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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on Iran’s Proxy Network in the Middle East

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 Iran’s proxy network in the Middle East. Witnesses included Dr. Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, and The Honorable Brian H. Hook, former U.S. special representative for Iran and senior policy advisor to the secretary of State.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you so much Mr. Chairman. Certainly, those facts are undeniable that you’ve laid out. I want to thank the witnesses for being here. We have two very good witnesses on this subject with somewhat divergent views, but certainly people that know this subject.

“At the beginning of the Biden Administration, the president’s Iran policy was abundantly clear and that was an attempt to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal regardless of the cost. The administration chose engagement and appeasement over containment and isolation. 

“Three years later, Iran is more emboldened and empowered than before, and the Middle East is in turmoil. 

“Iran has dramatically expanded operations against the United States, Israel is decisively engaged against Iranian proxies in Gaza, and Lebanese Hezbollah is poised to enter the conflict. The Houthis are being fueled and directed by the Iranians, and Iran is moving into the Horn of Africa. Iran is building its proxy network in Sudan and backing the Sudanese Armed Forces.  Threats are multiplying, and attacks against Americans are at an all-time high.

“While nuclear negotiations have collapsed, the administration has failed to enforce sanctions, unfrozen Iranian assets in exchange for Americans, allowed Iranian drones and ballistic missiles to fuel Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and stood by while Iran uses its oil and oil reserves to fund its lifestyle.

“As Iran marches across the Middle East, the Biden Administration has still not articulated a coherent Iran policy outside of the nuclear negotiation. It’s time to change course.  

“Iran is an enduring national security challenge and requires a serious policy that uses all instruments of national power.

“First, we must adopt a policy of containment. Iran does not think like the West, and it cannot be talked or charmed into a change in conduct. While the regime may make tactical concessions, we must recognize and accept Iran’s longstanding strategic hostility towards the United States.

“Second, we must better deny the regime the resources it uses to support terrorism. It’s really straightforward – we must enforce existing Iran sanctions, to include stopping Chinese purchases of Iranian oil, and we must permanently freeze Iranian assets around the world.

“Iran has earned a shocking $80 billion in oil revenues since 2021. Its once meager exports at the end of the last administration are now over 2 million barrels per day. Let me say that again – 2 million barrels a day in the face of our sanctions. Not only does this supercharge Iran’s support for terrorists, but the lack of sanctions enforcement provides Iran with greater resources to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and China with greater access to oil in pursuit of dominance in the Pacific. 

“Third, we must restore deterrence. There have been at least 170 attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan since October 7th. It’s clear the Iranian regime doubts Biden’s will to impose serious costs. It’s time to do things differently. We must dial up deterrence and force the regime to take notice.  

“Fourth, we must demonstrate American leadership. Iran’s support for Russia, quashing of protests at home, and attack against Israel have forced many of our partners to rethink their approaches to Iran. We should be leading these efforts.

“Finally, we must better support the aspirations of the Iranian people. The Iranian people are disillusioned and at a breaking point. The lack of concrete response from the administration was a missed opportunity.

“I cannot overstate how bad policy has allowed Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea to move from being transactional partners to strategic allies with each other. This is a failure of American policy that will have consequences for years to come.

“This committee has a clear role in shaping Iran policy. We have several pieces of legislation in front of us – including my bill to better enforce oil sanctions. Many of these Iran-related bills, like the SHIP Act, have already passed the House, and I look forward to working with the chairman to push these over the finish line.

“In closing, I’d particularly like to thank Mr. Hook for being here. The threats against you and your family in connection to your past work as the U.S.-Iran envoy are unacceptable, and underscore the threat that Iran poses to Americans. 

“With that, I’ll turn it back to the chairman.”

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