WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (HR 1191):
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Our negotiators continue to hammer out the details of an agreement with Iran that will hopefully foreclose all pathways to a nuclear weapon. And as I’ve said again and again, if a deal is struck, Congress must have a proper role in assessing that deal. That’s what we’re doing now. That’s the purpose of the legislation before us today. And this legislation passed the other body by a vote of 98 to one.
“If a deal is reached, what are the things I’ll be looking for?
“First, what will sanctions relief look like? Will it be a step-by-step process so that Iran is forced to comply with the agreement? And how will we ensure that this financial windfall for Iran won’t just be used to fund terrorism around the world?
“Secondly, will a deal compel Iran to come clean on its weaponization work?
“And thirdly, will Iran’s leaders agree to a verification and inspection regime that will allow for snap inspections of nuclear sites? Snap inspections means that the inspectors can go all over Iran. They don’t need special permission. And we’ve not been hearing such positive things from the Iranian leadership, who say that they will never allow inspectors on their military grounds.
“We need answers to these questions. We need time to take a hard look at any deal and make sure there are no loopholes that Iran’s leaders might be able to exploit.
“The bill we’re debating today would give us that time.
“My frustration with these negotiations has stemmed from the fact that Iran was not required to cease its uranium enrichment while negotiating. When we sat down with Iran at the very beginning, more than a year ago to negotiate with them, we should have said, while we’re talking, you stop enriching. We didn’t say that. I think that was a mistake.
“Additionally, we negotiate as Iran continues its nefarious behavior around the world—in Syria, in Yemen, against Israel, support for terrorism. There is no sign that this agreement will lead to Iran stopping its support for terrorism or human rights violations. And yet massive sanctions relief is on the table.
“The fact of the matter is it’s very frustrating that we’re talking with Iran only about their nuclear weapons. We’re not talking about the fact that they’re the leading sponsor of terrorism, or they’re making trouble in Syria where so many hundreds of thousands of innocents have died, or making trouble in Yemen, or supporting Hezbollah, supporting Hamas. It really is frustrating that we’re talking about one aspect, their nuclear program, and meanwhile they are free, apparently, to do whatever else they want. This really should not stand.
“But perhaps the biggest question I have is whether Iran’s leaders will ultimately be able to make the tough choices necessary to show the world that they are serious about living up to their commitments. This is a high bar to clear, and Iran’s leaders, unfortunately, have given us no reason to trust them.
“I remain concerned that the messages we are hearing from Iran directly contradict what the Administration has told us. Iran’s leaders have said that sanctions will be lifted immediately upon the signing of an agreement, and that Iran will never accept inspections of their military sites.
“This begs the question: is Iran serious about these negotiations? We are told that any kind of sanctions relief will be incremental as Iran complies. The Iranian leaders are telling their public differently. We obviously have to settle this glaring discrepancy.
“That’s why this bill also includes provisions in case Iran reneges on its commitments. If Iran cheats, it would trigger immediate consideration of legislation that puts sanctions back in place.
“But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. The best way to avoid another war in the Middle East is a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. I wish our negotiators success. And I hope this legislation sends a clear message that Congress is taking its role seriously, that we aren’t playing politics with this issue, and that we want these negotiations to result in a strong, verifiable deal that keeps a nuclear bomb out of Iran’s hands.
“And I agree with Secretary Kerry when he says that no deal is better than a bad deal. The question is, we want to make sure a bad deal isn’t sold as a good deal. And that’s why it’s important for Congress to be engaged.
“Thank you Mr. Speaker. I reserve the balance of my time.”