July 28, 2015 | Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Download full testimony here

Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, thank you for the opportunity to testify.

I would like to address two areas in which the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) contains major design flaws: 1) the limitations (or lack thereof) on Iran’s nuclear program and 2) the precipitous sanctions relief disconnected from changes in Iranian behavior that prompted the sanctions. More specifically:

1. The JCPOA provides Iran with a patient path to a nuclear weapon over the next decade and a half. Tehran has to simply abide by the agreement to emerge as a threshold nuclear power with an industrial-size enrichment program; near-zero breakout time; an easier clandestine sneak-out pathway; an advanced long-range ballistic missile program, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); and hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief to immunize its economy against future economic snapback sanctions, increase its conventional military power, and support terrorism and other rogue regimes.

2. The JCPOA also creates an Iranian “nuclear snapback” instead of an effective economic sanctions snapback. This “nuclear snapback” provides Tehran with the ability to immunize itself against both political and economic pressure, block the enforcement of the agreement, and diminish the ability of the United States to apply any sanctions, including even non-nuclear sanctions, against the full range of Iran's illicit conduct;

3. The JCPOA effectively dismantles the U.S. and international economic sanctions architecture, which, in key areas, was designed to address the full range of Iran’s illicit activities. Iranian banks will be allowed back onto the SWIFT financial messaging system without evidence that their illicit conduct no longer poses risks to the global financial system. Once they return to SWIFT, it’s difficult for me to image a scenario where they will again be expelled in great numbers, particularly given the deterrent power of Iran’s nuclear snapback; and,

4. The JCPOA also emboldens the most hardline element of the regime, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's financial empire, which will be a major beneficiary of this agreement.

After discussing the flaws in this JCPOA, I will provide recommendations on what Congress can do to improve the deal with Iran. This analysis, parts 3 and 4 of this testimony, begins on page 28. In these sections, I will discuss the precedents for congressional disapproval of treaties and executive agreements, analyze the likely outcomes of a congressional vote of disapproval of this nuclear deal with Iran, and provide recommendations for specific amendments to the JCPOA. I will conclude by discussing how Congress can defend the sanctions architecture against its precipitous unraveling under the JCPOA so that the U.S. can provide peaceful economic leverage to enforce this deal in the future.