June 03, 2015

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on Implications of The Iran Nuclear Agreement For U.S. Policy In The Middle East

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Hearing: Implications Of The Iran Nuclear Agreement For U.S. Policy In The Middle East

June 3, 2015

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman
Opening Statement

This hearing is the part of a series of events we are holding this month to prepare members of the committee to evaluate a possible nuclear agreement with Iran.

We are not here today to focus on the specific parameter. Just for edification, last night we met in a classified setting with three of our leaders from our labs from around the country and our secretary of energy, and it was a very technically focused briefing. As a matter of fact, we had tremendous attendance. People were most interested in many of the technical details of the deal. The rest of the month we’ll have similar hearings so people are prepared as of June 30, if an agreement is reached, to really be able to assess that and not be starting from cold, if you will.

We appreciate you being here today to help us understand some of the grand regional implications of a deal.

This is intended to highlight some of the concerns that the administration is so focused on reaching an agreement with Iran that some of the U.S. interests and concerns of our regional alliances are not really being looked at or examined.

Against a backdrop of unprecedented turmoil in the Middle East, the administration is negotiating a nuclear agreement with the arch rival of many of our closest allies.

Instead of reassuring our traditional allies that the United States will remain a friend, some would say that the administration has implemented a string of incoherent and self-defeating policies. I know you all will discuss those back and forth.

The administration has threatened to revoke support for Israel at the U.N. while accommodating a nation that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

They have rebuked the Emirates for striking ISIS in Libya while asking them to strike ISIS in Syria.

They have withheld military equipment from Egypt, Bahrain, and Qatar while asking them to join in the fight against ISIS.

They have criticized Saudi Arabia for acting in Yemen while providing the Saudis military assistance for the same operation. So, there are a lot of cross-currents here that are difficult for us to string together.

In Iraq, Iraqi leaders are increasingly turning to Iranian-backed militias in the fight against ISIS.

And perhaps most tragically, in Syria, thousands of Syrians continue to die at the hands of Assad and his Iranian backers while the administration implements a strategy consisting of the ineffective use of military force, to be used only against ISIS itself. I think you may have seen a communique came from one of the leaders of the Syrian opposition where they were asked to sign a statement saying that they’re being trained and equipped by the United States, but they can only use that potential against ISIS and not against Assad. I know they sent out a communication that they were going to stop the communication and not participate. I understand sometimes that that’s a negotiating point, but certainly somewhat alarming.

As Iran deepens its influence in capitals from Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut and Sana’a, the perspective of many in the region is that the United States is Assad’s air force in Syria and Iran’s air force in Iraq. I will say, I was in Iraq recently and it really did feel like, while I support what we’re doing with the 3,100 personnel we have there, it really felt like what we were doing is helping create a better country for Iran in Iraq. Even though, again, I support what is happening there, it feels very much that way with their infiltration into the parliament and their tremendous efforts on the ground.

As we begin to look at how to evaluate a prospective nuclear agreement, we cannot ignore that the lack of coherent American leadership in the region has left a vacuum that will continue to be filled by violence.

Without defined, committed engagement to counter Iranian regional aggression and to support our partners, the need for American involvement will continue to grow as conditions deteriorate.

In your testimony today, I hope you will touch on what I see as some of the puzzling claims from the administration about what an agreement with Iran would mean for the region.

One of those claims is the apparent view of this administration that Iran will become a stabilizing force in the region. 

President Obama said in a recent NPR interview that opening up Iran’s economy through sanctions relief “in many ways makes it harder for them to engage in behaviors that are contrary to international norms.” I know that, again, many of our allies are concerned that, in accessing $150 billion potentially overtime and having a growing economy will have just the opposite effect and cause them to be even more strident in the region. Do you accept the view that the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, a nation that has directly contributed to the deaths of thousands of Americans would somehow reform their behavior after being enriched and empowered for pursuing an illegal nuclear program?

And finally, I hope you will touch on what the administration portrays as a choice between war and a deal. I think that’s a false choice, and I look forward to your testimony today.

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For full details on the hearing and archive footage, visit: http://1.usa.gov/1BKx2VA.