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- As Delivered -

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at the Committee hearing addressing the implications of the nuclear agreement with Iran.  This hearing is part of the 60-day review period allowing Members of Congress to assess the deal and its implications for U.S. national security and American interests abroad:    


“Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today’s hearing.  When all is said and done with the Iran deal, I don’t think anyone will accuse this Committee of skimping on our due diligence.  We’ve heard from administration officials and experts from across the spectrum.  So thank you for your leadership, Mr. Chairman, and thoroughness on this issue.


“To our witnesses: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  I look forward to your testimony. I certainly respect everyone’s opinions, even though they may differ than mine. But as I announced a month ago, I cannot support the Iran nuclear deal.  I’ve laid out the concerns that led me to that decision, and I’ll quickly recap.


“First of all, I’m not persuaded that this deal will give IAEA inspectors the access they need to do their jobs.  Between potentially lengthy delays and confusion over inspecting the Parchin military base, this deal leaves too many loopholes for the Iranians to slip through.  Unfettered access for inspectors is the only way we can be sure Iran stops its work towards a nuclear weapon.  And this deal does not provide unfettered access.


“Secondly, I believe the deal gives away too much when it comes to sanctions on advanced conventional weapon and ballistic missile development.  As far as I knew, these issues weren’t even on the table.  Yet with this deal, a few years down the road, Iran could be buying advanced weapons and building missiles, and still be fully compliant with its obligations.  And even if Iran were to violate these provisions early, that violation wouldn’t trigger a snapback of economic sanctions.


“Which brings me to another concern: what will Iran’s leaders do when they again have access to the billions and billions of dollars currently frozen by international sanctions?  Even with the sanctions in place, Iran has been the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.  When these new resources pour into Iran, I have no doubt it will mean payday for Hamas, Hezbollah, and other extremist groups around the world.  The intentions are pretty clear of leaders who chant ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ just days after concluding an agreement.


“And lastly, and fundamentally, 15 years from now this deal allows Iran to produce highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium without any restriction.  This deal legitimizes Iran as a nuclear threshold state in the year 2030.  It gives Iran’s leaders the green light to build a stockpile of nuclear fuel.  If they pursue that course—and I believe they will—it could trigger a nuclear arms race across the region.  Even a decade and a half away, that’s a risk we cannot take.


“Those are my chief concerns.  And that’s why I can’t support this deal.  But I don’t think anyone here would disagree that it’s going to be very difficult to stop this deal from being implemented.  So I think it’s important for us to start considering: what are the next steps if and when this deal goes through?


“What will we need to ensure the security of Israel and our other friends and allies in the region, including the Sunni Gulf states?  What steps can be taken to prevent Iran’s newfound wealth from ending up in terrorist hands?


“I know we’ll hear a lot today from witnesses and my colleagues that this is not the deal we hoped for.  And I agree.  But I do believe this Committee now has a responsibility to look ahead and think strategically about what comes next.


“So I look forward to hearing from our witnesses, Mr. Chairman. I thank you again, and I yield back.”