May 25, 2022

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on the JCPOA Negotiations and Iran Policy

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on JCPOA negotiations and U.S. policy on Iran moving forward. The committee heard witness testimony from Mr. Robert Malley, special envoy for Iran at State, Mr. Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Mr. Mark Dubowitz, chief executive officer of The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.  

“First off, Mr. Malley, thank you for taking the time to meet with me, which you do from time to time. I sincerely appreciate it. You don’t have a difficult job – you have an impossible job. The administration has given you a rubber hammer to do a job that a steel mallet couldn’t do. And I appreciate your initial efforts in that regard, but as we discussed in our most recent meeting, time has long since passed and it’s time to turn our attention in other directions.

“Here we go again, the administration has argued that Iran is galloping towards a nuclear device, and we’re left with the choice of the JCPOA or an unconstrained Iranian regime.

“This is a false choice. It remains that the JCPOA was fatally flawed in 2015 and it is fatally flawed today. The JCPOA fails to adequately contain the Iranian regime and safeguard American national security interests.   

“We’re all familiar with the deal’s sunsets. The conventional weapons embargo has already expired. The deal’s ban on ballistic missiles expires next year. The entire deal remains bound by a ‘termination day’ in 2025 where the UN Security Council ends consideration of Iranian nuclear matters, and the resolution's snapback mechanism ceases.

“Iran’s nuclear program is only one aspect of its malign behavior though, as the chairman so adequately pointed out. Over the past four decades, the Iranian regime has murdered its own citizens, murdered Americans, made hostage-taking a central tenet in its foreign policy, exported terrorism on a global scale, and represents the principal threat to stability in the Middle East.

“Despite promises of ‘longer and stronger,’ which were all made in this room and were made individually to each of us at the beginning of this administration, it’s clear that that was a bumper sticker only, which I believed and said at the time. The current approach does not address Iran’s regional terrorism, ballistic missile activity, ongoing Iranian threats to former U.S. officials, or returning American hostages to their loved ones. In fact, sanctions relief fuels Iran’s terror proxies, just as the 2015 JCPOA did. We saw pallets of cash delivered to the Iranians at the conclusion of the negotiations of that in 2015. And where do you think that money went? We know it didn’t go to help the Iranian people for domestic programs or anything else. It was converted, at least partially, into missiles that today have been transported to Lebanon, to Syria, and are aimed at Israel and other places. That’s where that cash wound up.

“Worse, the JCPOA provides a potential sanctions lifeline to Russia that will enrich Putin for continued nuclear work in the midst of his assault against Ukraine.

“Talks remain stalled, and it’s clear the Iranian regime is negotiating in bad faith as it always does. And while it continues to levy unreasonable demands to re-enter the nuclear deal, instead of prolonging this period of uncertainty, it’s long past time the administration end negotiations and implement a more holistic Iran policy. We’d like to hear about that holistic policy today.

“We need to end this never-ending parade of reference to percent enrichment and volume of nuclear material. This is not the measurement of Iran’s evil, but only a mere small part of it. And the Israelis have vowed to handle that end of the problem, and they will. Iran knows it, and we know it. 

“On the economic front, sanctions enforcement is sadly lacking. We must close sanctions loopholes, including Chinese purchases of Iranian oil. Iran, confident in its resistance economy, must again feel significantly more economic pressure.

“On the diplomatic front, the United States must press for a censure of the Iranian regime at next month’s IAEA board of governors meeting. For too long, Iran has harassed and obstructed legitimate IAEA monitoring efforts without penalty. In tolerating this, the administration has greatly damaged the legitimacy and integrity of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the IAEA. We must hold Iran to its commitments, and make clear our support for the NPT and the IAEA.

“In addition to action at the IAEA, we must bring international pressure to bear. Iran must become a renewed topic of discussion at the UN Security Council. For too long, Iran policy has been an issue that has divided us from some our European partners. They have come to realize that the malignancy that they are dealing with and are willing to move forward with a new sense of reality.

“Finally, regional deterrence and U.S. responses to Iranian attacks against our troops and diplomats have been lacking. We must increase deterrence in the region, increase joint military exercises with Israel, and ensure our partners have the right tools to defend themselves.  

“Putin’s unprovoked attack and murder of thousands for no reason whatsoever, other than the fact that good people living in nearby, free, democratic countries have bound themselves together to respond effectively to such an attack, has once again reminded us that evil – real evil – exists in this world, and we must always be vigilant and ready to respond when, and if, it erupts.   

“Only through a comprehensive, multilateral approach can we confront the Iranian challenge. 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.

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