Prepared Testimony by Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs, Charles Ries Before the House International Relations Committee Hearing: Threats from Iran

June 25, 2003

Madame Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee on the Middle East. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you today European Union policies toward Iran and some recent developments in the cooperation between the U.S. and EU on the control of the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and it's support of terrorism were major concern to the Congress when it passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). I will try to outline how the U.S. and EU cooperate to address our shared concerns over Iranian policies and the broader question of nonproliferation.

The U.S. and EU share strong concerns over Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, support of terrorism, promotion of violent opposition to the peace process, and abysmal record on human rights. We come from different starting points on how to curb objectionable Iranian behavior. The EU follows a policy of engagement with Iran, with the political focus conducted to a large degree through a structured "comprehensive dialogue." The dialogue focuses on the major EU political concerns regarding Iran. The EU believes that engagement gives it influence with the Iranian regime, and the also encourages reformers in the Iranian government. We are very skeptical that engagement will achieve either objective. We have not seen evidence that this engagement has to date produced any real change in Iranian behavior, a point we make clear to the EU.

While U.S. and EU policy toward Iran comes from different starting points, the gaps between the U.S. and European approach have narrowed, and the EU has increased its cooperation on a practical level since the passage of ILSA. The May 1998 U.S.-EU joint declarations on non-proliferation and counter-terrorism reflected shared goals in these areas and a determination to work together to pursue these objectives. More recently, the EU has shown greater willingness to condition improvement in its economic relations with Iran on concrete, verifiable, and sustained improvements in Iranian behavior.

An example is the EU's response to an Iranian request to improve economic relations through a Trade and Cooperation agreement. In June of last year, the EU Council responded positively, but decided to keep the agreement at a basic level (no preferential tariffs or concessional assistance). With considerable U.S. urging, the EU decided to link the TCA with tangible improvements in Iranian policies on weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism, the peace process, and human rights. The EU is currently negotiating two political agreements with Iran, focusing on the areas above. EU has stressed these political agreements must proceed in parallel with the TCA and will have to be signed simultaneously with the TCA. Not surprisingly there has been considerable resistance in the government of Iran to this approach, and we understand that negotiations have moved very slowly.

Our Europeans allies are also proving to be staunch partners in the face of recent revelations that Iran's declared nuclear program masks a hidden program to develop fissile material production capability in support of a weapons program. We understand that during a visit to Tehran June 1-2, an EU delegation made clear to high levels of the Iranian government that the European Union was very concerned about the nuclear program. At the June 1 Evian Summit, G-S leaders, including the leaders of the four largest EU nations and the EU itself as an observer, declared their concern about Iran's nuclear program. I think the language on Iran is worth repeating:

We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program. We stress the importance of Iran's full compliance with its obligation under the NPT. We urge Iran to sign and implement an IAEA Additional Protocol without delay or conditions. We offer our strongest support to comprehensive IAEA examination of this country's nuclear program.

The EU released a similar statement at a June 16 EU Council meeting in Luxembourg and reiterated the linkage between Iran's weapons of mass destruction programs, terrorism, human rights and the peace process to the Trade and Cooperation agreement. It also noted the Council's "significant concerns about the Iranian regime's handling of recent demonstrations. Finally, the EU worked shoulder-­to-shoulder with the United States in the IAEA Board meeting of June 16-20 to ensure an outcome that reaffirms the international community's call on Iran to open up its program to effective IAEA supervision and to answer all of the IAEA's unresolved questions and concerns about its program.

The EU's tougher approach to the revelations on the Iranian nuclear program reflects broader changes in the EU's strategy to contain the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The EU Council of June 16 also approved a set of Basic Principles and an Action Plan to strengthen international controls of weapons of mass destruction, which included a mandate to develop new cooperative measures with the United States.

At the U.S.-EU Summit this morning in Washington, both sides pledged cooperation on a joint work program to combat the proliferation of dangerous weapons. It is worth mentioning some of the measures both sides agreed to implement:

-making the IAEA Additional Protocol a standard for international nuclear cooperation and non-proliferation;

-supporting an increase in the IAEA safeguards budget;

-tightening the enforcement and implementation of national export controls on dangerous materials and technology. The U.S. and the EU have also agreed that these national controls should include criminal penalties for the illegal export, transport, or brokering of weapons of mass destruction, missile delivery systems, and related materials and technology to create effective national exports systems to prevent transfers of WMD. The U.S. and the EU may provide assistance to advance this effort.

-strengthening national controls over dangerous pathogens and fostering the elimination of chemical weapons.

-Cooperating to address regional proliferation challenges. U.S.-EU Leaders emphasized the international community's concerns about North Korea's, and Iran's weapons programs.

In sum, while we still can find ways to further strengthen and deepen our cooperation, the U.S. and EU --particularly over the past year-- have taken significant steps to achieve our common objectives in Iran and more broadly had an impact on non-proliferation in world as a whole.