House Foreign Affairs chairman: US should stay in Iran deal, but 'enforce the hell' out of it

House Foreign Affairs chairman: US should stay in Iran deal, but 'enforce the hell' out of it
© Greg Nash

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Wednesday that the United States should “enforce the hell” out of the Iran nuclear deal rather than pull out, just before President Trump is expected to decertify Tehran's compliance with the terms of the deal.

“As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said at the top of a committee hearing on Iran.

Royce has made similar comments in interviews in recent weeks. But his latest remarks come as a deadline approaches for Trump to tell Congress whether Iran remains in compliance with the deal and whether the deal remains in the national interest of the U.S.

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Under a law passed by Congress in 2015, the president must make such a certification every 90 days. The next deadline is Sunday.

Trump has made the certification twice before but is widely expected to withhold certification this week.

Decertification would start the clock on a 60-day period when Congress can re-impose sanctions using a fast-track procedure.

In his remarks Wednesday, Royce said whatever decision Trump makes, he must fully explain his reasoning.

“Whatever he decides, it is critical that the president lay out the facts,” Royce said. “He should explain what his decision means, and what it doesn’t. And then, I hope — as I have tried to do here today — the president will define a responsible path forward to confront the full range of threats posed by Iran.”

And despite saying the U.S. should stay in the deal, Royce knocked the Obama administration for producing a “flawed” deal based on a “gamble” that Iran would then become a more responsible actor.

“While the nuclear deal may have constrained Iran’s ability to produce fissile material, these restrictions begin to sunset in less than a decade, leaving Iran with an industrial enrichment capability,” Royce said. “The reluctance of international inspectors today to demand access to military bases means that we don’t know to what extent Iran is engaged in the complex — but more easily hidden — work of designing a nuclear warhead.”

To enforce the deal, Royce said the U.S. should work with allies to make sure international inspectors have better access to possible nuclear sites and to address the so-called sunset provisions.

He also urged a strategy that confronts Tehran’s other activities, including its support for Hezbollah and its ballistic missile program.

To that end, the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday will mark up legislation on sanctions related to the missile program.

“Finally, we should be supporting the Iranian people who do want a better life and more freedom instead of suffering under the brutal repression of an ideologically inspired, hateful regime,” Royce continued. “We have no ill will toward the Iranian people. It’s their government that gravely threatens us and our allies.”