Corker: U.S. Policy Must not be Held Hostage by Iranian Threats to Walk Away from Nuclear Deal

Senator Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Hold Iran Accountable for Ballistic Missile Violations, Terrorism and Other Hostile Actions


WASHINGTON – During a hearing today to assess the Iran nuclear deal one year later, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reaffirmed his opposition to the agreement and warned against U.S. policy being held hostage by Iranian threats to walk away from its nuclear commitments. Today, Corker introduced bipartisan legislation that expands sanctions for ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, and other illicit Iranian actions; sanctions transfers of conventional weapons to or from Iran; and extends the Iran Sanctions Act. Since the agreement was reached in Vienna a year ago today, Iran has remained the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and repeatedly violated international restrictions on ballistic missile development despite having received billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for temporary limitations on its nuclear program. 

“I opposed the Iran nuclear deal because I did not believe that it would ultimately prevent the regime from developing a nuclear weapon and would instead embolden the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism while diminishing our leverage to stop them,” said Corker. “To restore resolve in our Iran policy, I am introducing bipartisan legislation with other committee members that mandates tough sanctions for ballistic missile activity, terrorism, and other threatening behavior. I plan to work with everyone here on this legislation and ensure that U.S. policy is not held hostage by Iran’s threats to walk away from the nuclear agreement.”

Corker pointed to a series of disturbing reports about Iran’s hostile intentions and continued efforts to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile program. Last week, German intelligence revealed evidence of Iran’s covert attempts to purchase banned nuclear technology in 2015.

“One year after the agreement was concluded, the Iranian regime remains as serious a threat to our national security as ever before,” added Corker.

The committee heard testimony today from sanctions experts Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Richard Nephew of Columbia University. Both argued in favor of further sanctions legislation from Congress to deter Iran.

“The JCPOA lifts sanctions on Iran’s nuclear activities, but it does not preclude the United States from using non-nuclear sanctions – despite statements from Iran that it will view any imposition of sanctions as a violation of the deal and grounds to ‘snapback’ its nuclear program,” wrote Dubowitz in his testimony. “Congress should reject that Iranian position – which amounts to a form of nuclear blackmail – and hold the administration accountable for its commitments to ‘oppose Iran’s destabilizing policies with every national security tool available.’ Sanctions need to be imposed to target Iran’s support for terrorism, ballistic missile program, support for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and designated Shiite militias in Iraq, and human rights abuses. These steps are not a violation of the JCPOA, but rather an affirmation of the stated U.S. policy.”

Nephew shared a similar view that the U.S. should not be constrained from imposing sanctions for illicit Iranian activities outside the scope of the nuclear agreement.

“[I]t is reasonable to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) and to consider new legislation that would impose penalties on those who support Iran’s development of and trade in missiles and conventional arms, as well as violations of Iranian human rights,” Nephew stated in his testimony.

For archived footage and complete witness testimony, click here.

###