Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to look at the prospects of reaching a viable nuclear agreement with Iran; one that increases our national security. Iran has been, and will continue to be, the Committee’s top priority. You can find the expert testimony here.
Here are 5 things you need to know:
1. Iran is advancing parts of its nuclear program.
During negotiations, Iran has frozen elements of its nuclear program, yet Tehran has been advancing other aspects: pursuing new reactors, testing centrifuges and operating its illicit procurement networks. That’s why the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” gave the President three (out of four) Pinocchios for his State of the Union claim that “we’ve halted the progress of [Iran’s] nuclear program.”
2. If “successful,” Obama Administration negotiations would leave Iran a threshold nuclear state.
For the past year, the Obama Administration – along with the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany—has been seeking to negotiate a “long-term comprehensive solution” to Iran’s illicit nuclear program. As outlined by negotiators, a final agreement would free Iran from sanctions, while allowing it to maintain “a mutually defined enrichment program.” That means that Iran would retain the key technology (enrichment) to make nuclear weapons, and would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state.
3. Iran continues to advance parts of its nuclear program.
Negotiations appear to be stalemated. Even after U.S. negotiators move closer and closer to Iranian positions, it is still unclear that Iran’s Supreme Leader wants to cut a deal. According to the Administration, “big gaps” remain. Falling oil prices should strengthen the hand of negotiators, but the Obama Administration has yet to explain how it will negotiate differently with Iran over the coming months to get to an acceptable agreement.
The Obama Administration appears most concerned that Sword-of-Damocles-type U.S. sanctions – designed to strengthen its negotiating hand by only coming into effect if Iran walks away from the table – could sink an agreement. But if an agreement is sunk, it is because Iran has no interest in abandoning its decades-long drive to nuclear weapons.
4. Iran is working with its proxies to influence and ultimately dominate the region.
While Iranian diplomats put on a good face in the negotiating room, the regime’s Revolutionary Guards, Quds Force and other proxies have been busy working to destabalize and ultimately dominate the region. Iran is boosting Assad in Syria and undercutting hopes for a unified and stable Iraq. Its proxy Hezbollah continues to threaten Israel. Last summer, Hamas rained down Iranian-supplied rockets on Israel. And last week, an Iranian-backed militia displaced the government in Yemen, a key counterterrorism partner of ours. Not to mention that Iran’s horrendous repression continues at home. This isn’t a negotiating partner that inspires much confidence.
5. The Obama Administration’s Iran policy is based mainly on negotiations.
While the Administration reaches for a deal, it should do so understanding the regime’s duplicity and militancy. In addition to more economic pressure, we should have an Iran policy with thought-provoking broadcasting to inspire Iranian dissent, a focus on its horrendous human rights abuses and illicit procurement networks, as well as bolstering allies in the region that face Iranian aggression.
As one former intelligence official told the Committee last year, “Iran’s nuclear program is just the tip of a revolutionary spear that extends across the world and threatens key U.S. interests.” This is a regime that is playing for keeps. The Administration appears focused on a deal at all costs.