Before the election of President Hassan Rouhani , Iran’s centrifuges were spinning at an unprecedented pace. After his election, they continue to not only spin, but multiply. In response, the United States must once again deliver a firm message to Tehran: Halt your illicit nuclear program or face isolation and financial ruin. Although international sanctions over its illicit nuclear program have sent its economy into a tailspin, the ruling elite — from President Rouhani to Supreme Leader Khameni — remain undeterred
The May report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showcases Iran’s failure to abide by its obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran continues to grow its stockpiles of near-20 percent enriched uranium, approaching levels where it could rapidly seek a military breakout, developing a nuclear weapon. It is now installing advanced centrifuges that could quadruple the pace of nuclear enrichment. Moreover, a heavy water reactor facility at Arak, which could provide an easier alternative to a plutonium-based nuclear weapon, is nearing completion. And Iran has taken great pains to sanitize the Parchin military site where suspected nuclear testing took place, stonewalling IAEA efforts to gain access along the way. Action-by-action, Iran is becoming a greater-and-greater threat to the United States and our allies, including Israel.
[More on Iran: House overwhelmingly votes to add new sanctions]
In Rouhani, we find a man who is intimately familiar with the secret construction of Iran's illicit nuclear facilities in Arak, Natanz and Isfahan, which weren't publicly exposed until 2002. In 2003, Rouhani took charge as Iran's lead nuclear negotiator — negotiations which gave Iran time to complete its uranium conversion plant and to rapidly increase its number of centrifuges. During his presidential campaign, Rouhani boasted that during his tenure as negotiator, Iran didn't suspend enrichment — on the contrary, he said, “we completed the program."
As the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I have worked closely with Ranking Member Eliot Engel of New York in securing House of Representatives passage this week of bipartisan legislation that will significantly strengthen the impact of existing sanctions on Iran for its continued resistance. The objective is to prevent Iran from “completing the program.”
The Iranian mullahs have consistently demonstrated that they place a higher premium on their nuclear quest than the economic well-being of their people. Enactment of our legislation, the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, along with robust implementation and enforcement, is needed to greatly increase the costs to Iran for its ongoing nuclear pursuits. We have no time to spare. An Iranian nuclear weapon would trigger a regional arms race in the Middle East and beyond, jeopardizing American security and economic interests. Iran already engages in heavy-handed repression at home and exports terror abroad. Imagine its behavior if emboldened by nuclear weapons. It is clear that preventing an Iranian bomb, not containing it, is the only viable option.
Our legislation is intended to strike a crippling economic blow to the Iranian regime, eliminating sources of foreign funding, restricting access to international commerce, and reducing oil exports by an additional million barrels per day. The bill will apply stiffer penalties to Iranian human rights violators and weapons proliferators; it also targets those who support their wrongdoing. By bringing the full weight of U.S. pressure to bear, Congress can both deny the regime the ability to continue its destructive polices, and compel the Iranians to abandon their nuclear goals.
However, the window for a solution is rapidly shrinking. We cannot afford to let the Iranian regime stall the international community with open-ended negotiations. Regardless of who is president in Iran, enactment of the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act is a necessary step in compelling Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and reducing the threat to the U.S. and our allies.
Royce is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He represents California’s 39th congressional district, consisting of Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County.