Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a hearing of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism on the Trump Administration’s policy toward Iran:
“Thank you Chairman Deutch, Ranking Member Wilson, thank you for calling this hearing. And Special Representative Hook, thank you for appearing here today.
“I have been among the biggest critics of the Tehran regime in Congress. I didn’t vote for the JCPOA because I felt it didn’t prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. It only postponed it. I didn’t like the fact that they would be awash with cash to continue their terrorist activities.
“Iran is the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism. Its support for the Assad regime. Its abysmal record on human rights. Its imprisonment of Americans. And all this harmful behavior has isolated Iran and made them a threat to our security and that of our allies and partners.
“These destabilizing and dangerous behaviors must end.
“And frankly, Iran’s recent attacks on tankers in the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman are setting the region on a course to war. We obviously need to deescalate this situation before the worst happens.
“However, the Administration’s most recent steps seem to be pushing us more toward confrontation than negotiation. The carrier group, rushing through the arms sale to Saudi Arabia—and we did a lot of work with that on this committee last week—coming up with a phony emergency to circumvent Congress and get these missiles to Saudi Arabia, putting more boots on the ground for supposedly defensive reasons, all framed by increasingly belligerent rhetoric. It does bother me because we should be trying to prevent confrontation.
“So I want to tell you what I see, Mr. Hook. I see a growing risk of miscalculation. I see more and more scenarios that could spark a conflict—that could lead to the United States stumbling into war. What I’d like to hear from the Administration is the clearest possible statement that the United States is not looking for war with Iran and how we can get Iran back to the negotiating table.
“And if we can’t hear that from the Administration, I want to make it very clear, Mr. Hook, that military action against Iran without the approval of Congress is absolutely not an option. Congress has coequal powers under the constitution and, you know, we went through 20 years of going along with wars because we were told certain things were a fact when in fact they weren’t. So I think that Congress has to play a major role and the AUMF from 2001 has no relevance with the situation with Iran today. I will resist the Administration using that as an excuse to go to war.
“If the Administration sees a threat that requires military force against Iran, your first stop is right here on Capitol Hill. There is no law—no aging authorization from another conflict—that’s the 2001 AUMF—that could apply to war against Iran. The Administration would need prior authorization from Congress before going to war.
“So I want to just make my position very clear and say that my opinions of the Iranian regime have not changed. They are dangerous. They’re the most dangerous regime in the Middle East. And they are the number one state sponsor of terrorism. But that is not an excuse for the United States to plunge into another war without congressional approval.”
# # #