WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks addressing the Trump Administration’s latest actions on Iraq and Iran during his opening statement at a committee hearing exploring the future of arms control:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Before I turn to the topic of the hearing, I must address the Trump Administration’s latest actions on Iraq and Iran.
This morning, I woke up to the news that the Administration announced that it was ordering the departure of US embassy staff from our embassy in Baghdad and our consulate in Erbil.
There are only two reasons for ordering their departure: we have credible intelligence that our people are at risk, or in preparation for military action in Iran.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is charged with writing the laws that authorize the use of military force and of oversight of the State Department and the safety of those who work there.
And yet, the Trump Administration has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do in Iraq or Iran. I have repeatedly reminded the Administration of its responsibilities to this committee.
Mr. Chairman, I hope you will join me in asking the Administration to immediately provide this committee with a briefing on the decision to order the departure of the embassy staff, the intelligence on what Iran may be planning to do, and any plans to go to war with Iran.
I would add that while a briefing for all Senators is rumored for next week, that is no substitute for directly briefing this committee today, when there is clearly actionable intelligence available. Nor is that timeline itself acceptable.
Finally, I want to make two points absolutely clear on our policy towards Iran.
First, we need a diplomatic surge on Iran to meaningfully engage our allies and Iran in serious negotiations to end its pathway towards nuclear weapons and its malign activities.
Second, Congress has not authorized war with Iran, and the Administration, if it were contemplating military action with Iran, must come to Congress to seek approval.
I have spent the better part of two decades focused on stopping Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon and attacks against our allies, including Israel. There is a right way to pursue that policy and that goal, which I believe we all share and on which I think the Chairman and I have common cause. And there is a wrong way to do it - a way that endangers our allies, our interests, and our people. And I am deeply concerned that the way the administration is pursuing its policy now is leading us in the wrong way.”