Verbatim, as delivered
March 6, 2007
Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-5021
Statement of Chairman Tom Lantos at Full Committee Hearing, “The Iranian Challenge”
For decades to come, the world’s preeminent historians will analyze the Iraq War and its manifold impact. But one impact is already clear: when dealing with a looming threat to international peace and security, Congress will insist that all – and I mean all –
diplomatic and economic remedies be pursued before military action is undertaken.
We are far from having exhausted all diplomatic and economic options for stopping Tehran’s headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons. Talk of military intervention is unwise and unsupported by Congress and the American people.
I am very pleased that the Administration has recently reversed course, and will join Iran and Syria for discussions on stability in Iraq. Perhaps this diplomatic contact with Iran might pave the way for a broader dialogue with Tehran designed to bridge the gulf between our two nations.
But diplomacy with Iran does not stand a chance unless it is backed by strong international sanctions against the regime in Tehran. Iran’s theocracy must understand that it cannot pursue a nuclear weapons program without sacrificing the political and economic future of the Iranian people.
That is why this week I am introducing the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007. The objective of my legislation is two-fold: To prevent Iran from securing nuclear arms and the means to produce them. And to ensure that we achieve this goal in a peaceful manner.
My legislation will increase exponentially the economic pressure on Iran, and empower our diplomatic efforts by strengthening the Iran Sanctions Act. It will put an end to the Administration’s ability to waive sanctions against foreign companies that invest in Iran’s energy industry.
Until now, abusing its waiver authority and other flexibility in the law, the Executive Branch has never sanctioned any foreign oil company which invested in Iran. Those halcyon days for the oil industry are over.
If Dutch Shell moves forward with its proposed $10 billion deal with Iran, it will be sanctioned. If Malaysia moves forward with a similar deal, it too will be sanctioned. The same treatment will be accorded to China and India should they finalize deals with Iran.
The corporate barons running giant oil companies – who have cravenly turned a blind eye to Iran’s development of nuclear weapons – have come to assume that the Iran Sanctions Act will never be implemented. This charade will now come to a long overdue end.
My legislation goes beyond the waiver issue. If a nation aids Iran’s nuclear program, it will not be able to have a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States.
Import sanctions will be re-imposed on all Iranian exports to the United States. The Clinton Administration lifted sanctions on Iranian carpets and other exports in an effort to encourage Tehran to undertake a dialogue. It is self-evident that this diplomatic breakthrough has not occurred, and the favor offered Iran will now be revoked.
My legislation also calls on the President to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group. The Revolutionary Guard and its Quds Force train terrorists throughout the Middle East, including in Iraq and in Lebanon. The Revolutionary Guard, which is a major base of support for Ahmadinejad, owns huge economic enterprises in Iran. Foreign banks will think twice about dealing with these enterprises once the Guard is declared a terrorist organization.
All of these actions will deprive Iran of the funds that currently support and sustain its nuclear program.
I will also join with our colleague Barney Frank, the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, in introducing legislation to limit pension fund investment in foreign companies that pour money into Iran’s energy industry. A variety of means will be used for this purpose from “name and shame” for private funds to mandating divestment for public funds.
I want to acknowledge with pleasure Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen’s leadership on the Iran divestment issue and other Iran sanctions legislation, and I fully anticipate that key elements of her proposals will be incorporated in our bipartisan bill.
The reason for this all-encompassing approach -- and for its urgency -- is that we have so little time. Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear program, in blatant defiance of the unanimous will of the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Before it is too late, we must try to persuade others to join us in increasing the diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran and, where necessary, we must give them incentives to do so.
I now turn to my friend and colleague, the esteemed ranking member of this committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, for any comment she might choose to make.