Prepared Statement by Senator Sam Brownback Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing: Iran's Involvement in the Proliferation of Weapons

April 17, 1997

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Chemical

Related Country: 

  • China
  • Russia


I'd like to welcome everyone to today's hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia. The topic of our hearing is: Iran and Proliferation: Is the US doing enough?

Washington is a town where people can and will disagree about anything. It is therefore, my great pleasure to hold a hearing on a topic about which there is little disagreement.

In the years since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has developed into a militant nation, intent on exporting its particular brand of Islam and using terror both internally and externally to achieve its aims. It is a rogue state seemingly unsusceptible to reason, uninterested in international norms and committed to the development of weapons of mass destruction. In the 19 years since the Revolution, notwithstanding the blandishments of its most important trading partners in Europe, Iran has not lessened its support for international terrorism. The German courts recently confirmed as much, branding Iran's top leadership with responsibility for the gangland slaying of four Kurdish dissidents living in Berlin.

The Executive Branch and the Congress, Republicans and Democrats, we all agree that Iran represents a significant threat to the American people, to our friends and to our interests in the Middle East and the world over. Yet despite broad agreement, our various policy prescriptions do not seem to be working. The European policy of "critical engagement" has proven ineffective and misguided. But our policy isn't being implemented as well as it should either.

President Clinton has stated on a number of occasions that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses an extraordinary danger to the United States. Clearly, the Congress agrees, and has helped put in place a set of laws aimed at stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to rogue states such as Iran. Yet only twice in recent memory -TWICE -- has any president invoked those laws to sanction nations that sell missile and nuclear weapons technology to Iran. And neither sanctions case involved either Russia or China, the two main proliferators to Iran.

(I should note here that sanctions may have been levied for proliferation of chemical weapons to Iran; however, those determinations would be classified. Of course, such sanctions would beg the question of why Iran feels comfortable signing the Chemical Weapons Convention.)

I have in front of me a list of transfers to Iran of everything from conventional cruise missiles to chemical precursors, to full blown nuclear reactors. Obviously, there is a substantial amount of classified material on these subjects, but many of the details are available in the open press and it is upon open sources ONLY that we have relied in preparing for today's discussion.I will cite only a few of these cases, in the interest of time:

Case 1: China -- a signatory to the CWC -- reportedly sold chemical precursors, chemical production equipment, and production technology to Iran. In a hearing on Chinese proliferation just last week, the Administration admitted these were destined to Iran's CW program.

It would be natural to conclude that such transfers were a violation of Executive Order 12938, the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act or the Iran-Iraq Non-Proliferation Act. Yet none of the applicable sanctions have been imposed.

Case 2: Russia is allegedly assisting Iran's missile program and has supplied technology and parts of the SS-4 missile system. The SS-4 has a range of 1250 miles and can be loaded with a nuclear warhead.

If this report is true, it would be a violation of provisions of the Arms Export Control Act, the Iran-Iraq Non-Proliferation Act, as well as the Foreign Assistance Act.

Case 3: In mid-1995, reports surfaced about the transfer by China of sophisticated missile guidance equipment to Iran. The parts mentioned were gyroscopes, accelerometers and test equipment. It was later reported that there was unanimous agreement among experts who had seen the evidence that the transfer constituted a violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Reading through the unclassified material, I can see the United Stated demarched China on this issue and that US officials traveling to China discussed it. All of the reading I have done on the subject however, suggests no decision on sanctions was ever made. If not, why not?

Case 4: In January and March 1996, both Vice Admiral John Scott Redd, Commander of the Fifth Fleet and General Binford Peay, Commander of Central Command, told reporters that China had supplied Iran with C- 802 anti-ship cruise missiles -- against which the US Navy has no defense -- and which clearly endanger the men and women serving in the Gulf.

The sale of these missiles is clearly "destabilizing" -- to use the language of the Iran-Iraq Non-Proliferation Act. The Administration appears to have concluded however, that the known transfers are not of a destabilizing nature. Poor comfort and support for our sailors in the Gulf.

Case 5: In 1995, Russia and Iran signed a contract for the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy to complete work on an unfinished nuclear reactor in Iran. I understand that there are ongoing discussions between Teheran and Moscow for three more reactors. The Administration has clearly stated its opposition and asked the Russians to call off the deal. The Russians however, have indicated they will proceed.

Is this a sanctionable act? The transfer of reactors by itself is not, because the Non-Proliferation Treaty allows such transfers to take place. But given that the Administration has told us again and again that Iran is aiming for a nuclear weapon, and that they are afraid that technology transfers associated with the reactors will speed up Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, there seem to be several laws that apply, including: the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act, the Export Import Bank Act and others.

The Administration apparently has chosen not to impose sanctions.

I have mentioned only five cases, but there are many more, involving not only unconventional weapons but conventional ones as well. While China is Iran's number one supplier of unconventional arms, Russia, according to the Department of State, will be Iran's number 1 supplier of conventional arms and will reportedly sell $1 BILLION dollars worth of arms to Iran in 1997 and 1998. It was just last Friday that President Yeltsin stated that Russia has "good, positive cooperation with Iran, which shows a tendency to grow."

If it is indeed one of this Administration's top priorities to isolate Iran and to strangle Iran's ability to earn the foreign exchange that buys these weapons of mass destruction, why are we not doing more about the suppliers?? How, in the face of almost overwhelming evidence, can the Administration have stated in a recent hearing that China and the United States "recognize a shared interest in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies"??

I recognize that the bludgeon of sanctions is not always as effective as engagement. But where do we draw the line? The German government last week recalled its Ambassador to Iran after the verdict in the Mykonos trial. The judge in the case stated clearly that Iran's leadership was behind the plot and that it was Germany's policy of engagement with the regime that led Tehran to feel it could act with impunity on German soil.

Do we not, at a certain point, recognize what was recently brought home so clearly to the German government? That Iran, and those who supply Iran with weapons of mass destruction, believe that because we have been so appeasing that they can continue on with their programs with impunity?

What will happen when, inevitably, some companies violate the terms of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act? In front of me I have several articles describing the French firm Total's intent to invest in Iranian oil fields to the tune of $850 million. The Malaysian firm Petronas will be making a similar investment.What are we going to do? Will this Administration, for good reasons or bad, fudge it on imposing sanctions because they don't want to get into a tiff with France or Malaysia? Congress has passed a good deal of legislation to counter the dangers of terrorist states like Iran getting nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them. The President has signed that legislation into law. Yet those laws are, for the most part, lying about gathering dust.

Is it just that sanctions are not useful? After all, that is a valid answer, though not one I would agree with. Are the laws not clear enough or not written tightly enough? Is there a reason that the Administration finds and uses every loophole?

Take the recent case of Moscow's agreement to provide Iran with nuclear reactors. Congress made clear its view that the sale was not compatible with a continued U.S. assistance program. The President disagreed, and waived the sanctions associated with the reactor deal.

I am certain there are Members of Congress who are asking themselves whether we should have given the President the loophole he used. For my part, I believe that selling reactors to Iran and receiving aid from the United States are mutually exclusive. After all, why should Russia spend U.S. tax dollars to support our avowed enemy?

The Administration has told us again and again that Iran is a threat, that we must contain that threat and stem Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon. What are we waiting for? Isn't it time to ask ourselves whether our policy is really working?