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Sen. Cruz: If the State Department Believes It Is a Good Idea to Allow Iran to Do Nuclear Research in a Bunker Designed to Create Weapons of Mass Destruction, the American People Are Entitled to Know That

Questions State Department’s continued implementation of Obama-Iran nuclear deal in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing

May 15, 2019

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today participated in a hearing titled ‘The Future of Arms Control Post-Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,' with testimony from Andrea Thompson, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security.

Sen. Cruz has called for the Trump administration to end waivers from the Obama Iran nuclear deal which allow Iran to continue building up its nuclear program -- including in its underground nuclear bunker at Fordow, which the Iranians dug into the side of a mountain to build nuclear weapons. Today he questioned why the State Department refuses to explain those waivers to the American people:

Sen. Cruz: "How is it possibly in our best interest to allow Iran to continue doing nuclear research in the Fordow bunker that was built into the side of a mountain to be able to develop nuclear weapons to use to murder Americans? How is that in our best interest?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "Senator, again, this is a discussion that I'd prefer to have in the SCIF on what information we have and what information we don't have."

Sen. Cruz: "With all respect, the American people care deeply about this. So I am perfectly happy to have classified briefings, but whether we are allowing Iran to do nuclear weapons in a bunker designed to create weapons of mass destruction to murder Americans is an issue of concern to 28 million Texans. And so the American people are entitled to get an answer if it is the State Department's position that that's a good idea, the American people are entitled to know that."

Under Secretary Thompson: "Absolutely Senator, so I will give you the answer to the American people, to all those in Texas, and to friends and family back in South Dakota: this president, this secretary, myself, and everyone in this administration will stand for what's right for the safety and security of the American people, bar none."

Sen. Cruz: "Okay, with all due respect, that didn't answer the question remotely. Is it in our interest to allow Iran to continue to do nuclear research in the Fordow facility?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "The decision made by this administration and with the secretary for this last round is always in the interest of the American people, Senator. Thank you."

Sen. Cruz: "So it really is the position that every decision State makes is always in the decision [interest] of the American people?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "The safety and security? Yes sir."

Sen. Cruz: "That is a stunning Orwellian position. Let me be the first to say that I don't believe that's true in any administration that every decision an elected official makes or an appointed official makes is by definition in the interest of the American people. And that's one of the reasons Congress has oversight responsibility."

Sen. Cruz's full line of questioning may be viewed here and below:

Sen. Cruz: "Under Secretary Thompson, I'd like to ask you some questions about the State Department's policy toward Iran. The State Department, and as I understand it, your Bureau in particular, has advocated for civil-nuclear waivers to continue implementing parts of the catastrophic Obama Iran nuclear deal that allowed Iran to conduct nuclear research. Top State Department officials in your Bureau have stated that it is your policy to facilitate ‘international cooperation with Iran on a number of projects contemplated under the JCPOA that provide Iran opportunities to benefit from nuclear technology... to signal our appreciation for the security benefits these projects were intended to provide.' Elsewhere officials, including those in your Bureau, have touted the benefits of the so-called transparency as promised in the deal.

"These positions appear to be in significant tension, if not direct conflict, with the positions of President Trump. I find it troubling that we are continuing to implement parts of the nuclear deal, and I want to understand the basis for these decisions. Your predecessors in previous administrations suggested that Iran's access to civil-nuclear technology hinges on whether Iran is a member in good standing in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. During the Bush administration, Acting Under Secretary John Rood said Iran was no longer a "member in good standing" of the NPT. Under the Obama administration, Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller said that Iran had been "brought back into good standing with the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime" because of the Iran deal. I'm glad to note that recently the Trump administration appears to have reversed the Obama administration's whitewashing of Iran's conduct. Jeffrey Eberhardt, has been nominated to be the Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation, recently confirmed to this committee in writing that ‘Iran's standing as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the NPT cannot be described as ‘good.'' That's a step in the right direction. First of all, I'd like to confirm that assessment. Do you consider Iran to be a member in good standing of the NPT?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "Thank you Senator, and I appreciate the support for Jeffrey Eberhardt as his nomination process moves forward. He will be a great representative for this administration, for our country, as we have those key discussions. I've known Jeff for quite a while now. We have concerns, and we've laid out those concerns - we've laid them out publicly, and would have more details if we talk at the classified level on some of the concerns that we have with the way Iran is going. And Jeff's reflection is a definite reflection of where we are today."

Cruz: "Okay, let me just try that again. Do you consider Iran to be a member in good standing of the NPT?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "We have concerns, Senator. We have concerns with where they are going."

Sen. Cruz: "Do you agree with Mr. Eberhardt's statement in writing that "Iran's standing as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the NPT cannot be described as ‘good.'?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "That is correct, and that is what we laid out in the compliance report, and we can give you the background of that in a classified setting. Absolutely, Senator."

Sen. Cruz: "So, why do you believe we should keep implementing parts of the nuclear deal, allowing Iran to do nuclear research even though Iran is not entitled to those benefits and President Trump has correctly rejected this foolhardy deal?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "Again, Senator, we give the information. Again, it's a rigorous interagency discussion with intelligence, with policy, with where DOD is, with DOE, etc. and then we make a recommendation to the Secretary and he informs that with the President. We can give you the background on the classified version behind it, but in some areas - and that's why the Secretary made the determination - some of the dates aren't, you know the length isn't the same, some of the areas on where it's in our best interests to have some of those waivers for a short duration."

Sen. Cruz: "How is it possibly in our best interest to allow Iran to continue doing nuclear research in the Fordow bunker that was built into the side of a mountain to be able to develop nuclear weapons to use to murder Americans? How is that in our best interest?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "Senator, again, this is a discussion that I'd prefer to have in the SCIF on what information we have and what information we don't have."

Sen. Cruz: "With all respect, the American people care deeply about this. So I am perfectly happy to have classified briefings, but whether we are allowing Iran to do nuclear weapons in a bunker designed to create weapons of mass destruction to murder Americans is an issue of concern to 28 million Texans. And so the American people are entitled to get an answer if it is the State Department's position that that's a good idea, the American people are entitled to know that."

Under Secretary Thompson: "Absolutely Senator, so I will give you the answer to the American people, to all those in Texas, and to friends and family back in South Dakota: this president, this secretary, myself, and everyone in this administration will stand for what's right for the safety and security of the American people, bar none."

Sen. Cruz: "Okay, with all due respect, that didn't answer the question remotely. Is it in our interest to allow Iran to continue to do nuclear research in the Fordow facility?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "The decision made by this administration and with the secretary for this last round is always in the interest of the American people, Senator. Thank you."

Sen. Cruz: "So it really is the position that every decision State makes is always in the decision [interest] of the American people?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "The safety and security? Yes sir."

Sen. Cruz: "That is a stunning Orwellian position. Let me be the first to say that I don't believe that's true in any administration that every decision an elected official makes or an appointed official makes is by definition in the interest of the American people. And that's one of the reasons Congress has oversight responsibility."

Under Secretary Thompson: "Senator, I won't do a challenge here in public. I will tell you, I took an oath, as did you, to the Constitution, and American people and to the enemies foreign and domestic. My underlying, going in position, is always the safety and security of the American people. I did that as a soldier, I did that as a national security advisor to the Vice President, and I'm doing it as the Under Secretary of State."

Sen. Cruz: "As we now know, the Nuclear Archives seized by the Israelis contained a wealth of new information about Iran's nuclear program. We know that Western intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency didn't know about these elements of Iran's nuclear program, because the IAEA declared in 2015 that Iran never conducted activities which the Archives now clearly show that Iran conducted. They were keeping nuclear weapons blueprints on the shelf to use later. Do you consider Iran's past possession of the Nuclear Archive seized by Israel last year, including the materials in the Archive relevant to the development of nuclear weapons, to constitute non-compliance by Iran of any of its nonproliferation obligations?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "Again Senator, I would prefer to talk about what is in those documents, not to be done in an open forum. To protect sources and methods."

Sen. Cruz: "Okay, those documents are now public and have been released to the world."

Under Secretary Thompson: "So there's information there that we're protecting sources and methods and, in all candor, I will give you that information. I would prefer to do it in the SCIF."

Sen. Cruz: "I'll tell you what, just refer to the public part that you can go to the internet and read. So I'm not asking for classified portions. I'm asking for the public portions of the Archives that the Israelis seized that show Iran in open defiance. Do you agree with that?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "I agree with the process that they have in the past years of those documents was disconcerting, absolutely."

Sen. Cruz: "Then why would the State Department continue to give waivers to allow them to conduct nuclear research, particularly in the Fordow site? That I find staggering. It's a bunker built in the side of a mountain. It's not a medical research facility. It's not a diaper factory. It is a bunker built to make nuclear weapons. And the State Department signed waivers saying Iran, that the Ayatollah can continue to do nuclear research there. How is that possibly in the interest of the United States?"

Under Secretary Thompson: "I would say that's your assessment, Senator. I would not characterize it as such."

Sen. Cruz: "Well, that's the problem."

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