Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Brian Katulis, Middle East Policy Council Boardmember and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on January 20, 2016.
The Middle East remains in a period of instability and high tensions between states, particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia. This region wide competition for influence has contributed to a weakening of the region’s state system. Other states such as Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have become arenas for this competition as their governing authorities have broken down due to internal struggles for power and legitimacy. The collapse of state authority in some countries has enabled a range of non-state armed groups to grow in power and influence, including quasi-state terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, and Hezbollah.
At a time of widespread regional instability, the nuclear agreement with Iran produces very important and tangible benefits for U.S. and international security. It has severely restricted Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon in the next 10 to 15 years. It has established an inspections regime that substantially increases the international community’s knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program and enhances the ability to detect any possible move by Iran to start a new weapons program. The JCPOA, if strictly and properly implemented, could open up new opportunities for promoting regional stability. In short, the JCPOA offers the best option among the realistic and available alternatives for addressing Iran’s nuclear program.
Achieving greater Middle East stability will require more than a strict implementation of the JCPOA. It will also require a more coherent and assertive U.S. strategy for the region than we have seen in the past 15 years. Regional tensions have not abated with the implementation of the JCPOA, and the United States can play an important role in de-escalating these tensions and contributing to greater Middle East stability over the long term if it uses the full range of its diplomatic and military tools.