Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, spoke before a hearing held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Thursday encouraging the Obama Administration to take a stronger stance against the Iranian nuclear program. Rep. Chabot's full statement is below.
I remain very skeptical about the Administration's current policy which continues to be a combination of engagement and pressure. The theory, as I understand it, is that if we are able to put enough pressure on the Iranian regime--not the people, but the regime--we may be able to alter its calculation and either entice it or coerce it into negotiating away the nuclear program that it continues to pour resources into. We are, however, now over three years into this policy and, as far as I can tell, the regime is no closer to complying with its international obligations. Nevertheless, the Administration continues to pursue this moribund policy, the next chapter of which will play out in six days at the next round of negotiations. I do not think I am alone when I say that I will not be holding my breath for a breakthrough; at least not a genuine one.
But I am concerned that the Administration is so desirous of progress that it may end up manufacturing through unwise concessions something it can parade as a success. Along these lines, I was deeply disturbed to read recently that, according to one report, the Administration "might agree to let Iran continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity." The Non-Proliferation Treaty may give its signatories the right to "peaceful nuclear energy," but it does not explicitly give them the right to the full nuclear fuel cycle, including domestic enrichment. Allowing Iran to enrich on its own soil--even with the appropriate safeguards--would allow the regime to continue to stockpile low enriched uranium and would bring it ever-closer to a breakout capability. Just this morning I read a report which suggests that Iran is installing additional centrifuges at an underground facility. As one analyst recently noted, "Getting within weeks of acquiring a bomb by making nuclear fuel--especially when doing so is uneconomical and is not technically required in order to produce nuclear power--ought not to qualify" as peaceful nuclear energy.
As I have said before, it is my belief that Iran's nuclear program is a symptom of the disease rather than the disease itself. I want to be clear: Iran's illicit nuclear program is a paramount challenge to U.S. core national security interests and it must be addressed. But to speak of the nuclear program independently of the regime which pursues it is to put the cart before the horse. A nuclear program is not in and of itself what makes the regime nefarious; it is the perverse nature of the regime that makes the nuclear program so dangerous. And it is my belief that any regime that threatens to wipe Israel off the map or so wantonly shirks its international obligations cannot be allowed to enrich on its own soil.
As we sit here today, Iran's centrifuges continue to spin and the regime inches closer to a nuclear weapons capability. That we would permit this is anathema to me.