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Chairman Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Hearing on Implications of a Nuclear Iran

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing titled “Regional implications of a nuclear deal with Iran.”

“Thanks to our panelists who I know will provide thoughtful insights into the regional implications of a nuclear deal with Iran.

“International attention is feverishly focused on the question of “IF” the P5+1 and Iran will be able to agree and on what. I have strong views on what I think that agreement should look like, and IF we reach an agreement how we ensure Iranian compliance.  

“First, it is my view that any deal with Iran MUST demand significant dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including:

• Eliminating the vast majority of Iran’s centrifuge cascades and LEU, which cannot mean leaving large stockpiles of LEU in oxide form that can be easily re-converted;

• Terminating Iran’s research and development efforts to create more advanced centrifuges; and,

• Fundamentally altering the internal infrastructure of the Arak facility, not just powering it down to a lower mega-watt facility.

“Together these elements must move the timeline for detectable breakout by Iran beyond a year.

“Second, Iran must come clean and provide information about the military dimensions of its nuclear program, and allow access to facilities where these activities have been taking place.

“Third, the agreement must include a long-term robust inspections and verification regime – hopefully in the 20-year range – in other words at least as long as Iran has been lying to the world about its program.

“Fourth, any suspension of sanctions will require Iran to meet a series of clear benchmarks. There must be clear demarcations of what constitutes a breach, including implications for both nominal failure to comply and significant material breaches.  Repercussions for a breach by Iran will be snapback provisions for sanctions. At the end of the day, the specifics of the agreement will not be worth the paper they are written on if Iran believes it can cheat without significant repercussions.

“Now, less attention is focused on perhaps the more critical, strategically relevant question… What happens after a deal?  What are the strategic implications for the United States, for our allies and partners? What are the strategic implications of a politically and economically resurgent Iran, and what are the goals of its leaders in the aftermath of such a deal? I personally doubt that the nuclear deal is part of broader Iranian aspiration for a rapprochement with the United States.

“This hearing will focus on what we should expect, how we should be preparing, and options we should be considering if there is a deal... In other words, we must plan for a potential success. In my view, “success” will not be defined exclusively by whether or not we get a “good” deal with Iran. The illicit nuclear program is only one pillar of much broader and equally troubling Iranian actions. Iranian support for terrorism goes back decades and, as we speak, Iran is actively cultivating terrorist networks and violent proxies across the region – in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and beyond.

“Our Gulf partners are very concerned about Iran-sponsored terrorism. I heard this very clearly from Saudi and Emirati officials during my recent visit to the Gulf. It is imperative that – if we achieve a nuclear deal with Iran – our partners and allies are reassured that the U.S. remains committed to their security and is not naïve about the nature of the Iran threat and Iranian hegemonic ambitions.

“It’s clear to me that our partners across the region are adopting hedging strategies toward Iran because U.S. commitment to the region is being actively questioned in light of our engagement with Iran and our hesitancy in Syria. This is evidenced by the string of Iranian official meetings and visits that has evolved from a trickle to a deluge. My concern is what will happen to Gulf relationships with Iran after a deal is reached?

“And finally, on sanctions, it’s my view that the international sanctions regime has been the single most influential determinant in keeping the Iranians at the negotiating table. I look forward to hearing from our panelists on what the regional implications of sanctions relief would be. How will the Iranian government use this potential economic windfall? Can we control access to these assets to ensure that Iran is not increasing investment in regional destabilization? 

“At the end of the day, we must remain cognizant of Iranian motivations in pursuing a deal – is it merely about sanctions relief for the leadership in Tehran? Or is this about a broader realignment that could have serious strategic implications for the multi-dimensional chess game being played across the Middle East?

“With that, let me recognize Senator Corker for his opening remarks.”


“Today we have a single panel of well-regarded experts.

“We are pleased to welcome Ambassador Dennis Ross, Counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Scott Modell, Senior Associate and holder of the Burke Chair in Strategy at The Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“And Dr. Frederick W. Kagan, Christopher DeMuth Chair and Director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

“Welcome to all of you, and thank you for taking the time to be here.”