Washington D.C. – Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, gave the following statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s full committee hearing “Examining Nuclear Negotiations: Iran After Rouhani’s First 100 Days.”

“I’d like to thank Chairman Royce for holding this important hearing and to welcome all of our witnesses.”

“In late September, Chairman Royce and I wrote an op-ed about Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. We were curious if --beyond the charm offensive and gentle smile -- he would use his first 100 days in office to fundamentally change the direction of the Iranian government, and demonstrate a genuine willingness to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

“After Rouhani’s first 105 days in office, it’s clear that Iran still poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies. Iran remains the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism and continues to support Hezbollah; they are actively supporting the Assad regime in Syria, which has slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent civilians; and, they are working to destabilize our allies in the Gulf.”

“But the biggest threat, by far, is Iran’s continuing effort to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Many experts believe that Iran is approximately one year away from acquiring this capability, and we must do everything possible to prevent that from happening.”

“The successive sanctions bills crafted by this committee and signed into law by President Obama, taken together with international sanctions, have had a devastating impact on Iran’s economy. Iran is having trouble selling its oil on the global markets, has been cut off from the international financial system, and is starved for hard currency.”

“This intense pressure brought Iran back to the negotiating table, and it must be maintained – and strengthened if necessary -- until Iran has taken verifiable steps to freeze and even dismantle its nuclear weapons program.”

“The Iranians are masters at negotiation for the sake of buying time. We must remember that Rouhani formerly served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, and he has bragged about deceiving the West in previous negotiations. So while we must have a genuine openness to a diplomatic process that resolves all outstanding issues, we must judge Iran by its actions, not the rhetoric of the new government.”

“About four weeks ago, the Iranians came to Geneva with what appeared to be a new attitude. For the first time, they admitted that the sanctions were hurting them badly. And for the first time, they started talking about the specifics of an agreement.”

“Since that initial meeting, technical experts from the P5+1 have met with their Iranian counterparts to discuss the contours of a possible deal. And at the end of last week, another key meeting took place at the ministerial level.”

“Much has been reported in the press about this latest meeting, the offer that was left on the table, and the reactions of Iran and the P5+1. Let’s be clear – none of us here today were at the negotiating table, and as far as I know, none of us have yet been briefed on the details. So I think it would be wise for all of us to speak with some degree of caution until all the facts are known.”

“Having said that, I’m deeply troubled by reports that the proposed agreement would not have required Tehran to stop all enrichment. If Iran intends to show good faith during these talks, I believe it must -- at a minimum -- abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a halt to enrichment, and it is my hope that we achieve much more. In addition, I forcefully reject any notion that Iran has a ‘right’ to enrichment, a position the Administration has publicly supported on numerous occasions.”

“Given the failure to reach an agreement in Geneva, I believe it’s time for my colleagues in the Senate to take up the Iran sanctions legislation I co-authored with Chairman Royce -- and which the House passed overwhelmingly this summer. We must make it crystal clear to Tehran that even tougher sanctions are coming down the pike if the regime is unwilling to take concrete and verifiable steps to freeze and then dismantle its nuclear weapons program.”

“I know the Secretary of State has a profound interest in the legislation Congress is considering on Iran. I hope the Administration understands that we cannot take their concerns fully into account, nor truly understand events at the negotiation table, or grasp the impact our legislation may have on their efforts, if they do not do a better job of keeping Congress informed.”

“I support the President’s effort to engage Iran and believe we must continue to explore every diplomatic option to resolve this crisis. Nobody wants another conflict in the Middle East. But we must also recognize the fact that Iran is getting closer and closer to a nuclear weapons capability with each passing day. There is still time to test Iran’s intentions, but that time is growing short.”

“Mr. Chairman, thanks again for holding this hearing. I look forward to hearing the suggestions from our witness about the next best steps to take to tackle this difficult problem.”