Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks, as prepared for delivery on the House Floor, for debate on the bipartisan Royce/Engel Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, H.R. 850.
The statement follows:
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 850, as amended, the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013.
It’s been a pleasure working with Chairman Ed Royce to craft this bipartisan legislation, which now has more than 370 cosponsors. We share the goal of preventing a nuclear-capable Iran, and I could not ask for a better partner in this effort.
Mr./Madam Speaker, I think all of us agree that a nuclear-capable Iran would pose a grave threat to the U.S., our allies in the region, and the future of the global nonproliferation regime.
And all of us are aware that Iran has violated numerous UN Security Council Resolutions, and repeatedly blocked IAEA inspectors seeking to investigate its nuclear program.
After many years of deceit and stonewalling by the Iranian regime, I continue to hold out hope that we can achieve a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis through diplomatic means.
But time is growing short. According to the IAEA, Iran is installing advanced centrifuges to enrich more uranium, and continues to build a heavy water reactor that could produce plutonium.
We must not allow the Iranians to play the same old game, engaging in endless negotiations with no results, while continuing to advance their nuclear program.
That’s why we must continue to pursue a two-track approach to Iran, one that incorporates both pressure and negotiations.
The legislation before us today will significantly ratchet up the pressure, and hopefully give our diplomats the leverage they need to persuade Iran that its only viable option is to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Among other things, this bill seeks to cut Iran’s oil exports by another one million barrels a day, a reduction of two-thirds from current levels. It also strengthens existing sanctions by authorizing the President to restrict significant commercial trade with Iran.
In addition, the bill seeks to deny the Iranian regime hard currency by enhancing efforts to cut off Iran’s access to Euro-denominated transactions.
Finally, the legislation imposes new sanctions against Iranian shipping and ports, and expands existing sanctions against Iranian human rights violators.
Mr. Speaker, some of my colleagues argue that we should delay sanctions until after the new President of Iran takes office. While I respect their views, and know they share the goal of preventing a nuclear-capable Iran, I believe we should take a different approach.
Our efforts to impose new sanctions should not be based on the Iranian political calendar. In my view, the paramount consideration should be the Iranian nuclear clock – the amount of time it will take Tehran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.
I have no reason to believe that the results of the recent Iranian election will fundamentally alter Iran’s current course. The unelected Supreme Leader remains the one true decision maker at the pinnacle of the regime. And President-elect Rouhani, who was directly involved in efforts to deceive the international community when he served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, made clear during the campaign that he supports Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
If Rouhani truly has the will and authority to make a bold gesture on Iran’s nuclear program -- like suspending enrichment -- he has a small window of opportunity before this bill becomes law. I think all of us would welcome such a gesture, but I’m not holding my breath.
Mr. Madam/Speaker, in closing, I’d just like to reiterate that by strengthening sanctions, we are not calling for an end of diplomacy. After many years of fruitless negotiations, it’s clear that talks will only succeed if the regime feels pressure to change course. And that is what we’re trying to accomplish with this legislation today.
I look forward to working with Chairman Royce to ensure that the strongest possible sanctions are enacted into law, and I reserve the balance of my time.