling back Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“Over the past year, Iran has fulfilled the nuclear pieces of the agreement.   On January 16th, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran:

-          Reduced its number of operational and installed centrifuges to below 5,600, which is what Iran committed to in the JCPOA. .

-          Limited its nuclear stockpile to no more than 300 kilograms of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU).

-          Removed the core of the Arak reactor making it physically incapable of producing significant amounts of weapons-grade plutonium.

-          And agreed to all of the enhanced IAEA monitoring and inspection, which the JCPOA required to verify that no undeclared nuclear materials or activities are occurring in Iran.  

“Since Implementation Day, the IAEA has been able to confirm in its quarterly reports that Iran is upholding the nuclear portions of the deal.  This is a welcomed development.

“But we cannot evaluate the JCPOA in a vacuum – it must be considered within its strategic and regional context.  From this vantage point, my worst fear expressed last year – that the JCPOA would actually increase the likelihood of conflict – may be coming true.  Since this agreement was signed the Iranian government has:

-          Continued ballistic missile testing an activity which flies in the face of the spirit of the agreement and is a violation of the UN Security Council Resolution that endorsed the JCPOA.  

-          Doubled down in Syria and now openly acknowledges casualties taken protecting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

-          Funded and supported Iraqi Shia militias in Iraq that have participated in sectarian violence.

-          Restored relations with Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.

-          Deployed vessels full of lethal aid to Houthi fighters in Yemen.

-          Incited crowds to attack Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran.

-          Increased the number of executions and is doing nothing to improve the abysmal human rights situation in the country.

“Last year, after deep reflection and evaluation, I ultimately did not support the JCPOA.  But I was also clear that if it was implemented, my priority would be ensuring that our government has all of the necessary tools and resources to implement it.  And I also committed to addressing the weaknesses beyond the nuclear agreement – the troubling issues left unaddressed, many of which I just enumerated.  

“This agreement has the best chance of succeeding if its weaknesses are squarely addressed.  Congressional action should not focus on undermining the agreement by passing legislation that clearly violates the JCPOA.  Instead, we should be working together to strengthen it.    U.S. policy on Iran has always been strongest when Congress stands together united.

“I introduced the Iran Policy Oversight Act last year, along with many of my colleagues, to do just this – strengthen the JCPOA. 

“Our bill:

-          Provides for rigorous oversight of the agreement including additional reporting on Iran’s nuclear research and development activities and the use of sanctions relief.

-          Clarifies U.S. policy to make it clear that Iran does not have an inherent right to enrichment and that all options remain on the table – including a military option – to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

-          Continues sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals engaged in ballistic or cruise missile proliferation and terrorism or human rights violations, and provides for expedited consideration of new sanctions if Iran directs or conducts an act of terrorism against the United States or substantially increases its operational or financial support for a terrorist organization that threatens U.S. interests or allies.      

-          The bill importantly authorizes additional, specific security assistance for Israel.

“There are also several other steps that we must work on together going forward:

-          We must reauthorize the Iran Sanctions Act for another 10 years so that the threat of snapback sanctions remains a credible deterrent.

-          We must urge our partners in the P5+1 to coordinate responses to Iran’s troubling behavior – last week’s UN report on Iran’s ballistic missile activity is a perfect opportunity.

“Let me reiterate that while I ultimately opposed the agreement one year ago, I am cautiously pleased about Iranian compliance within the parameters that the JCPOA laid out. But as the Iranian regime continues its destructive pattern of supporting terrorism, proliferating weapons, threatening Israel and violating fundamental human rights, the Congress has to remain strong and united in countering their warped world view.

“Thank you again, Chairman Corker for convening today’s hearing on the anniversary of this important agreement.  I look forward to our discussion on how we can ensure Iran continues to comply with the JCPOA and how the United States can use all of the tools at its disposal to respond to Iran’s destabilizing actions.”

###