“I believe that you have crossed a new threshold in U.S. foreign policy where now it is the policy of the United States to enable a state-sponsor of terror to obtain an industrialized nuclear development program...”
WASHINGTON – At the first in a series of hearings on the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned the agreement could ultimately reward a leading state-sponsor of terrorism with an industrial nuclear capability that would only be necessary for a weapons program. Testifying before the committee today were Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew.
“We began 20 months or so ago with a country that was a rogue nation that had a boot on its neck [from U.S. and international sanctions], and our goal was to dismantle their program,” said Corker. “We’ve ended up in a situation where the deal that’s on the table basically codifies the industrialization of their nuclear program. I believe that you have crossed a new threshold in U.S. foreign policy where now it is the policy of the United States to enable a state-sponsor of terror to obtain an industrialized nuclear development program that has, as we know, only one real need.”
President Obama argued in 2012 that he would only accept a deal requiring Iran to “end their nuclear program.” The agreement, which was submitted to Congress for a 60-day review period, provides Iran with hundreds of billions in sanctions relief in exchange for temporary restrictions on nuclear development, most of which expire after 10 years. Iran also won concessions that lift immediately a ban on ballistic missile testing, remove an embargo on ballistic missile sales after eight years, and remove an embargo on conventional weapons after five years.
Senator Corker rejected Secretary Kerry’s defense of the deal as the only option short of war with Iran.
“In the process of being fleeced, what you’ve really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress being a pariah,” said Corker. “A few weeks ago you were saying that no deal is better than a bad deal. And I know that there’s no way you could have possibly been thinking about war a few weeks ago. No way.”
Secretary Lew admitted the agreement restricts the ability of the United States to re-impose certain sanctions to counter Iran’s support of terrorism since the penalties would be grounds for Iran to “cease compliance” with constraints on their nuclear program.
“[W]e can't just put it right back in place everything that was part of the nuclear sanctions, and just put a new label on it,” said Lew.
Corker also raised grave concern with the fact that details of a side arrangement between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran have not been provided to Congress despite a requirement in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act for submission of all documents associated with the nuclear accord.
“So the inspection entity that we're relying upon to find out whether Iran is cheating, we're not even going to have access to that agreement,” said Corker.
The IAEA’s judgement will be crucial for determining Iran’s full compliance, especially regarding past work on weaponization of a nuclear device, but Secretary Moniz confessed the administration did not even have access to the IAEA’s understanding with Iran.
“[T]his is a roadmap worked out between the IAEA and Iran…we do not have…those documents that are, as is customary, confidential between the country and the agency,” said Moniz.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, coauthored by Corker, provides Congress 60 days to approve or disapprove of the agreement. Without this law, there would have been no limitation on the president’s use of waivers to suspend the sanctions Congress put in place; no requirement that Congress receive full details of any agreement with Iran; no review period for Congress to examine and weigh in on an agreement; no requirement that the president regularly certify Iran is complying; and no way for Congress to rapidly reimpose sanctions should Iran cheat.