Berman: “Stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability is not simply an American priority but a global responsibility.”
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, along with Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and a bipartisan group of congressional members introduced H.Res. 568, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the importance of preventing the Government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”
The leading voice in Congress on applying the strictest sanctions on Iran, Berman, a California Democrat, said: “Stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability is not simply an American priority but a global responsibility. My objective is straightforward; a Holocaust-denying regime spewing the most extreme anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric can never become a nuclear weapons capable state.”
The resolution appears here.
Yesterday, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Howard Berman raised this issue with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, to which the Secretary replied, U.S. policy “is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons capability.” The exchange can be viewed here and appears below.
Well thank you very much Madam Chairman and Madam Secretary. The Obama administration is the first administration to use congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran in a robust way. And you deserve considerable praise for that. I know that the president and you, and numerous officials at State, at Treasury, at Defense, have put in literally thousands of hours trying to persuade foreign officials and foreign businessmen to respect our sanctions and to help isolate Iran. All for the purpose of implementing a policy intended to lead Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
In that regard, I think it would be helpful to put to rest concerns of some observers that the administration is resigned to Iran's becoming a nuclear threshold state. I think its important to -- very important to reassure us on that point. Based on my understanding of the administration's policy, I think you should be able to do that. Three months ago on December 1, Secretary of State Burns and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon issued a joint statement that spoke of, and I quote, "Preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.", end of quote.
And a Pentagon publication last month also said the U.S. seeks to, quote "Prevent Iran's development of a nuclear weapons capability.", closed quote. So, when Senator Graham yesterday asked whether the administration seeks to deny Iran the ability to become a nuclear threshold state, you responded by saying that it is the position of the administration to prevent them, meaning the Iranians, from attaining nuclear weapons. So is -- I think it's important to clarify, is it in fact administration policy to prevent Iran's development of a nuclear weapons capability?
Or is the policy merely to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons? And what's -- what's the real difference between these two? Does the administration have a red line beyond which it will not allow Iran's nuclear program to progress? Can we assured that it's the administration's policy to make sure Iran remains well short of the ability to produce nuclear arms?
Well, Congressman I -- I think it's absolutely clear that the president's policy is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons capability. And that has been the stated position of this administration. It has been backed up and reiterated so that -- let there be no confusion in any shorthand answer to any question. The policy remains the same. And certainly in pursuant -- pursuant to that policy we have worked closely with the Congress to implement the most far reaching sanctions that have ever been imposed.
And after three years of intensive diplomatic effort, we have developed an international coalition that recognizes the importance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability that is working with us. You know, three years ago we didn't have that consensus in the international community. There was a lot of unwillingness and resistance even to going along with tougher sanctions. But from the beginning, we've had a two-track policy. Pressure and engagement. And as we talk today, the pressure is ratcheting up.
We are aggressively working to implement the sanctions. We have very strong support for this position from the recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, pointing out all of the suspicions and questions about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and we have seen finally a response from Iran that they're willing to discuss their nuclear weapons program with the P5-plus-1. So we think that the sanctions are effecting the thinking of the Iranians in the leadership. But we have to remain vigilant and we have to keep the pressure on.