WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held a hearing with former U.S. diplomats to the Middle East to discuss how a nuclear agreement with Iran would impact U.S. interests in the region. As negotiators from the P5+1 nations and Iran attempt to meet a June 30 deadline for a final agreement, the committee is holding a series of briefings and hearings this month to prepare members for congressional review of a final deal if one is reached.
“This [hearing] is intended to highlight some of the concerns that the administration is so focused on reaching an agreement with Iran that some of the U.S. interests and concerns of our regional alliances are not really being looked at or examined,” said Corker. “Against a backdrop of unprecedented turmoil in the Middle East, the administration is negotiating a nuclear agreement with the arch rival of many of our closest allies. Instead of reassuring our traditional allies that the United States will remain a friend, some would say that the administration has implemented a string of incoherent and self-defeating policies.”
Ambassador James Jeffrey, the Philip Solondz distinguished visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, disagreed with President Obama’s recent assessment in an interview with NPR that removing sanctions on Iran under a final agreement “in many ways” would make “it harder for them to engage in behaviors that are contrary to international norms”.
“It begins with the idea do we think that signing this agreement is going to either flip Iran into being a status quo power in the region or serve as some kind of encouragement that that will happen over the longer term? I see no evidence of that given Iran’s past and given its ideological and religious role in the region and the very strong efforts it has made…to have a hegemonic position in the region,” said Jeffrey. “So it is very hard for me to believe that they will not use some part of [sanctions relief] to further enhance their efforts from Gaza, to Lebanon, to Iraq, to Syria, to Yemen, and they will find new places as well. So it will be more of a threat because of that.”
If a deal is reached, Ambassador Martin Indyk, Executive Vice President of Brookings Institution, said the U.S. needs a strategy for the region to avoid turmoil caused by Iranian attempts to dominate the Middle East.
“As a complement to the deal, there has to be a U.S. strategy for the region that is designed to deal with Iran’s destabilizing activities,” said Indyk. “Sunni Arab states will not accept Iranian domination. And so the consequences of a greater success by Iran in dominating the region will be a countervailing effort to prevent that from happening and therefore a depending sectarian Sunni-Shia conflict.”
Ambassador Jeffrey also highlighted the importance of a credible threat of military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, particularly after the initial 10 years of an agreement when many of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would cease.
“At the end of the 10 years…I’ve seen indications that within just a couple of months…they could probably return to a nuclear weapons capability of significant amount for one nuclear device,” said Jeffrey. “Whether we have one year or one week, the question is: if they are moving to a nuclear weapon what are we going to do about it? And more importantly what do they think we are going to do about it, which is why I get to the importance of not just the president, any president, saying he or she will use military force, but the importance of the U.S. people and the U.S. Congress saying that. That’s in the end the only thing that is going to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon.”
For full details on the hearing and archive footage, visit: http://1.usa.gov/1BKx2VA.