Democrats and Republicans in Congress were disturbed, but not surprised, to find out that Iran had worked on activities relevant to nuclear weapons development. A long-awaited U.N. watchdog assessment said that the most “coordinated” work was done before 2003, but that Tehran continued some activities in 2009. Four members of Congress called for further probing into Iran’s past activities. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), however, said “it’s time to look to the future—it’s time to fully implement the nuclear agreement.”
On December 3, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD) sent a letter to President Obama outlining their plans for hearings on implementation of the nuclear deal. The first topic to be covered in December is the findings of the U.N. investigation. The following are Congressional reactions to the report with other general comments on the IAEA.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman
“The IAEA report proves Iran lied. For years, the Iranian regime worked secretly to develop a nuclear weapon. And there are still important questions that remain unanswered. For example, how far did Iran get toward building a bomb? And what happened to all of the materials, research, and expertise Iran acquired?
“Iran’s long track record of obstructing investigators means the IAEA will face significant challenges moving forward – especially since the president’s nuclear agreement allows Iran to carry out self-inspections at key sites. Iran won’t even have to cheat to achieve advanced enrichment capacity, which puts them just a small step away from a bomb.”
Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
“Today’s IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program adds to the existing evidence that Iran had been working on a nuclear weapon. The IAEA reports that Iran’s weapon program appears to have stopped, but we can’t be certain: Iran hasn’t fully cooperated with the IAEA investigation, so we’re left with too many unanswered questions. I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that Iran continues to try to hide evidence of its nuclear military program. The United States and our allies must continue to pursue a clear resolution to these questions.”
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
“Today’s IAEA assessment raises more questions about Iran’s nuclear weapons program than it answers. The only clear point is that Iran stonewalled inspectors. It’s critical that the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors continue Agency investigations until Iran comes clean on all activities. Regardless of the Administration’s flip-flops on whether Iran should come clean, international inspectors should uncover the complete truth.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
“Under the P5+1 nuclear agreement, Iran was required to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation into its past nuclear weapons-related work—and it has done so. Completion of the IAEA report is an important milestone.
“The IAEA’s assessment was largely consistent with the view of the United States intelligence community, which is that Iran had a nuclear weapons program until 2003. While Iran’s past work is disturbing, it only underscores the importance of and need for the nuclear agreement.
“Now that the IAEA has completed its accounting of Iran’s past, it’s time to look to the future—it’s time to fully implement the nuclear agreement. Should Iran try to restart its nuclear weapons-related work, we will be in a far better place to detect and stop it with the agreement in place than without it.”
—Dec. 3, 2015, in a statement
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), House Democratic Whip
“Yesterday’s IAEA report on Iran’s military program confirms what we’ve known for years – that, in spite of its leaders’ stonewalling, dissembling, and deception, Iran indeed pursued a secret nuclear weapons program at least through 2003 and conducted weapons development activities after that point, even as late as 2009. Its program was inconsistent with peaceful use of nuclear technology, as had been claimed by Iran’s regime in the past.
“Unfortunately, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) does not explicitly require that the information Iran provides be complete or accurate on its past military activities, and this report makes clear that the information they provided was certainly incomplete and probably inaccurate. Moving forward, in the context of Iran’s other requirements under the JCPOA, such non-responses or omissions should be treated as violations requiring snap-back of sanctions. We cannot allow Iran to test the will of the international community without a serious and unequivocal response. For this reason, the P5+1 nations must continue to enforce every aspect of the JCPOA vigorously in order to ensure that Iran’s leaders cannot exploit any ambiguities or commit potential violations.
“I will be examining closely the technical aspects of the IAEA’s conclusions, and at this point it is not clear to me from this report that the IAEA can say definitively that it fully understands the history and scope of Iran’s nuclear program. The full story of Iran’s nuclear program has yet to come out, and we must continue to press for a complete and thorough disclosure as we move to enforce the JCPOA to the full letter and spirit of the agreement.”
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL), and Susan Davis (D-CA)
“Yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its report on the past possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. This report confirmed what we have suspected or known for years: That Iran previously lied about its ambitions and the military dimensions of its nuclear program, and that Iran actively sought to develop the technology for nuclear weapons. Though Iran’s activities failed to produce nuclear weapons, they secretly performed research and technical studies to that end until 2003 and to a lesser extent until 2009.
“While we cannot yet say that the IAEA’s report reveals the entire story of Iran’s illicit nuclear conduct, there can be no doubt that this evidence proves the importance of international efforts to stop Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon. This report demonstrates yet again that we must maintain vigilance over Iran and its nuclear ambitions. It emphasizes the importance of forcing Iran into accepting an agreement that dismantles the vast majority of its current nuclear infrastructure, and that requires unprecedented access to and oversight of Iran’s nuclear facilities and supply chain by international inspectors without limiting future U.S. options, including military. This report also makes clear what many of us already knew—the importance of Israel’s role in raising the alarm and bringing Iranian nuclear activities to the world’s attention.
“In voting to support the Iran nuclear deal, we viewed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as our best option for stopping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb because it offers the best guarantee for intrusive oversight and access into Iran’s nuclear program. Iran must fully comply with all the terms set out in the JCPOA and with the IAEA in its ongoing monitoring. Along with our colleagues, we will remain vigilant to make sure that we are taking all steps to ensure that Iran is not able to pursue nuclear weapons’ capabilities, as well as supporting the snapback of sanctions if Iran is caught cheating.”
—Dec. 4, 2015, in a joint statement
—Dec. 4, 2015, in a joint statement
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of SFRC
Dear Mr. President:
Thank you for providing senior Administration officials for public hearings, classified briefings, and numerous consultations during the period of Congressional Review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Your engagement with Congress was important in informing our deliberations and assessment of the JCPOA. As the JCPOA with Iran moves toward Implementation Day, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will initiate a rigorous program to ensure effective Congressional monitoring and oversight of this agreement as well as its regional and nonproliferation implications. We hope that your Administration will remain committed to engaging Congress going forward.
In anticipation of this program, we request that you make available Administration witnesses to testify in public hearings and provide classified briefings. The Committee anticipates holding the following hearings at to-be-determined dates:
• December 2015: Hearing on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Report on Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program. This report will be due to the IAEA Board of Governors by December 15, 2015. This is a significant milestone toward the JCPOA’s implementation and thus merits a public discussion and debate.
We request that the Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator, and the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation testify during this hearing.
• January 2016: Hearing on the first semi-annual report due to Congress pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The hearing will provide an assessment of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, as well as updates on Iran’s support for terrorist activities and advances in its ballistic missile program. Though Implementation Day may not occur by the deadline for the first semi-annual report, other national security threats related to Iran’s behavior and actions outside of the JCPOA merit public discussion and debate.
We request that the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, the Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation, and the Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence testify during this hearing.
• TBD: Hearing on JCPOA Implementation Day. If Implementation Day for the JCPOA is achieved, the Committee will hold a public hearing to discuss U.S. expectations for monitoring and verifying Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, tracking sanctions relief provided to Iran, articulating a multi-tiered strategy for responding to incidents of Iranian non-compliance with the JCPOA, and institutionalizing a U.S. strategy for countering Iran’s destabilizing actions.
We request the Secretary of State, Secretary of Energy, and the Secretary of the Treasury testify during this hearing.
Following implementation of the JCPOA, the Committee will hold regular classified briefings. These briefings will cover the full scope of issues relevant to Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, as well as Iran’s support for terrorism and destabilizing regional activities. As part of its oversight function before each briefing the Committee should receive all information relevant to Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement. For these briefings we request that you make an interagency briefing team available with representation from the State Department, Treasury Department, Energy Department, Defense Department, and Intelligence Community:
• On a quarterly basis, an interagency team should be prepared to brief members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
• On a monthly basis, an interagency team should be prepared to brief Committee staff at the appropriate clearance level.
We appreciate your assistance, through access to administration officials and information, to ensure effective Congressional oversight and monitoring of the JCPOA.
—Dec. 2, 2015, in a letter to President Barack Obama
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT)
“It is apparent that the bulk, if not all, of this increased funding will be paid for by the American tax-payers.”
“Congress has the Constitutional responsibility to control the power of the purse. If we are expected to foot the bill for these side deals, we should know what measures are included in them.”
“The Obama administration has acknowledged they know the contents of these side deals, yet Congress has been left in the dark.”
“Now, the IAEA is acknowledging that it will require additional funding to enforce the deal. I am introducing the following resolution to make the increased funding conditional on the IAEA releasing the side deals to Congress. I urge you to please join me in supporting transparency,”
—Dec. 3, 2015, in a statement via The Hill