Skeptical senators from both sides of the aisle pressed three key members of the Obama administration for explanations on Thursday over the final deal reached with Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee only days after the administration sparked outrage within Congress by allowing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to endorse the deal. The vote took place on Monday before Congress had its 60-day review period.
Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) opened the hearing by expressing his frustration over his attempts to get real answers from the administration, even in private sessions. He lamented, “I was fairly depressed after last night's presentation. With every detail of the deal that was laid out, our witnesses successfully batted them away with the hyperbole that it's either this deal or war. And therefore, we were never able to appropriately question or get into any of the details…”
Since the final agreement was reached on July 14, both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have expressed frustration over the administration’s decision to allow the UN’s conventional arms embargo on Iran to be lifted in five years and UN sanctions on ballistic missiles to be lifted in eight. Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) stated, “So, Secretary Lew, I want to get your assurance we have full ability to use the tools of sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorism, human rights, and nonnuclear type of activities, which include congressional action that Congress might want to take."
Senators also pushed the administration on how the international community will resolve the outstanding concerns relating to the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. One unresolved issue focuses on Parchin, an Iranian military facility where the IAEA suspects Iran conducted illicit work. Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) declared, “Let me tell you the worst thing about Parchin. What you guys agreed to was, we can't even take samples there. IAEA can't take samples there. They're going to be able to test by themselves. Even the NFL wouldn't go along with this.”
Meanwhile, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) expressed alarm over Iran’s enrichment program telling the officials, “I am concerned that the deal enshrines for Iran and, in fact, commits the international community over time to assisting Iran in developing an industrial scale nuclear power program complete with industrial scale enrichment.” He said that despite Iran’s NPT obligations, “I think it [the final deal] fails to appreciate Iran's history of deception in its nuclear program and its violations of the NPT.”
The nuclear deal agreed to last week has become a “horror story,” that will “[ensure] the establishment of a new Iranian nuclear program, which will be immeasurably more powerful and dangerous than its predecessor,” according to Ari Shavit, a senior Israeli report who is frequently critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a column he wrote yesterday for Ha’aretz.
While Shavit believes that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) does a good job of limiting Iran’s existing program, he argues that it also empowers Iran to develop a more extensive and powerful program in the future.
Shavit contends that this would allow Iran to “[become] in 2025 a muscular nuclear tiger ready to spring forward, with an ability to produce dozens of nuclear bombs.”
Shavit was not only bothered by the future outcomes of the JCPOA, but also with the tone of the agreement.
An example of Shavit’s observation is found in a section of the JCPOA (pdf) that addresses how Iran and the P5+1 powers may confront suspicions that either party is in non-compliance with the deal’s obligations, and seemingly draws an equivalence between the two.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions were imposed due to Iran’s non-compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
Following the vote by the UNSC, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani stated:
“Iran sought to establish its right to enrichment, and today, the UNSC has explicitly acknowledged our country’s enrichment right,” Rouhani said during a cabinet session on Wednesday.
The six countries that were parties to the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program admitted that the anti-Iran sanctions had been ineffective, the Iranian president said, adding that the UNSC, which itself imposed a series of sanctions on Tehran, unanimously endorsed a draft resolution on the lifting of the bans.
In summing up his final impression of the deal, Shavit stated, “The fact is that Iran is unrepentant, does not promise a change of course and takes an almost supercilious attitude toward the other parties. As though it had been a campaign between Iran and the West, and Iran won and is now dictating the surrender terms to the West.” (via TheTower.org)