WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mark Warner (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), introduced the Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015, legislation that builds upon the bipartisan commitment to oversight outlined in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 that passed the U.S. Senate 98 to 1.
Cosponsors of the legislation include Democratic senators who both supported and opposed the Iran agreement, but are united in working to strengthen U.S. policy toward Iran and to clarify aspects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that is set to take effect.
The legislation includes a regional security strategy for the Middle East and authorizes additional security assistance for Israel.
“The JCPOA will be implemented and we must now focus on how best to make this agreement succeed by strengthening U.S. policy toward Iran and bolstering our strategic plan for a very volatile Middle East region,” said Senator Cardin. “Previously, U.S. policy toward Iran was so effective because of the congressional unity that brought Democrats and Republicans together on this issue. We as Democratic opponents and supporters of the Iran agreement are taking the first step forward to chart a new course that borrows from past practice. We must all stand firmly in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We must agree to counter Iranian support for terrorism and confront Iranian violations of international human rights obligations. We must rally together to accomplish these objectives.”
“This bill was drafted by senators who supported and did not support the JCPOA to help develop a cohesive strategy for U.S. policies toward Iran and the region,” said Senator Bennet. “It will strengthen implementation of the nuclear agreement and reiterate our support for Israel. It reiterates that all options, including the use of force, remain available to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Through increased cooperation with our partners, it will help counter Iranian-backed terrorism and contribute to long-term interdiction and non-proliferation efforts in the region. This is the beginning of a long process in which Congress has an important role to play and Senator Cardin deserves great credit for the leadership he has exhibited on this bill.”
“This proposal strengthens and improves the agreement – while in no way contradicting or undermining it – by providing vital oversight and vigorous enforcement to prevent a nuclear armed Iran,” said Senator Blumenthal. “It confirms by law that a nuclear-armed Iran will never be permitted; reaffirms our dedication to sanctions related to terror financing and human rights abuses; and assures that our allies, especially Israel, will be provided with enhanced assets needed to deter Iran. The proposal seeks a regional strategy that pushes back against Iran’s malign, destabilizing influence – an approach hopefully bringing together both Republicans and Democrats. I support Congress taking additional steps, consistent with the Iran nuclear agreement, to crack down on the growing threat of Hezbollah and other terrorist extremists, and assure that verification and inspection are strictly enforced.”
“For this nuclear agreement to be successful, there must be zero tolerance for cheating by Iran,” said Senator Wyden. “When it comes to the duplicitous and untrustworthy Iranian regime, the United States and our allies need every ounce of deterrence at our disposal in order to hold Iran’s leaders to their commitments, which is why we’re introducing this legislation today.”
“Now that the Iran nuclear deal will move forward, it is critical that Congress works with the Administration to strengthen the agreement and minimize any potential negative consequences,” said Senator Coons. “The Iran Policy Oversight Act will address the issues not resolved by the Iran deal, including reminding Iran that we reserve all options, including the military option, if it tries to break out towards a bomb, strengthening support for our allies and partners in the region, and pushing back against Iran’s support for terrorist proxies. I urge my colleagues to put aside partisan bickering and pass this bill to ensure the U.S. leads our partners in strictly enforcing this deal from day one.”
“This bill is a positive step forward that helps enhance the United States’ ability to enforce and monitor the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” said Senator Schumer. As Israel continues to face threats from Iran, we need to make sure the United States can provide the necessary security assistance to help Israel deter and counter those threats, and this bill does exactly that.
“While I believe the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is our best option available to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Congress can and should shore up some of the agreement’s weaker points,” said Senator Warner. “I join my colleagues – both supporters and opponents of the JCPOA – to introduce this legislation that clarifies that Congress retains the ability to pass sanctions against Iran, explains that the agreement does not shield foreign companies if sanctions must be re-imposed, and codifies our intent to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.”
“While my colleagues and I may have come to different conclusions on the Iran deal, we are united in our dedication to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, whatever it takes,” said Senator Booker. “In the interest of America’s national security and that of our allies, it is imperative that we move forward with unified vigilance and an unwavering commitment to hold Iran accountable. I am pleased to join my colleagues to introduce legislation that strengthens our policy towards Iran.”
“The Iran Policy Oversight Act will strengthen the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, enhance Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and provide greater assurances to our partners in the Middle East,” said Senator Schatz. “In particular, this bill will establish a multiyear process to help the United States monitor how Iran is using the funds it receives as a result of sanctions relief and determine if any of that money is being diverted, directly or indirectly, to support terrorism. Importantly, it will help ensure that the United States has the resources it needs to counter Iranian aggression and human rights abuses in the region and that, should Iran violate this historic nuclear agreement incrementally or abruptly, we have the resources to respond in an appropriate and measured way.”
The Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 contains the following key provisions:
- Sets future U.S. policy on Iran regarding nuclear issues: Iran does not have an inherent right to uranium enrichment; the United States will deter Iran from destabilizing regional activity and support for and acts of terrorism; and all of the options available to the United States, including the military option, remain available to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.
- Explicitly authorizes additional, specific security assistance to Israel and cooperation with Israel, including:
- Applicable ordnance and delivery systems to counter non-peaceful nuclear activities by Iran to ensure the President can take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge and effectively deter conventional and nuclear threats.
- Any additional foreign military financing as may be needed to address threats from Iran; and
- Acceleration of co-development of missile defense systems and other cooperation to bolster the effectiveness of Israel’s conventional deterrent.
- Requires the Administration to submit:Continues in effect sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals engaged in ballistic or cruise missile proliferation and terrorism. Also continues in effect sanctions related to human rights abuses.
- A regional strategy for Countering Conventional and Asymmetric Iranian Activity and Threats in the Middle East and North Africa due January 2016, and every two years thereafter;
- Reports detailing Iran’s use of funds received through sanctions relief and changes in funding for regional activities and support for terrorism;
- Reports detailing Iran’s nuclear research & development activities as well as estimated nuclear weapon capability breakout time; and
- A report addressing the IAEA’s report on the Potential Military Dimension (PMD) issue.
- Puts in place expedited procedures for consideration of new terrorism sanctions against Iran if Iran (1) directs or conducts an act of terrorism against the United States; or (2) substantially increases its operational or financial support for a terrorist organization that threatens U.S. interests or allies.
- Sets United States policy on effective re-imposition of sanctions, including US readiness to enforce any violation of the JCPOA as well as joining with our European allies to re-impose sanctions in a calibrated manner in the event Iran violates the JCPOA incrementally.
- Provides a Sense of the Congress regarding Iran’s ballistic or cruise missile capability, that Iran should continue to be prohibited from undertaking any activity related to a ballistic or cruise missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic or cruise missile technology, and that UN member states should take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance in these areas.
- Requires the President to appoint a Coordinator within the Department of State to lead an interagency effort to (1) ensure that the nuclear steps Iran committed to in the JCPOA are fully implemented and verified; and (2) address Iran’s support for acts of international terrorism, ballistic and cruise missile proliferation, and human rights abuses.
- Authorizes funding for the International Atomic Energy Agencyfor fiscal years 2016 through 2026 necessary to meet the United States’ annual funding commitments to the IAEA as well as the United States’ portion of additional funds needed for the IAEA to fulfill its verification responsibilities under the JCPOA.
- Requires a report outlining efforts with international partners to ensure the IAEA receives the full additional $10,600,000 per year necessary to fulfill its verification responsibilities under the JCPOA, and identifying an impediments to achieving such funding.
- Clarifies key interpretive issues in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)including:
- No sanctions relief will be provided to Iran until it meets its commitments related to resolution of Potential Military Dimension (PMD) issues.
- Any action by Iran to treat the legitimate imposition of sanctions by the US based on support for terrorism, abuses of human rights, or Iran’s ballistic or cruise missile activities as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA would not be valid and would be inconsistent with the terms of the JCPOA.
- There is no “grandfather clause” that would shield ongoing sanctionable activities by foreign firms in the event of a snap-back of Iran sanctions.