On January 19, Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin sketched out the Biden administration’s priorities for future diplomacy with Iran after reentering the 2015 nuclear deal. “I would hope that as we enter into that agreement, we could have this discussion about when things sunset and also take a look at some broader things,” he said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “One of those things is ballistic missiles.” Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East.
Gen. Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command from 2013 to 2016, called Iran a “destabilizing element” that posed a “threat” to U.S. forces and partners in the region. Continued normalization of diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and Arab states could help contain Iran, he told senators. “I think certainly this has put a bit more pressure on Iran.” Austin was confirmed by a vote of 93-2 on January 22. The following are excerpts on Iran from the hearing organized by subject.
On reentering the 2015 nuclear deal
Austin: “I would hope, and I think the president-elect has been clear, that the pre-conditions for us considering to reenter into that agreement would be that Iran meet the conditions outlined in the agreement. Back to where they should have been. I would hope that as we enter into that agreement, we could have this discussion about when things sunset and also take a look at some broader things that may or may not be a part of this treaty, but certainly things that I think need to be addressed. One of those things is ballistic missiles.”
On Iran’s regional behavior
Austin: “Iran continues to be a destabilizing element in the region. If you look at its behavior, it is clearly [engaged in] a lot of activity that's destabilizing. It doesn't work well with its neighbors. It does present a threat to our partners in the region and those forces that we have stationed in the region. If Iran were ever to get a nuclear capability, most every problem that we deal with in the region would be tougher to deal with because of that.”
On Arab states normalization with Israel
Austin: “Any time that countries agree to normalize relations, I think that's a good thing. I think certainly this has put a bit more pressure on Iran, and I hope they will have good effects. “