U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, weighed in on the Trump administration’s handling of the nuclear deal with Iran at a subcommittee hearing on “The President’s Iran Decision: Next Steps" on Wednesday. Ros-Lehtinen said the following:
Less than two weeks ago, President Trump announced that he would not certify the Iran deal under the requirements of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). All signs leading up to the certification deadline pointed to decertification.
In a speech on U.S. policy toward Iran last month, Ambassador Haley laid out the pillars to be considered when determining Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal: the JCPOA itself, UN Security Council resolution 2231, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. And I think this is an important distinction, because I know we are going to hear about Iran’s technical compliance and that the IAEA and the other P5+1 believe Iran is in compliance, so how can the president decertify?
But even if Iran was in full compliance with the JCPOA – which we know isn’t the actual case – Iran has flouted the ballistic missile provisions of UN Security Council resolution 2231, and Iran’s continued provocations underscore that the current status quo is not in the national security interests of the U.S. We have to take a look at the totality of the threats and the current situation, work within the framework that we have, and use the tools we have at our disposal. Let us remember that the president, through his obligation from the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, decided that he could not certify whether the suspension of sanctions related to Iran is appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program.
So when the president announced he would not certify, but remain in the deal for now while allowing for the opportunity to address its flaws to strengthen it, I supported that decision. I think it is a sound strategic decision that also allows us an opportunity to address some of the concerns we have with our allies, like the lack of EU designations against Iran for non-nuclear related illicit activity. It gives us an opportunity to correct the record and get some of the promises and assurances that were given to Congress that haven’t actually come to fruition.
Like when Secretary Kerry testified to Congress that Iran would be subject to “twenty four-seven inspection” and on day-to-day accountability. Or when he testified that “when it comes to verification and monitoring, there is absolutely no sunset in this agreement – not in 10 years, not in 15 years, not in 20 years, not in 25 years. No sunset ever.” Or when we were told that “for the life of this agreement, however long Iran stays in the NPT and is living up to its obligations, they must live up to the Additional Protocol.”
But as we know, we don’t really have twenty four-seven, anywhere, anytime access – especially when it comes to military sites, where we haven’t even had any access at all. And we know that there are sunset provisions all throughout the deal. And there are dangerous sunset provisions in Resolution 2231 – like the sunsets on the conventional military and missile embargoes – which will more than certainly make the region even more dangerous. We already see Iran sending support and arms to the Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and others – imagine what we will see when Iran has no restrictions on its ability to acquire conventional weapons or to its ability to expand its missile program?
We were also promised that Iran’s non-nuclear related activity would be addressed. Yet despite assurances from Secretary Kerry after the JCPOA was agreed to, we have not seen a single designation from the EU on Iran since the JCPOA. Think about that – no new designations, no new sanctions - despite Iran’s continued support for terror, its ballistic missiles testing, and its abysmal human rights record. There was no threat of decertification from the United States for the first several rounds of certifications, yet there was no EU activity on Iran’s other illicit behavior. On the contrary, there were billions and billions in business agreements signed during that time period.
And I think now, while the president has decertified, this is precisely the opportunity to get together with our allies and see how we can get them back on board to holding Iran accountable for its malign activities. This also gives us an opportunity to raise the bar and do what we should have done in the first place – guarantee Iran can never become a nuclear weapon state. Because as I said from the very beginning, this deal set such low benchmarks for Iran that it would be crazy not to comply – even though it has violated and bent and twisted the deal just to see how far it can go.
Producing excess heavy water, only to be bailed out by the U.S. and Russia; building and operating more advanced centrifuges than it should be allowed to operate – these are just some examples that we know about. With Iran, it would be safe to assume there are other potential violations, like potential violations of Section T.
But our P5+1 partners are right – this isn’t just a U.S., unilateral issue, there are many, many interested parties. Unfortunately, some parties – like Russia – are intent on protecting its rogue allies and doing what it can to block any efforts to hold them accountable. Russia has already made it clear that it will not support giving access to Iran’s military sites for verification of Section T – I wonder why. We just saw Russia veto a resolution at the UN Security Council that would have extended the investigation by international inspectors to determine those responsible for the chemical weapons attack in Syria.
So how do we address this in a way to ensure the Iranian threat is contained? As we move forward, we must assess what is best for our national security interests, the security of our friend and ally, Israel, our allies in the Gulf, and the safety and security of the region. Those very same allies who would be most directly impacted by a nuclear Iran are the ones that have publicly expressed support for this administration’s willingness to take our Iran policy in a new direction – one that addresses all of Iran’s illicit activity. And we can’t address Iran’s threat without addressing the totality of the situation, and that is what we are here to do today.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., was first elected to Congress in a special election in 1989. She is the first woman to chair the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.