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Engel Remarks on Iran Nuclear Agreement

May 8, 2018
Press Release
- As Delivered -

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I concur with your opening statement.

“To all our witnesses, welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee. We’re grateful for the decades of public service that all of you collectively represent. And Jane, it’s always good to see you back on Capitol Hill.

“Once again, we find ourselves against a phony deadline dealing with the Iran nuclear agreement, and once again the President has created a crisis where none exists and kept us all wondering what he’s going to do.

“This Administration has promised a comprehensive approach for dealing with the regime in Tehran. Yet sixteen months along, the Trump Administration’s Iran policy seems to be do nothing until the clock runs out; make unrealistic demands, whether of Congress or our international partners; and, up to this point, kick the can down the road a few more months.

“The President has until Saturday to decide whether to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Iran—though through reporting, though, this morning, suggests that he will announce an end to those waivers today.

“I hope he understands the stakes: if he puts these sanctions back into effect, the United States will be in violation of our obligations under the nuclear deal and trigger the deal’s collapse. The argument that the deal would continue without American participation is simply not true. There’s no having it both ways. And let’s be clear: President Trump would be the one who pulled the plug and undermined American credibility. 

“I’ve said more times than I can count that I opposed the deal when it was announced.  I voted against it on the House floor. And I continue to have doubts about the JCPOA. And I have doubts about will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon over the long term.  But I know for certain that pulling out of the deal now will make a nuclear-armed Iran a much more immediate threat.

“Some of my chief concerns with the agreement were the sunset provisions. But those sunsets come many years in the future. What’s the emergency now? Why the hysterical rush? If the United States undermines the deal, the sunsets that expire in 10 or 15 years would instead expire at the end of the week.

“Iran would race headlong toward a bomb, while keeping the cash that’s been freed up over the last few years of sanctions relief. If we want to extend the sunsets, and many of us do—that was one of my major objections to the deal—let’s work cooperatively with our allies rather ruining any chance we have of keeping the Iranians from the bomb for a longer time.

“Re-imposing sanctions would also have far-reaching consequences besides terminating the JCPOA. We could find ourselves slapping serious punitive measures on our closest friends and allies.

“Furthermore, it would send a terrible signal that the United States doesn’t live up to its word—and with North Korea negotiations ramping up, that is the exact wrong time to send that message. Why would anyone negotiate with us if the minute we got a new administration or a new president they ripped up any agreement and wanted to get rid of it and start anew. I think it undermines our credibility and it’s the wrong message to send. And I have to note that President Trump could not have been more wrong when he said that killing the Iran deal ‘sends the right message’ to North Korea. Frankly, it sends precisely the wrong message, and that message is the U.S. won’t live up to its commitments.

“At the same time, if the United States scuttles the deal, we would lose whatever leverage we have in trying to make the agreement stronger and addressing all of Iran’s other aggressive activities. I think there’s potential for progress, but it requires the United States to lead. Work to bring parties back to the table and lean into new negotiations. Allow the present deal to continue and try to build on top of it.

“Instead, the Administration wants to sit back and say, ‘Europe needs to do the hard work,’ or ‘Congress needs to fix it.’ That’s just not the way these things work.

“Congress has done its part. We’ve given the Administration all the tools it needs to crack down on Iran for its illegal ballistic-missile program, its support for terrorism, its atrocious human-rights record. The White House should use these tools to craft what it promised—a comprehensive Iran strategy—rather than bringing us to the brink of crisis every three months.

“I look forward to hearing our witnesses’ views on this challenge. I again thank the chairman and concur with his remarks. And I yield back.”

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