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Posts tagged ‘United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs’

Rep. McCaul: Iran Deal Could Lead to Nuclear Arms Race.

The nuclear weapons deal between the United States and Iran could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, Rep. Michael McCaul said Wednesday.

“If we lift the sanctions, [Secretary of State John Kerry] will allow Iran to continue enriching uranium,” McCaul told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

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“It’s empowering other partners in the Middle East to possibly do the same. It could start a nuclear arms race,” the Texas Republican said.

McCaul is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairs the Homeland Security Committee. Kerry appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday to answer questions about the recent agreement with Iran.

Earlier this year, the House approved in a bipartisan vote additional sanctions against Iran. McCaul said the purpose of the bill was to give Kerry “a better hand to play” in negotiations.

“When you go into negotiation, you need all the leverage you can get to play your best hand at the table,” McCaul said. “And yet, he does not want us to go down that road.”

McCaul questioned whether Iran was negotiating in good faith. He called Kerry “naive” to negotiate with a country that’s called for the “destruction of Israel and the West, including the United States.”

“Just last week, the president of Iran basically said the centrifuges will never stop spinning. I think that’s very insightful as to their intent,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Wanda Carruthers


Allen West: Kerry ‘Delusional’ on ‘Horrible’ Iran Deal.

The agreement between the U.S. and allies with Iran over their nuclear weapons program is “horrible,” Ret. Lt. Col. Allen West told “Fox & Friends.”

“It’s absolutely horrible,” West said Wednesday. “The Saudis have said this is bad, and they’re looking at working with Israel. The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that this was a disaster of a deal.”

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During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the agreement made the national security of the U.S., Israel, and the Middle East stronger and more secure. West took issue with Kerry’s remark, calling it a “delusional statement.”

“I don’t understand how he could say it improves the national security of the Gulf States, of Israel. And, definitely not ours,” West, a former Republican Congressman from Florida, said.

The U.S. and allies entered into a six-month interim agreement with Tehran in November that called for easing of sanctions in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear activities. The deal was struck amid controversy among some lawmakers who wanted an increase in sanctions.

West suggested the desire to build a foreign policy legacy was the reason President Barack Obama supported the agreement with Iran.

“I think that the president is looking for some foreign policy success. There is no doubt that the reset button with Russia has been a failure,” he said. “There is no doubt that we see what is happening with Syria was a failure.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

Democrats, Republicans Spar With Kerry Over Iran Nuclear Deal.

Image: Democrats, Republicans Spar With Kerry Over Iran Nuclear Deal

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry clashed with congressmen on both sides of the aisle Tuesday over the controversial nuclear deal with Iran, exposing deep rifts over a U.S. pledge to refrain from any new sanctions over the next six months in exchange for concessions on enriching uranium.

The disagreement could have broad consequences for the U.S. diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

In his first congressional testimony since last month’s Geneva agreement,  Kerry defended the diplomacy as having halted and rolled back central elements of Iran’s nuclear program for the first time.

He pleaded with Democrats and Republicans alike not to scuttle the chances of a peaceful resolution to a crisis that has regularly featured U.S. and Israeli threats of potential military action.

“Let me be very clear: This is a very delicate diplomatic moment and we have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We’re at a crossroads. We’re at one of those really hinge points in history. One path could lead to an enduring resolution in the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. The other path could lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict.”

Kerry’s appearance came as lawmakers increasingly threatened to undermine the six-month interim pact, which gives Iran $7 billion in sanctions relief over the next half-year in exchange for the Islamic republic’s neutralizing its higher-enriched uranium stockpiles, not adding any new centrifuges, and ceasing work at a heavy-water reactor that potentially could produce plutonium used in nuclear weapons.

Members of both parties challenged Kerry.

The top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, specifically asked Kerry why the administration was so strongly opposing sanctions that wouldn’t be imposed unless Iran breaks the agreement.

And Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman expressed misgivings about trusting the Obama administration, which he accused of hampering all sanctions efforts against Iran thus far.

Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., are close to completing a bill that would require the administration to certify every 30 days Iran’s adherence to the interim pact, according to legislative aides.

Without that certification, the legislation would re-impose all sanctions and introduce new restrictions on Iran’s engineering, mining and construction industries.

The legislation also calls for a global boycott of Iranian oil by 2015 if Iran fails to live up to the interim agreement. Foreign companies and banks violating the bans would be barred from doing business in the United States.

However, Iran sanctions were left off a defense bill working its way through the Senate this week — much to the dismay of Republicans.

“This is a rather transparent attempt to prevent a vote on enhanced Iran sanctions, so they’re trying to circumvent the Senate, pass major legislation, essentially without amendments,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters.

In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is drafting separate legislation mapping out how a final deal with Iran should look, aides say.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has warned any new package of commercial restrictions would kill the deal.

“If Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States,” Zarif told Time magazine. “My parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail. But if we start doing that, I don’t think that we will be getting anywhere.”

Kerry said new sanctions could also be viewed as a sign of bad faith by America’s negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The United States is banking on them to enforce existing oil and financial restrictions on Tehran and to press Iran into a final agreement.

“I don’t want to give the Iranians a public excuse to flout the agreement,” Kerry said. “It could lead our international partners to think that we’re not an honest broker, and that we didn’t mean it when we said that sanctions were not an end in and of themselves but a tool to pressure the Iranians into a diplomatic solution. Well, we’re in that. And six months will fly by so fast, my friends, that before you know it, we’re either going to know which end of this we’re at or not.”

Kerry’s assessment comes just three days after President Barack Obama began to play down chances for success, telling a think-tank forum that he believed the odds of a comprehensive nuclear agreement next year are 50-50 or worse.

Still, Obama defended diplomacy as the best way to prevent Tehran from acquiring atomic weapons and rejected criticism from Israel’s government and many in Congress that his aides bargained away too much without securing a complete halt to Iran’s nuclear program — as demanded by the international community for several years.

Members of Congress generally believe that crippling petroleum, banking, and trade sanctions levied on Iran in recent years were responsible for bringing its more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, to power and his representatives to the negotiating table.

Many argue more pressure, not less, could break Iran’s will and secure better terms in a final agreement.

At several points, Kerry and lawmakers talked over each other as they argued about whether the deal recognized Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium — which the administration rejects — and about the details of international inspections on Iranian sites and its non-nuclear weapons programs.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., was perhaps strongest in her criticism of the administration, flatly denouncing the agreement in Geneva as a “bad deal.”

“We may have bargained away our fundamental position,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the committee chairman. “Iran should not be enriching and reprocessing,” he said, criticizing what he termed the administration’s “false confidence that we can effectively check Iran’s misuse of these key nuclear bomb-making technologies.”

Iran insists its program is solely for peaceful nuclear energy and medical research.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


House on Collision Course With White House Over Iran.

As the House of Representatives re-convened this week following its Thanksgiving break, it is clear that members of both parties are headed for a major showdown with the White House over the recent agreement between Iran and the leading world powers.

The White House left no doubt that the new agreement with the P5+1 group — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — that permits Iran to enrich uranium should be implemented without further sanctions.

But numerous House members pulled no punches in saying they did not trust Iran and are still worried about the possibility that the Islamic regime in Tehran could obtain a nuclear weapon.

In recent foreign policy disagreements such as those over Syria and Egypt, the most vocal opponents of the administration’s position were often the most junior Republicans in the House.

But what makes this clash with Iran different is that Democrats as well as some senior Republicans in the House are lining up as hardline opponents of trusting Iran.

In October, freshman Reps. Luke Messer, an Indiana Republican, and Brad Schneider, an Illinois Democrat, organized 76 of their fellow freshmen from both parties to sign a letter calling on the administration to do everything in its power to make sure Iran did not obtain nuclear weaponry.

“In foreign policy, this president will be judged by one simple standard: did he prevent Iran from getting the bomb?” Messer told Newsmax.

Messer, who is president of the class of freshman Republicans in the House and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the agreement supported by the administration “validates Iran’s right to enrich uranium to a 5 percent level in six months.”

Senior lawmakers in the House also weighed in strongly against any new agreement with Iran.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a 33-year incumbent and the longest-serving Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said any agreement that permits Iran to have nuclear enrichment is “egregiously flawed.”

“When it comes to Iran, this president has not been helpful at all,” Smith told Newsmax. “He tried to weaken previous sanctions and opposes newer and tougher sanctions.”

Smith recalled that he and other House members from both parties fought to keep Iranian crude oil off the market. “This is what is keeping their economy afloat and we were trying to hit Iran’s lifeline,” he said.  But the Obama administration helped torpedo the harder-hitting sanctions.

Smith noted that Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, “is working side-by-side with me to promote the next sanctions bill.”

Smith and Messer spoke to Newsmax a day after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters “the agreement reached by the P5+1 with Iran needs to be implemented, and that both the president and Congress have a responsibility to fully test whether we can achieve a comprehensive solution through diplomatic means before pursuing alternatives.”

Carney warned that “passing any new sanctions right now will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue by giving the Iranians an excuse to push the terms of the agreement on their side. Furthermore, new sanctions are unnecessary right now because our core sanctions architecture remains in place and the Iranians continue to be under extraordinary pressure.

“There is no doubt in Iran that should this agreement fail, Congress and this administration will quickly impose harsh new sanctions. It would make more sense to… keep our powder dry until we see whether Iran violates the understanding,” Carney said.

But Messer and his colleagues do not want to give Iran the opportunity to violate the agreement and then have Congress move to impose new sanctions after a violation.

Iran “needs to reach two certain benchmarks: first, an end of nuclear enrichment and second, a public declaration that they won’t build a nuclear bomb,” Messer said.

Citing Ronald Reagan’s axiom of “trust but verify” in negotiating arms control with the former Soviet Union, Messer said that “the key to dealing with Iran is to be able to verify. Without verification, there can be no trust.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Cantor Pushes Bipartisan Bill on Iran Deal.

Image: Cantor Pushes Bipartisan Bill on Iran Deal

By Sandy Fitzgerald

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has told House Republicans he wants a bipartisan bill to define what would be an acceptable outcome in a final deal with Iran on its nuclear development program.

According to the National Journal, the Virginia Republican, told colleagues Tuesday he is “really upset” with the U.S.-negotiated agreement that lifts some economic sanctions while forcing Iran to freeze only portions of its nuclear program.

The deal sets a six-month deadline to reach a broader international agreement, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are questioning its initial terms.

Cantor, the Journal noted, is working with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce on possible legislation that would “speak volumes” about what Congress expects out of a final agreement.

One senior Republican aide told the Journal that Cantor wants a total prohibition on Iran’s nuclear program and is pushing for a bipartisan agreement on that point that can be written into legislation.

Cantor’s office declined to comment on the details of what a final bill might look like. But his spokesman, Rory Cooper, told the Journal, “The leader does not believe the interim agreement with Iran was in our nation’s best interests, and he will work with fellow members, Republican and Democrat, to determine that any final deal definitively addresses congressional concerns.”

The House has already passed its own measure to keep pressure on Iran through sanctions, but the Democratic controlled Senate is reportedly under White House pressure to back off a sanctions bill that could be pushed through before Christmas.

The Obama administration believes such a bill could hinder talks with Iran leading up to a permanent deal. But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez says new sanctions will “strengthen the administration’s hand” by showing Iran what will happen if it fails to reach an acceptable agreement in six months.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Democratic Rep. Engle: Deal With Iran is ‘Squishy’.

Image: Democratic Rep. Engle: Deal With Iran is 'Squishy'


By Audrey Hudson


The Obama administration’s deal with Iran to roll back the rogue country’s nuclear program is not winning much support from key Democrats, including Rep. Eliot Engel of New York who expressed doubt on Sunday the plan will succeed without continued sanctions.

“I don’t think you make them bargain in good faith by going squishy,” Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I think we could have played good cop, bad cop, and Congress really believes sanctions should happen,” Engle said. “That’s what brought Iran to the table in the first place.”
Another key Democrat, Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, said in a statement that he was disappointed in the interim deal reached in Geneva regarding Iran’s nuclear program, saying “it does not seem proportional” because “Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions.”

The Senate agreed unanimously to keep financial sanctions on Iran, and the House passed a similar measure this summer on a 400-20 vote.

Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also appeared on CNN and said sanctions are the tools needed to keep up pressure on Iran to keep its word.

“Unless we understand that the people who run Iran, that send the protestors out to chant ‘death to America’ last month in the streets, unless we understand that they are capable of cheating and have in place the ability to really ratchet up, we’re going to find ourselves exactly where we found ourselves with North Korea, which will be that nuclear capability will be in the hands of the ayatollah,” Royce said.

“I think we need to be very careful with the Iranians, I don’t trust them,” Royce said. “I don’t think we should trust them, but I think we have to make [the agreement] work.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

House Passes Bill to Strengthen Security at U.S. Embassies.

The House passed a bill that would authorize additional Marines to protect American embassies, more expensive contracts for guarding overseas posts and funding for State Department operations in fiscal 2014.

The $15.6 billion bill would match the White House request for $2.65 billion in funds to improve embassy security.

“We need the Marines at the gate, we need to guard the gate, it needs to be reinforced,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican.

The closure of several U.S. embassies and consulates in August “demonstrate the continued threat to our facilities and personnel overseas,” he said during floor debate before the House passed the measure 384-37.

The legislation builds on previous measures that provided for increased security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, 2012, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The vote comes amid a budget impasse in Washington that could lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Funding for an additional 156 Marines to guard overseas posts would be authorized, as would construction of 26 access points at high-risk posts, according to a House Foreign Affairs Committee summary of the bill. There are currently about 1,200 Marines guarding embassies and consulates, with another 1,000 in the process of being moved into the Marine Security Guard program.

Risky Posts

The State Department would be required to compile a list of high-risk posts and ensure their security and funding needs are met. The department also would be required to collaborate with the Pentagon to draw up contingency plans for emergencies, including rapid deployment of military forces.

Changes to security contracts for high-threat outposts would be authorized, meaning the State Department would be allowed to solicit what are known as best-value contracts, which take into consideration a company’s past performance, expertise and other non-financial factors that can end up costing more. Current law says the State Department must accept the lowest-bid contract that meets all necessary criteria.

The best-value contracts probably would apply to five high- threat posts, according to a Sept. 24 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Existing contracts at those posts exceed $115 million, according to CBO, which estimates that new contracts would cost 40 percent more.

Many of the embassy-security provisions come from H.R. 2723, a bill sponsored by Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Other provisions in the bill would authorize $1.9 billion for contributions to international peacekeeping activities, compared with $2 billion enacted in 2013 before implementation of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

Another section would authorize $1.4 billion for contributions to international organizations of which the U.S. is a member. That compares with $1.55 billion in 2013 and the $1.57 billion requested by the White House.


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