Ernst Calls for Congressional Approval of Iran Agreement

“The ever increasing and complex threats we face in the Middle East underscores how crucial it is that any longstanding agreement with Iran must go through Congress.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) took to the Senate floor to call for congressional approval of any final deal with Iran. Senator Ernst emphasized the need to preserve U.S. national security interests, those of our allies, and the need to maintain stability in the world.

TRANSCRIPT:

Mr. President, I rise today to stress the importance of ensuring nuclear negotiations with Iran to preserve our national interests and our security; one that protects the security of our allies and partners in the region and maintains peace and stability in the world.

As a member of the Iowa Army National Guard and serving on the Armed Services Committee here in the Senate, I am focused on strengthening our national security, developing strategies to confront terrorism, and discuss ways to support our exceptional military. 

While I believe Iran’s long-term goal is developing nuclear weapons, its most effective line of effort against us and our allies has been through its unwavering support of terrorism.  

The Obama Administration should only accept a final deal which prohibits sanctions relief until Iran abandons its support of terrorism.

Providing Iran with sanctions relief would only enhance their opportunity to fund proxy groups which threaten our Israeli allies, and whose activities have led to horrible consequences to millions of people in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

While the Obama Administration has been seemingly eager to relieve sanctions in an effort to convince Iran to sign a nuclear deal, Congress cannot stand by and watch as a deal is negotiated that paves the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. We must take a step back and examine their actions, and it is absolutely crucial we understand who is on the other side of the negotiating table.

Iran continues to be the world’s lead sponsor of terrorism and a supporter of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad who is responsible for killing hundreds and thousands of his own people, creating the gravest humanitarian crisis in modern history, and who facilitates the continued rise of extremism and sectarianism across the region.

Iran has shown unwavering support of terrorism and has aligned themselves with groups that are hostile to the United States, our allies and partners in the region. In fact, Iran continues to fund groups that threaten our Israeli allies who are very concerned about Iran amassing nuclear capabilities and the direct threat they pose to the region. After this long-standing pattern of behavior, I do not believe we can trust Iran will curb its ambitions or support for terrorist activity on their own. 

Despite any agreement that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may agree to, I believe Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will ultimately maintain his policy of attempting to obtain a nuclear weapon, and may use any funds obtained through prematurely providing sanctions relief towards that end, as well as to support terrorists.  

Iran’s more than a quarter century long effort to obtain a nuclear weapon will not subside overnight. It is a faulty assumption to trust that Tehran is on the side of rule of law. Iran has a very troublesome track record when it comes to deception, when it comes to compliance and trustworthiness, which is why we need a deal that ensures America, and the world’s ability to verify and enforce any agreement with Iran.

This includes complete and open access, at any time, to all of Iran’s facilities – to hold them true to their word and to verify their actions. We must also have the proper enforcement mechanism in place so that any broken promise garners an appropriate and immediate response.

This accountability can be enforced through renewed and strengthened congressional sanctions. Sanctions have been effective in the past and we must keep this option on the table. In fact, these sanctions are what brought Iran to the negotiation table in the first place, so we must not be too quick to suspend them.

The ever increasing and complex threats we face in the Middle East underscores how crucial it is that any longstanding agreement with Iran must go through Congress. This enables the American people to have a voice. Congressional review is supported by a bipartisan majority of my colleagues and a majority of Americans – it’s commonsense. We must have more oversight of this process, and the opportunity for thoughtful consideration to ensure we have been very clear about our demands and the framework of any final agreement.

There is no doubt the Administration shares my concern, and the concern of many of my colleagues, regarding the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been murdered with barrel bombs, Sarin gas, indiscriminate shelling of cities, and in prisons or the millions more who have been forced to flee their homes. 

We must stop Iran from supporting this criminal regime which has helped engulf the region.  Sanctions relief without ensuring funds would not go to Assad or to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, which is key to the survival of the regime, would do nothing to help achieve a favorable political or military solution in Syria.

With that in mind, I cosponsored the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act which has bipartisan support and is before the Senate today. This legislation embraces fundamental and core principles that lay the foundation for a good deal with Iran. This deal ensures congressional review of a final agreement. It demands that no congressional sanctions be lifted during the review period, and it safeguards congressional oversight of Iranian compliance.  

This bill is a good starting point, and I want to praise the good work by the Chairman of the Committee for continuing to push for congressional review.

Our ultimate goal must be to curb all Iranian terror, and this will never happen if we do not confront and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

I believe a final deal which does not address Iran’s support of terrorism and other groups which subvert recognized governments is not in the best interests of our nation, and an agreement without these assurances will miss an opportunity to provide stability in the region.

In closing, the bottom line is that Iran must never be allowed to develop a single nuclear weapon – not now or at any point in the future. A nuclear Iran presents one of the greatest threats to peace and stability in our time.

With that, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.