January 27, 2015

Shelby Statement at Iran Sanctions Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – Tuesday, January 27, 2015 – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, today delivered the following remarks during a full committee hearing on “Perspectives on the Strategic Necessity of Iran Sanctions.”

The text of Chairman Shelby’s remarks, as prepared, is below.  
“Today, we will hear from our witnesses on the role that economic sanctions have played in influencing Iran’s illegal nuclear program. 
“Iran has long been a serious threat to U.S. national security interests.  It is the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, it supports radical regimes, it destabilizes its neighbors, and it continues to pose a threat to our ally, Israel.
“Further evidence of Iran as a destabilizing force in the region is the recent ousting of the government of Yemen.  Many reports credit Iran as a major backer of the rebels in that uprising.
“Since the mid-’80s, Iran has been pursuing capabilities that would enable it to build nuclear weapons.  As a result, the United States has led efforts to impose strong, and progressively more stringent, sanctions against Iran under both Democrat and Republican Administrations. 
“Over the past few decades, a bipartisan consensus has emerged that tough sanctions are essential in order to persuade Iran to moderate its reckless behavior.  Consequently, sanctions have succeeded where diplomatic efforts have repeatedly failed to bring Iran to the negotiating table.
“After many rounds of talks, however, it is not at all clear that the existing sanctions regime will produce a viable nuclear deal that will protect U.S. national security interests.
“It is worth repeating that without the pressure of tough sanctions, Iran would not have engaged in any talks in the first place.
“Our common goal is now to ensure that these talks produce an acceptable outcome and that Iran’s leaders understand that such an outcome is in their best interest as well.  So far, it is not clear that they believe this.
“One indication is that the Iranian regime continues to insist on a deal that would keep its nuclear capability largely intact.  Such a result would be dangerous because it would allow Iran to remain within reach of producing nuclear weapons.
“I am also concerned that the weakening of sanctions, or even the perception of this, may be insufficient to keep Iran at the table. 
“The Administration has argued that Iran, a country with a history of defiance and deception, will negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement without the certainty that harsh sanctions will take effect if it does not.  I respectfully disagree.
“I believe that the repercussions of Iran’s failure to reach an agreement by mid-year should be clearly defined in statute.
“The President and other officials have said that Congress should not interfere, that a deal is close, that the situation is delicate, and that an attempt to legislate any additional sanctions may give Iran an excuse to walk away from the negotiating table.
“It has been my experience that if a party is negotiating in good faith and with the intent to reach an agreement, they will seek common ground, not an excuse to walk away.
“If Iran is looking for a way out, I believe they never intended to ever reach an agreement in the first place.  The fact that the current negotiation has been already been extended twice is further evidence of their recalcitrance.
“There is now a growing bipartisan consensus that not only does Congress have a role to play in ensuring that Iran does not back away, but it also has a responsibility in this regard.
“It is clear that sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and the threat of future sanctions represent Iran’s only incentive to successfully conclude an agreement.
“I look forward to hearing the perspectives of our witnesses today on this critical issue.”