Senate Hearing on One-Year Anniversary of Iran Nuclear Deal Highlights Divisions Over Iran Policy

img_0243WASHINGTON – On July 14, 2016, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing to discuss the one-year anniversary of the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) and its future implications. The hearing also focused on whether more economic sanctions are needed in order to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East and its non-nuclear activities, such as the ballistic missiles program.

Presided over by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the hearing had Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Richard Nephew, program director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the State Department, as testifying witnesses.

Corker opened the hearing by reaffirming his opposition to the nuclear agreement and cautioning that U.S. policy towards Iran should not be restrained over concerns that Iran will walk away from the deal. He maintained that one year after the JCPOA, Iran still poses a threat to the United States’ national security. “To restore resolve in our Iran policy, I am introducing bipartisan legislation with other committee members that mandates tough sanctions for ballistic missile activity, terrorism, and other threatening behavior,” Corker stated.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), ranking member of the committee, followed by stating that Iran has thus far abided by the nuclear accord, and that the U.S. Congress should act in a bipartisan manner to strengthen implementation of the deal while also addressing Iran’s other areas of concern. “Congressional action should not focus on undermining the agreement by passing legislation that clearly violates the JCPOA, instead we should be working together to strengthen it.” Despite his opposition to the nuclear agreement, Cardin is the sponsor of the Iran Policy Oversight Act (S. 2119). The legislation strengthens implementation of the deal while also reaffirming Congress’s commitment to countering Iran’s activities of concern.

Dubowitz, an ardent opponent of the nuclear deal, testified that the JCPOA is “flawed” and provides Iran with “multiple pathways” to obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities after the 10-15 year “sunset provisions”. Dubowitz also charged that despite the JCPOA, Iran has continued its illicit efforts to obtain proliferation-related technology stating, “If Tehran wants more sanctions relief and wants to encourage multinational companies to enter the Iranian Market, it must change its dangerous behavior.” Amongst other measures, he recommends that U.S. Congress pass additional sanctions against Iran and for the U.S. to deploy all “coercive tools of statecraft” to push back against Iran’s other activities.

The second witness, Richard Nephew, testified that the U.S. and its allies in the region are today far safer due to the JCPOA than [they] were just one year ago, and that this opinion is shared by Lt. Gen. Eisenkot of the Israeli Defense Forces as well as many other national security professionals. He also argued that new sanctions dealing with Iran’s other activities should be crafted in a manner that would not violate the JCPOA, not for the “sake of the deal” but for what the deal “denies” Iran. Given the Iranian hardliners sense of trepidation in the fragility of their standing in post nuclear deal Iran, Nephew argued for a more nuanced approach in the U.S. when dealing with Iranian provocations. “It is here that the United States has a unique, if difficult to harness, opportunity in Iran: to avoid contributing to the power base of Iran’s security services by playing once more the villain,” said Nephew, concluding his testimony.

Click here to download witness testimonies and watch the video of the hearing.

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