WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement on the announced agreement between the P5+1 and Iran:
“This morning, the P5+1 reached a deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Sanctions will not be lifted until the IAEA has certified that Iran is in compliance with this agreement. Iran is permitting unprecedented access to suspected nuclear sites, including military facilities, to verify compliance. However, the arms embargo on Iran will be lifted within five years and sanctions on its ballistic missiles will be lifted within eight years. Throughout negotiations, these issues were off the table, so seeing them included in sanctions relief is deeply troubling.
“But no matter what the agreement says, we should be clear: our issues with Iran are far from resolved. This agreement seeks to settle one aspect of Iran’s dangerous behavior. But Iran remains destructive around the globe. Iran is going to remain a problem—not a partner—for the United States and our allies in the Middle East.
“The Middle East continues to be engulfed in turmoil, due in no small part to Iran’s influence. The Iranian regime remains intent on stoking instability and sectarian violence in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. It also continues to support terrorist organizations that threaten Israel. I remain uncomfortable with the fact that we have spent so much time negotiating with a country that opposes our interests in so many ways across the region.
“Iran’s negative impact in the region fuels my concern about what Iran’s leaders will do if sanctions are lifted. That will allow resources to flow freely into Iran’s coffers. Will those resources end up helping the people of Iran, as its leaders have claimed, or will this financial windfall lead to increased support for terrorism and other nefarious activities?
“When sanctions are eased, then Congress must use every tool at our disposal to prevent Iran from plowing its newfound wealth into violence and turmoil. Just last week, Syria’s President Assad accepted a $1billion line of credit from Iran to help sustain his murderous regime. Iran has transferred millions to Gaza in recent months, which will help Hamas rebuild the tunnels it uses to kidnap, kill, and terrorize Israelis. We need to make sure that a nuclear deal doesn’t make these problems worse.
“As Congress reviews this deal, we will have to consider what the alternatives are. We will not be choosing between this deal and a perfect deal. And if this deal goes through, Congress must be ready if Iran fails to comply with the agreement. In that case, we can’t only rely on snapback sanctions provided for in the agreement. Congress should be ready to complement those provisions with increased pressure on Iran. A good starting point would be the Nuclear Free Iran Act, which Chairman Royce and I passed in the last Congress. This legislation would target Iran’s remaining oil exports, prevent access to its overseas reserves, and blacklist certain strategic sectors of the Iranian economy. The House passed this legislation by a vote of 400 to 20 in July 2013.
“If Iran fails to comply and the international sanctions regime collapses—and that’s a real possibility, given recent actions by Russia and China—we will have to consider the whole range of options if Iran races toward a bomb. A military strike would have severe consequences for our allies and interests in the region, and is by no means the only alternative to a deal. But a credible threat to destroy Iran’s nuclear program must remain on the table, as it always has been.
“I look forward to reviewing the agreement in more detail and will seek extensive briefings from the Administration to examine its provisions.”