Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement for the record on on the JCPOA with Iran:
Mr. President, this week we are marking the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This week, one year ago, my colleagues and I began the enormous task of reading, analyzing, and making a decision about whether or not we would support the deal.
For me, that task took six weeks of careful study, several classified briefings, countless meetings with experts and conversations with constituents. As I wrote, on September 1 last year, “This agreement will substantially constrain the Iranian nuclear program for its duration, and compared with all realistic alternatives, it is the best option available to us at this time.”
We were under no delusions that the JCPOA would be a panacea for all of our problems with Iran. Rather, it was envisioned and designed to meaningfully address one major issue: Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.
In my decision, I wrote, “We need not, and indeed should not, trust the Iranian regime.” On the one year anniversary of the deal, that statement remains true.
One of the strengths of the JCPOA is a robust, arguably unprecedented, monitoring and verification mechanism. We need to fully fund the International Atomic Energy Agency in support of its efforts to monitor Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA; that’s why I supported an increase to the U.S. voluntary contribution to the IAEA in this year’s budget.
We also need to see greater transparency from the IAEA. On July 6, Ambassador Dennis Ross wrote, “Recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency indicate that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA, but the level of information they provide is dramatically less than that found in previous IAEA reports on Iran's nuclear program.”
Specifically, Ambassador Ross identified several key elements of the deal that were not included in the IAEA’s most recent report: the amount of low enriched uranium currently stockpiled in Iran, the number of centrifuges still operating at Natanz, and research and development activity on centrifuges, to name a few. I urge the Administration to work with the P5+1 and the IAEA to increase the transparency of these reports. If Iran is indeed complying, there should be no need to hide the details.
My decision was also predicated on the assumption that Iran would continue to foment instability and support terrorism in the region. The JCPOA did not address this issue, and likewise it in no way curtailed our ability to sanction and hold accountable terrorist groups and facilitators. These tough sanctions remain in full force and effect.
Iran continues its aggressive and destabilizing actions in the region, including by providing robust financial and material support to its terrorist proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as to the murderous Assad regime in Syria and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Iran unequivocally remains the world’s leading State Sponsor of Terrorism. The Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah recently stated, “Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” We know that Hezbollah is seeking advanced rocket capability, which could be used against Israel. We know that Hezbollah has become the ground force of the Assad regime in many parts of Syria.
Last week, I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Isakson called the Stop Terrorist Resources and Money, or “STORM” Act. This bill will authorize the President to designate countries that are not doing enough to stop terrorist financiers and facilitators as “Jurisdictions of Terrorism Financing Concern.” With that designation comes significant penalties or the requirement to enter into a technical assistance agreement with the United States to improve their capability to investigate and prosecute terrorist financiers. Although Iran is already designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the President could use this new authority to hold accountable jurisdictions where Iranian terrorist proxies and their supporters operate with relative impunity.
When the Iranians complain that they are not getting the influx of European business that they anticipated following the deal, maybe they need to take a hard look at their support for terrorism. With the sanctions on Iran for terrorism and human rights still firmly in force, it is no wonder that European financial institutions and other businesses are wary of doing business in Iran.
One year on from the signing of the JCPOA, I continue to believe that implementation of this agreement is firmly in our strategic interests. We knew that implementation would be difficult and that the Iranians could not be trusted.
Rigorous Congressional oversight has been critical in this first year. We have pushed for increased sanctions on illicit ballistic missile activity, and the Administration responded. We have tightened sanctions on Hezbollah and introduced new legislation to counter terrorism financing more broadly. We have advocated for a transformative investment in our defense relationship with Israel, which continues to face threats from Iran and its proxies. We will continue to ask tough questions and demand answers.
We will also continue to prepare for the possibility that Iran may violate the agreement. This means maintaining the legal architecture that would be needed to snap back sanctions in the event of a violation; I have said that I will support a clean reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act. This also means toughening our deterrence policy, both here in Congress and in the White House, to ensure, as I wrote in my statement last year, “The Iranian regime should not doubt our capability and willingness to respond swiftly should they attempt to break out and develop a nuclear weapon.”
Mr. President, one year after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed, we should redouble our commitment to ensuring that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapons capability and be firm in our resolve to counter their aggressive actions in the Middle East. But we should also commend the wisdom of this body for allowing the agreement to go forward, as it remains the best available alternative to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.