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Chairman Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Hearing on Iran P5+1 Negotiation Extensions

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 “Iran P5+1 Negotiation Extensions.”

“We have two panels today to give us an overview of the status of the P5+1 talks – looking back at what we’ve learned over the last six months and looking ahead at what might change between now and November that could ultimately get us the good deal we all hope for.

“What I would like to hear from our witnesses who have been across the table from the Iranians – given the underwhelming concessions achieved to date– is what you have learned over the last six months that leads you to believe that we can reach a comprehensive deal in the next four months.

“Everyone here knows where I stand. I’ve been skeptical of the Iranians’ sincerity from day one, and I cannot say that I am any less skeptical today than I was six months ago.  I do not believe Tehran has had a change of heart about its nuclear program. 

“I do believe the Iranians want relief from sanctions and that is why they are at the table.  I also believe we have the leverage in this negotiation and that we should use it to get a good deal or no deal at all.

“Now, what I want to know is whether you believe an extension will give us a good deal – a deal that alters Iran’s nuclear heading – postpones breakout; dismantles Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure; puts in place a long-term inspection, verification and monitoring regime; and calibrates sanctions relief to specific benchmarks, including a resolution of the possible military dimension of Iran’s program.

“I don’t want the State Department talking points today.  I want to hear from our panelists why they believe, based on their experience over the last six months – four additional months will make a difference.

“What the Committee needs to hear now is what happened at the negotiating table that brought Iran closer to a deal – if only they had another four months.

“That said, let me repeat my position: I support the Administration’s diplomatic efforts. I have always supported a bipartisan two-track policy of diplomacy and sanctions. At the same time, I have always believed we should only relieve pressure on Iran in exchange for long-term and verifiable concessions that will fundamentally dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.  And that any deal be structured in such a way that alarm bells will sound – from Vienna to Washington, Moscow and Beijing – should Iran restart its program anytime in the next 20 to 30 years.

“I also want to be clear today that I will not support another extension of negotiations.  At that point, Iran will have exhausted its opportunities to put real concessions on the table and I will be prepared to move forward with additional sanctions.”