Preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability is the most urgent national security challenge facing the United States. Only through bipartisan cooperation can the U.S. enact the tough policies and maintain the resolve needed to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Thus, we applaud House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Elliot Engel (D-NY), for jointly introducing legislation that would take much-needed actions – including some recommended by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) – for preventing a nuclear Iran.
BPC’s Iran Initiative has called for a robust comprehensive triple-track strategy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons: the simultaneous pursuit of diplomacy, sanctions, and visible, credible preparations for a military option of last resort. Congress and the administration have passed a series of tough sanctions, which, if fully enforced, could help compel Tehran to cease its nuclear program. Nonetheless, and despite sending recent mixed signals on the growth of its nuclear stockpile, Iran could have enough 20% enriched uranium to produce, with further enrichment, a nuclear device by mid-2013. Simultaneously, the regime maintains its intransigence at the negotiating table. Time is of the essence, and could run out before sanctions and other possible measures take full effect.
Last year BPC’s Iran initiative released a white paper recommending Congress appoint an independent study group supported and staffed by existing policy institutions to report quarterly on the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and how sanctions are affecting it. Representatives Royce and Engel’s legislation—the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013 (H.R. 850) introduced this February—contains a similar provision calling for a regular report to Congress assessing the efficacy of sanctions. In addition, the bill would require more stringent enforcement of existing sanctions against Iran’s oil export revenue – the lifeblood of the regime and its nuclear program. With time running out to prevent a nuclear-capable Iran, BPC calls on the House of Representatives to pass this legislation and the Senate to consider a similar provision to ensure existing sanctions against Iran are fully enforced. Moreover, we hope that such bipartisan cooperation continues to define the work of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.