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Senators Express Frustration over Iran Deal at Hearing, Ask Administration to Address Concerns

Skeptical senators from both sides of the aisle pressed three key members of the Obama administration at a hearing for explanations on Thursday over the final deal reached with Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee only days after the administration sparked outrage within Congress by allowing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to endorse the deal before Congress had its 60-day review period.

Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) opened the hearing by expressing his frustration over his attempts to get real answers from the administration, even in private sessions. He lamented, “I was fairly depressed after last night’s presentation. With every detail of the deal that was laid out, our witnesses successfully batted them away with the hyperbole that it’s either this deal or war. And therefore, we were never able to appropriately question or get into any of the details…”

Since the final agreement was reached on July 14, both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have expressed frustration over the administration’s decision to allow the UN’s conventional arms embargo on Iran to be lifted in five years and UN sanctions on ballistic missiles to be lifted in eight. Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) stated, “So, Secretary Lew, I want to get your assurance we have full ability to use the tools of sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorism, human rights, and nonnuclear type of activities, which include congressional action that Congress might want to take.”

Senators also pushed the administration on how the international community will resolve the outstanding concerns relating to the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. One unresolved issue focuses on Parchin, an Iranian military facility where the International Atomic Energy Agency suspects Iran conducted illicit work. Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) declared, “Let me tell you the worst thing about Parchin. What you guys agreed to was, we can’t even take samples there. IAEA can’t take samples there. They’re going to be able to test by themselves. Even the NFL wouldn’t go along with this.”

Meanwhile, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) expressed alarm over Iran’s enrichment program telling the officials, “I am concerned that the deal enshrines for Iran and, in fact, commits the international community over time to assisting Iran in developing an industrial scale nuclear power program complete with industrial scale enrichment.”  He said that despite Iran’s NPT obligations, “I think it [the final deal] fails to appreciate Iran’s history of deception in its nuclear program and its violations of the NPT.”

[Photo: Senate Foreign Relations Committee ]