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SEN. LUGAR: (Sounds gavel.) This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is called to order. Let me say at the outset that the committee looks forward to hearing carefully and respectfully from each of its witnesses. In furtherance of this goal, the chair will give an opening statement, and I will call upon the distinguished ranking member, Senator Biden, to give his statement. And then I will ask Senator Biden to recess the committee for 10 minutes so that members can vote at a time that is now designated about 10:35, as the chair understands the vote. And that way we will all be reassembled, hear together Secretary Armitage's testimony, and hopefully have clear sailing after that point.
After I give my statement, I will depart and attempt to achieve the voting process, so that I can return, make certain that we are able to truncate the recess as much as possible.
Today the committee is pleased to welcome Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to review the United States policy toward Iran. Secretary Armitage is a good friend of the committee, and we always look forward to our discussions with him.
Despite some signs of reform in recent years, Iran continues to pose a serious regional and global security threat through its active support of terrorism and its continued effort to develop weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Today's hearing is especially timely, given the agreement reached last week by the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Iran. This agreement narrowly complies with the October 31st deadline set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, for Iran to fully disclose the nature of its nuclear program. By agreeing to accept enhanced United Nations inspections of its nuclear facilities, and to temporarily suspend its enrichment of uranium that could be used to make nuclear weapons, Iran hopes to avoid international sanctions.
The Europeans consider this a significant step towards ensuring that Iran's nuclear program is benign. Although Americans are hopeful that this agreement does represent progress, we should not lose sight of the fact that Iran was caught red-handed trying to build nuclear weapons through several methods over a sustained period, in violation of its treaty obligations. After years of Iranian delay, deception and denial, this agreement should not lead us to a full sense of security about the Iranian proliferation threat. In fact, the head of Iran's National Security Council reportedly told Reuters that the decision to suspend uranium enrichment was temporary, and will last only as long as the Iranian leaders believe it befits their purposes. It is far from clear that the additional inspections to which Iran has agreed will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability, because they rely on Tehran telling the truth. The international community must be prepared to take more effective action.
When confronted with a case as blatant as Iran, the United States and like-minded allies must use the Security Council of the United Nations to demand that the violator cease all illegal weapons activities, dismantle weapons-related facilities, and submit to super inspections -- even tougher than those imposed on Iraq. Elements should include unfettered freedom for inspectors, unsupervised interviews of nuclear scientists and engineers, out of the countries with their families if necessary, and unrestrained aerial surveillance. Iran may object to such intrusive inspections impinged on its sovereignty, but this is the price Tehran should be paying to convince outsiders that for once it is keeping its word under the Non- Proliferation Treaty. By demanding that Iran prove that it is living up to the NPT, the Security Council would strengthen that treaty.
Some will object that such strong action may force Iran's ruling mullahs to walk out of the NPT. But keeping Iran in the NPT should not be an end in itself. The treaty is useful only to the extent that its provisions are enforced, to prevent states from acquiring nuclear weapons.
If the international community were persuaded to work together, we would have substantial leverage over Iran. An Iranian withdrawal from the NPT would halt the Russian reactor deal, and cooperation with other nuclear suppliers, expose Iran's naked nuclear ambitions for all to see, and stiffen international resolve for tough economic sanctions.
In the short run, our allies may be inclined to give Tehran the benefit of the doubt, partly to avoid a confrontation and partly to preserve commercial opportunities in Iran. But the United States should begin laying the groundwork now for a decisive international response to any additional violations.
Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is not the only threat it poses to international security. Iran is a major state sponsor of terrorism, and continues to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and to fund Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad to employ violence and suicide bombers to frustrate the Arab-Israeli peace process. Iran remains neutral as the United States and coalition forces remove Saddam Hussein from power, but Iran maintains close ties with several Iraqi Shi'ite Islamic functions or factions, and appears to be instigating these groups to undermine coalition efforts to rebuild Iraq.
In addition, Iran claims to have al Qaeda terrorists in custody. It is unclear, however, if Iran is sheltering the terrorists, holding them as leverage to use in dealings with the U.S., or pursuing another agenda.
The United States is also concerned by the political, religious and gender repression perpetrated by the ruling clerics on their own people. These struggles were highlighted when Shirin Ebati, a courageous Iranian woman who has brought world attention to Iran's human rights violations, received the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
President Bush has pursued a policy of containing Iran, while employing selective engagement, as has almost every American administration for the last two decades. Within this context of containment, the challenges before U.S. policymakers are how we can change Iranian behavior in key areas; how U.S. policy can take advantage of opportunities created by reformist elements within Iranian society; and how we can generate more support from our allies on issues pertaining to Iran. Our response to these challenges will help shape the future of the Middle East, and will have significant impact on the outcome of the global war on terrorism.
Mr. Secretary, we thank you for your participation in this important hearing, and we are anxious to hear your assessments in due course. The committee is also pleased to be joined today by a second panel of distinguished experts. With us will be Ambassador William Luers, president of the U.N. Association; Dr. Nasser Hadian of Tehran University, who is a visiting professor at Columbia University; Dr. Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke chair for strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Mr. Robert Einhorn, senior advisor for the International Security Program, also at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. We will welcome all of our witnesses in the course of the hearing, but I call now on the distinguished ranking member, Senator Biden.
A Senator from Delaware, and
Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing. It's obviously important and extremely timely. And, Secretary Armitage, it's a pleasure to have you here. I always, I know, diminish your reputation, and I tell people that in all the years I've been here in the Senate there is no one who I have higher respect for, because you always give us the unvarnished facts as you know them, you say what you know, you indicate what you don't know, you are straightforward. And that is a commodity that is very much desired here, both from the Congress as well a s from the administration.
Iran poses, to state the obvious, a vexing set of challenges to our security. It also holds the possibility of evolving in a more positive direction. It's hard to argue about the geostrategic importance of a country that shares a long border with Afghanistan as well as with Iran, and sits in the heart of the oil-rich and politically turbulent region of the world. We have good reason to be suspicious about Iran. It continues to actively support, as stated by the chairman, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad. It refuses to surrender al Qaeda members who are in custody. It has been developing a nuclear weapons program as well as long-range capability. And because it's one of the few countries with which we have no diplomatic ties and no real dialogue, we have a tougher time understanding its intentions in addition to its obvious internal disputes that are going on.
Yet, over the last several years the reform movement has sought to alter Iran's policy. It has met with only limited success, because of a hard-line establishment that refuses to follow the will of the Iranian people. Just this month, the Nobel Committee, as mentioned earlier, awarded the Nobel Prize to a courageous Iranian reformer who has been pushing for democratic change, especially the rights of women and children, within Iran. This has brought joy and hope to millions of her fellow countrymen, and has raised the question of whether or not her view is one that is widely held, and whether or not there is any democratic prospects within Iran in light of the control that seems to be exhibited by the supreme leader.
We do have a profound stake in the outcome of this internal dispute, and we should have a policy of hard-nosed and hard-headed engagement with Iran to do what we can to promote positive policies in Iran, without kidding ourselves about our ability to profoundly affect the outcome.
When I was in the seat now occupied by the chairman, I extended an invitation to meet anywhere, anytime, with our colleagues in the Iranian parliament, as did my colleague Senator Hagel. We were told that the offer itself generated the most intense discussion internally regarding ties with the United States, and that the discussion was -- got very heated. Reformers in Iran welcomed the invitation, while hardliners clearly felt threatened and condemned it loudly.
I was pleased, I might note for the record, that Dr. Rice, speaking for the president, has consistently and repeatedly supported the idea of this parliamentary dialogue of engagement. In a speech that when I issued that invitation, I recommended five specific steps. First, remove regulations that prevent private American groups from supporting the struggling democratic movement in Iran. Second, discuss matters of possible mutual interest, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, with Iran. Third, allow Iran to join the World Trade Organization and to promote positive change. And, fourth, indirectly help Iran on refugees and narcotics matters where we share common interests. And, fifth, encourage citizen exchange. Certainly there is a great deal to discuss with Iran.
The Iranian reformers tell us that their interests in Iraq are identical to ours, and that the Iranians were one of the first to recognize the Governing Council in Iraq. Others in the Iran establishment take a more pernicious view of our presence, and the question is: Should we test Iran to see whether it's willing to promote stability in Iraq by engaging in discussions?
In Afghanistan we can see the same kind of ambivalence: Iranians in the elected branch of the government work closely with our officials during and after our military campaigns; others directed their support not to the central government but to friendly warlords. With the Taliban regrouping and warlordism on the rise, it makes sense to have a dialogue, it seems to me, with Iran over matters related to Afghanistan.
At the same time, we have to face the matters on which we have fundamental disagreement, particularly terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Iran's continuing support for terrorism will impede any improved relations, and its vagueness about al Qaeda and the suspects it's holding is downright dangerous. France, Germany and the United Kingdom recently gained an agreement, as was referenced earlier, from Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment activities and provide much more transparency about its nuclear programs. I will not repeat, but I concur with the chairman's call for very intense oversight by the international community of this agreement. Of course Iran's pledges will have to be tested, and again the chairman, who penned an op-ed piece last week in which he called for super inspections I think is the way to go. But that is all predicated on the idea that this Bush policy of containment, which is not fundamentally different than previous administration -- containment requires cooperation. Containment requires cooperation with our allies for it to have any prospect of bearing fruit.
So I look forward to hearing from you, Mr. Secretary, on what our policy toward Iran's nuclear program is, what diplomatic initiatives we have been working on with our allies in Europe and Russia. And, Mr. Chairman, there is much more to be said, but let me conclude by saying that we do not have the luxury of ignoring the very real challenges and opportunities that are presented by Iran, even as we find ourselves preoccupied with Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli- Palestinian situation, the war on terrorism and North Korea. That's a lot to have on your plate, when any one of those issues could be all consuming. Unfortunately, they are all interrelated, and we ignore any one of them at our peril. But if we handle Iran well, success there could have a very beneficial spillover to the other challenges we face in the region.
And let me say in closing, Mr. Secretary, that the panel that follows you are a group of very enlightened and informed people, and I hope they are going to be willing to explore with us what the possibilities are. We have a tendency these days to be somewhat cribbed in our viewed, cabined in our view about what we are willing to discuss, and what kind of chances we are willing to take. And I hope we will have an open discussion without anyone being fearful of being concerned or that they may be a little bit too soft or not tough enough in this area of us having to demonstrate our military mettle. There's got -- there only seems to me to be three options: one, there's an internal change within Iran that is beneficial that we may on the margins with others be able to help promote; two, we engage in an open dialogue with the Iranians and raise questions that we are generally reluctant to raise publicly; or, thirdly, we conclude that the only option to a misbehaving Iran that becomes more radicalized is ultimately confrontations. It doesn't seem to me to be all that complicated in what our options are -- incredibly complicated in what the possibilities are.
So I'm told I'm to -- by the chairman, since we're about to vote -- that I should recess the hearing now for roughly 10 to 15 minutes, and then we'll come back and begin with the opening statement by the secretary. Again, Mr. Secretary, it's an honor to have you here. We look forward to your testimony. And I want to thank the second panel for being willing to devote so much time. We're anxious to hear from you as well. We'll recess now until the call of the chair, which I suspect will be within 10 to 15 minutes, depending on whether the Senate vote goes off as scheduled. (Sounds gavel.)
SEN. LUGAR: We are grateful to you, as always, for coming today. We look forward to your testimony. Would you please proceed?
Deputy Secretary of State
MR. ARMITAGE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I won't bore you with the lengthy testimony. With your permission, just put it in the record.
SEN. LUGAR: Your full statement will be contained in the record.
MR. ARMITAGE: Thank you.
I just want to make a few comments, and first of all to echo what Mr. Biden said in your absence. Your op ed piece in the LA Times was spot on, as far as I can see. When Mr. Reagan used to say about the Russians, "trust but verify," this is beyond that now. I think we ought to be skeptical and verify, and that's the burden of your super inspections regime. And I want to tell you that we all took careful note of it.
I actually lived in Iran during a time which was considered the good old days, back under the Shah. And I worked for the Defense Department at the time. And I was struck at the time with a number of ironies or contradictions that existed in Iranian society and with Iranians. And as I was preparing for this testimony, just this morning, when I saw you earlier, sir, I was sitting up here writing down some of these ironies. And I'll just go through them because they just occurred to me this morning.
The first is that I don't think you could find more charming people individually than Iranians -- and hospitable. And yet in a group, they can be unbelievably ethnocentric. It's one of those ironies. We have a revolution in 1979, which was brought about, in very large measure, by women; by women. And yet it is women who now suffer the most under that very revolution, from repressive practices. You've got a nation that's awash in natural resources. And yet, the government rates of unemployment are 16 percent, and we all know it's much higher than that, and particularly when you consider underemployment. And the poverty rate is 40 percent. You have a nation which is the second-largest in terms of gas reserves, and yet they're a net importer of gas because they can't or won't make the necessary decisions regarding infrastructure. You've got a country which has a bit of a democratic process, but the neck of that democratic process is being throttled by unelected theocracies, and this leads to an almost unbelievable cynicism, if you look at the turnout for the most recent municipal elections, which was about 30 percent. You've got a country now which is speaking openly about the problems in their own society -- drug abuse, prostitution, domestic violence -- and yet still has those repressive policies against women and denies basic human rights to many of their citizens. You've got a country which has been, I think, widely known as the leading state supporter of terrorism in a nation which has a hunger for weapons of mass destruction.
And yet -- and there -- and in that regard, they act as a -- pardon the term -- rogue state. And yet it appears that it was fear of being seen in the international community in rogue terms that actually made them try to reach out on the recent visit of the three EU ministers and try to come to -- at least verbally and perhaps more come to some sort of open declaration about the length and breadth of their programs.
You've got a country that used to be called Persia, 69 million people, and yet Persians are on the verge of becoming a minority in their own country, as Azeris and Turks and Kurds and others increase their own percentage of the population. Persians are now 51 percent.
You have a country as old as time, and yet of those 69 million people, about 70 percent of them are under 30.
And finally, you've got kind of the most recent irony -- and it was referred to by you and by Senator Biden, sir -- you have a woman who thrived under the monarchy, was imprisoned under the present regime, and just recently was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi, the woman who is now giving hope and sustenance, I think, to the aspirations of the Iranian people.
So in sum, I very much appreciate the opportunity to be here. This is a fascinating, troubled and troubling country. It's full of political and intellectual ferment and schizophrenia.
So I'm delighted to be here, so thanks.
SEN. LUGAR: Secretary Armitage, you have touched upon the population situation, in which I think you just said 60 or 70 percent of the population are under 30. And frequently these commentators in the United States point out, with that number of people under 30 -- and they're often characterized as being dissatisfied with conditions, high unemployment, which is higher still among those who are young and don't have a foothold in the society -- and yet, as you have pointed out, the democratic process has not proceeded very well. Thirty percent voting indicates a degree of apathy or cynicism about the situation.
And for most Americans, we wonder what gives. Why, given this number of people who are apparently pro-democracy; polls indicate, like the United States, for example, unlike many people in the area, who are polled with very different reactions -- here the contradictions, as you say, abound.
But what is likely to happen in this situation, with this kind of population, this kind of ferment, a desire for democracy, some experience, although it hasn't worked out particularly well, and now the international scrutiny because of weapons of mass destruction? Which -- these young people or other adherents for democracy see Europeans, not just the United States, coming in; the United Nations weapons inspectors saying, "You're headed toward the production of nuclear weapons, and the world doesn't like that."
How can you foresee the future given these circumstances?
MR. ARMITAGE: Well, my crystal ball is as muddy as yours, Mr. Chairman. I don't want to apply our standards to this. We haven't lived under that regime since 1979, and I'm not sure I'm competent of understanding all the hopes and aspirations. But I think there are some things we can say. That unless the regime comes to grips with becoming more transparent, less corrupt, and more open in terms of giving people a voice, over time, then this will lead to gigantic dissatisfaction. But I don't think we can put a time period on that.
Second of all, I agree with the characterization, if poll data is to be believed, that people like the United States. I think what they like about it is what they lack now. They like the openness. They like the ability to freely express their minds, things that peoples in all societies, I think, for the most part, admire.
I wouldn't say, however, they want to be like us. I think it would be a mistake to say they want to be like us. This was not the case during the, quote, "good old days" of the shah. They wanted to be like them. But we do share some basic characteristics.
And finally, there are some questions out there that if there were a different regime in, that I think we need to come to grips with. I don't know how, quite, to do it. It's something that perhaps my colleagues here who are much more -- who are following me, are much more enlightened on these matters, can say. That is, that even if you had a different regime in, I'd ask two fundamental questions.
One is, would that bunch, even if democratically elected, eschew forever weapons of mass destruction? I don't know the answer to that, because there is a sense of sort of destiny in what used to be Persia.
And the second question has to do with our ally, Israel. This is the thing that you don't hear very often. You hear bad news, and we certainly know about the support of Hezbollah, Hamas, PFLP-GC, PIJ, from Iran, but you don't hear generally the so-called reformists, talking in more moderate terms, about the right of Israel to exist. These are open questions, even under a different society. And I don't have the answer to them.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, your answer to that question, though, draws the point that essentially we, as the United States, have issues with Iran with regard to weapons of mass destruction and with regard to state sponsorship of terrorism -- Hezbollah and Hamas, for example. Now as you suggest, perhaps even with a democratic regime, maybe with the young people, they would still want to produce weapons of mass destruction.
Now, where is the rest of the world in this situation? Now, we've had the European intervention, and so, obviously, they and the IAEA have taken this seriously, but is the rest of the world as concerned as the United States is about the weapons program or about the state sponsorship of terrorism? Because even though we are sympathetic with democracy that might arise, with the aspirations of the young people, as you pointed out, at the end of the day, if you still have these instruments of terror and then -- plus weapons of mass destruction, this is unacceptable, in terms of United States security but, I think, a lot of other people's security.
But how are you coming along with diplomatic efforts with European friends or with the people in the Middle East or with others who might see a similar threat?
MR. ARMITAGE: Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman, on the question of terrorism, I think that we are the one who is leading the charge on that without question. And sort of the closer and more involved you are to the Middle East, the more concerned you are geographically. Our European friends have become much more concerned about terrorism and what can emanate from a state sponsor of the same.
On the question of WMD, I'm quite heartened; heartened for two reasons. We had an interesting discussion and diplomatic challenge, if you will, going to the 12 September Board of Governors meeting. There were those in the international community who were more accepting of the word of Iran. I'm proud that our nation hung tough and ultimately got a unanimous verdict out of the Board of Governors, which I think was a shocking signal to the Iranians.
Moreover, recently, during the trip of the three European ministers, which we were involved in from the beginning -- that was their idea, but they were staying in very close touch with Secretary Powell as they moved forward -- there were some fears on our side that perhaps wanting to have a successful trip, the ministers might settle for 80 percent rather than 100. But we voiced those fears with our colleagues. They hung tough and they got, at least what appears to be on the face of it, a good declaration and one that President Bush called a positive step in the right direction.
Finally, right now, in advance of a full understanding of the over 200 pages of documents which the Iranians turned over, we've got my colleague, Mr. Bolton, in Madrid working with the Spanish; we've got some of the people who used to work for Bob Einhorn out in Japan and other places, trying to build a coalition, a common understanding as we approach the 20 and 21 November Board of Governors meeting, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, is it our intent to pursue onto the United Nations and the Security Council the nuclear question if progress is not satisfactory?
MR. ARMITAGE: Well, this is one of those several alternatives that, certainly, if progress is not satisfactory, that's right. But there are questions -- you raised them in your op-ed piece; we raise them in our internal discussions -- about noncompliance more generally. And there are many options that we could have, where they -- clearly, Iran has been in noncompliance; they should be found that way. But whether you would take the noncompliance and move them towards a -- the U.S. Security Council and possibly to sanctions, or put them on probation or give them an ankle bracelet -- (chuckles; laughter) -- sort of as they do to people in sort of house arrest, those are things that we have to consider and consider with our colleagues in Europe and the nonaligned movement. It's the most important thing, I think, is having gotten the solidarity thus far, we have to maintain it.
SEN. LUGAR: Now how much solidarity are you and Secretary Powell having with the Russians on this question? This has been an open discussion for a long time. Where do things stand now?
MR. ARMITAGE: We had a very good discussion at Camp David; that is, President Bush and Mr. Putin. The end result -- that is, an Iran free of nuclear weapons -- is something that our Russian friends sign up to. They're not as enamored of the tactics we use. They have worked hard to try to make Bushehr more attractive, and that they have made an apparent agreement with the Iranians that they would provide the fuel and then take back the spent fuel so there won't be the possibility of any sort of reprocessing. That's a step in the right direction. But our affection for Bushehr is still very much under control, because it seems to me the Iranians have a lot of work to do to prove they're bona fides in the NPT arena.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much.
We'll have eight minutes in this round of questioning. And I call now on Senator Hagel.
SEN. HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, thank you. And Mr. Secretary, as always, welcome. I am sorry I missed your formal eloquence, but I did peruse your statement.
SEN. LUGAR: It's fairly brief.
SEN. HAGEL: Was he? Well, then I'm not sorry.
MR. ARMITAGE: But I won't subject you to it again, sir.
SEN. HAGEL: I wanted the full Armitage projection here. But, nonetheless, I've lived with disappointments before and I'll have to just accept this, Mr. Secretary. Thank you.
Regime change in Iran -- is that our policy?
MR. ARMITAGE: No, sir.
SEN. HAGEL: What is our policy?
MR. ARMITAGE: Our policy is to try to eliminate the ability of Iran to carry forward with disruptive policies, such as the development of WMD, such as the abandonment of human rights, such as repression against minorities, such as religious oppression against the Bahais, and to try to get them to eschew their state sponsorship of terrorism.
And in this regard, our policy is to continue to support openly and publicly the aspirations of the people of Iran for transparency, anti-corruption and democracy.
SEN. HAGEL: I noted in your written statement, which I did have an opportunity to look at, you mentioned areas of common interest where we need to pursue those. I know Secretary Powell has said on various occasions the same thing and talked a little bit about possibilities of dialogue. And that's the question.
When, where could you envision some official dialogue beginning with Iran?
MR. ARMITAGE: Let me say that we've had some dialogue generally under the U.N. auspices. And, of course, we carry on a continued exchange of information through the Swiss, who are protecting power force.
Certainly the two things that -- three that come to mind immediately are continued efforts in Afghanistan, where to some extent we share common interests.
The second is obviously in Iraq, where, as we've seen -- and I'll be glad to go into it later -- they're somewhat schizophrenic about our activities.
And third, one that we, I think, share an almost absolute commonality of views is on the question of narcotics. They have a large and growing product. They are the transportation route from Afghanistan, one of them, up through to Central Europe. And it's something that, at the proper time, when we feel it's in our interest, we could engage them.
SEN. HAGEL: How would you envision that might happen? I know we've had, as you noted, some dialogue through the U.N. third party, the Swiss, other approaches, vehicles. But you might even frame this up a little bit, Mr. Secretary, in experiences, recent experiences we've had with North Korea, how this might develop. Or is it worthy of pursuit with Iran?
MR. ARMITAGE: This is an unsatisfactory answer, Mr. Hagel. I think it's probably something that will be decided at the time and the place, certainly in consultation with the president. He's going to want to be involved in this decision.
I think initially my own view is that it should be somewhat multilateral. We have, I think, recently found the effectiveness of that approach, and I think we would continue that at some point in time on one off issues. We should deal with them, but that's a decision the president and the secretary will make. I tried to make the point in my opening statement that we're not opposed to that. We're not saying no. We realize that there are areas in which our interest can be served by dialogue.
SEN. HAGEL: You mentioned Afghanistan, Iraq, obviously common interest there, not always parallel over the same as defined by each of those countries and by us, the United States. How would you rate the Iranian behavior, cooperation, intentions, motives today versus earlier in cooperating with the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq? Are they undermining our efforts? Are they playing different tracks?
There was significant evidence early on regarding Afghanistan that they were helpful. So if you could elaborate on those two areas. Thank you.
MR. ARMITAGE: Yes, sir. On Iraq, it's a mixed picture. On the plus side of the ledger, I think, would be the almost immediate acknowledgement and welcoming of the Governing Council of Iraq. They have good relations with many of them. Thirteen, of course, of the Governing Council are Shi'a. They pledged money in Madrid, and it's a little confusing how much, because it looks like a bit of tax credits for their businessmen and maybe some swaps in Iraq. But that's not a bad thing.
They share with us one absolute common view is they don't want a bordering state to be one of Sunni extremism. And that's one that we absolutely share as well.
They have done some other positive things. At our urging, they dismantled some Iranian guard posts, for lack of a better term, that were on the Iraqi side of the border and removed them back to Iran.
The negative side of things is that they continue to have some of their intelligence officers and others come across the border from Iran into Iraq. We believe that they are intent on liaising with their own favorite Shi'a group, the SCIRI, and they have activities with the Batacorps (ph), which we frowned upon.bassador Bremer from time to time has publicly called for Iran to cease and desist that type of activity. So it's very mixed there.
In Afghanistan, it's also quite mixed. On the question of narcotics, they're dead on with us. They're suffering a lot, and they share that view. They did almost immediately, in the wake of our attack, disavow the Taliban. At that time they disavowed al Qaeda, but we have seen over time that al Qaeda has been able to weasel their way back in a bit with the Iranians for reasons best known only to the Iranians.
The question of the Iranian interference in Harat is a real one, and the jury is still out on that. I know it's still some concern to Mr. Karzai and his colleagues.
SEN. HAGEL: Thank you. Have we thought through in any long- range scenarios, strategies, the development of regional institutions? The president's initiative, Middle East Partnership Initiative, things where we could bring Iran into those regional institutions -- economic development, for example, and other common interests that we could work off of. Have we gotten to that stage? Do you believe we will get to that stage?
MR. ARMITAGE: Senator Hagel, I don't think we're at that stage, as you used the term long range. At least the way I've lived for the past three years, that's about four days. And I must say, those who want to be in these jobs have the time to figure out the long range.
But we do have exchange programs, small ones, with Iran. We do allow students, about 300 of them last year, to come here. We issued about 7,000 visas last year, for some work-related, some family- related, to come here. We do intend to use MEPI on discreet projects. And we do broadcast, as you know, quite a bit, both VOA with TV and radio. We've got Radio Farda which is 24 hours a day.
We're quite proud in the Department of State that we have a Persian web site. It gets about 3,000 hits a day. Now, that's not the end of the world, but it's not bad. That's 3,000 people who are interested in what we have to say. And we're not propagandizing. We're just putting out what the president says, what you say at this hearing, those kind of things, without any editorial comment. And people are getting the view that there's a lot going on in the world.
SEN. HAGEL: Mr. Secretary, thank you. Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Hagel. Senator Chafee.
SEN. CHAFEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Secretary Armitage.
MR. ARMITAGE: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. CHAFEE: As Muhammad Ali famously said when he refused induction, "I ain't got a gripe with the Viet Cong." And here, as we analyze what's our gripe with Iran, you say we seek to counter the government of Iran's negative and destructive policies and actions, and then later articulate those destructive policies and actions as human rights record, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, also interference in the Arab-Israeli peace process.
So obviously this is very important to our relationship with Iran. And can you tell us where we are in the Arab-Israeli peace process?
MR. ARMITAGE: We have nothing in front of us but the road map. But I think anybody would have to acknowledge that's a very rutted and bumpy map at present. We are waiting for the government of Abu Ala to be totally formed. I don't know if it will be. November 3rd is the date it has to be done. And until that happens and until Mr. Arafat empowers that government to actually move meaningfully in the security area, then I don't think we have much reason for optimism.
We stay involved. We have John Wolf's colleagues; Mr. Wolf is back here consulting with us, but his colleagues are still active and present for duty, hoping that things will get a little better. We continue our discussions with the quartet. This is of enormous interest not only to our president but also, of course, to our friends in Europe.
SEN. CHAFEE: From the Iranian point of view, obviously they'd be concerned. Nothing's happening. We have no involvement, from what you just said. Ambassador Wolf is not there.
Meanwhile, in today's news, Prime Minister Sharon is okaying the provision of services to some illegal outposts; a new break -- Palestinians naturally objecting vociferously that this is a break in the road map process. Do we have a position on today's news and what Prime Minister Sharon is doing? Are we involved at all?
MR. ARMITAGE: We're involved in fairly intense discussions with Israel, with the prime minister and his colleagues, both with the secretary, who is in very often contact with his foreign minister colleague, as well as Dr. Rice, who's involved, as you know, with our counterparts and colleagues.
We find some of these activities, such as provision of services to outposts and the development of the so-called fence, to be very problematic. It's making it somewhat more difficult.
Having said that, having said that, Israel in two and a half years of living frightened with the very real specter of deaths and horrible maimings of women and children, I think it's understandable why they are so neuralgic on the issue. And if it was easy, it would have been solved quite a while ago.
If I might, I think -- I don't want to leave you with a misimpression. I think Iran, not only its present support of terrorism involvement -- on the 23rd of October, we passed something that meant a lot to me, and that was the Beirut bombing, Marine barracks bombing of 1983. People often forget there were also two embassy bombings -- (inaudible) -- sponsored by Iran; was involved in it.
There are sanctions. There are prices to pay for that kind of behavior, in my view, sir.
SEN. CHAFEE: Yes, and I agree with you. And I think it would be naive for anyone to think that it would be easy. Of course not. It's not going to be easy. And the perception, I think, here and in the Arab world -- and it's not tangential, having a hearing on Iran security -- I think it is important, as you say in your written statement, these issues, these are the gripes that we have with the Iranian government. They're interfering with the peace process.
But when you look at it from their point of view, the peace process is disintegrating. And even from your testimony here, Condoleezza Rice (may be?) over there talking. Ambassador Wolf's people are there; he's not even in the region. He's our point person for the road map. He's not even there. And I don't believe that there's any plans to send him back. It's disintegrating. It's relevant to what's happening in Iran and the region, Iraq also.
MR. ARMITAGE: Sir, just a technical clarification. Mr. Wolf is head of the monitoring mission, and he's not the point person for the road map. That's, for better or worse, Secretary Powell on that.
But I'm not sure I understood the thrust of your question. If the Iranians don't see any motion either -- this is -- it's the Iranians who are disrupting through terrorism the ability to have a meaningful dialogue between a government of the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis.
So if they would cease their support for Hezbollah, who lobbed 60 or 70 mortar rounds in yesterday, Hamas, PIJ and PFLPGC, I think that you would immediately see that a relative quiet would descend on the area and perhaps we could have the dialogue. At least those who are so keen to have movement towards the Palestinians would then have a much better leg on which to argue their point of view.
SEN. CHAFEE: I wouldn't dispute what you said about our abhorrence of some of what's happening on the other side. But meanwhile, nothing's happening, they might argue, on the side of Israeli agreements to the road map. And that's my question to you. What's happening? Where are we doing on that side? And from what I've heard so far, absolutely nothing.
MR. ARMITAGE: I would respectfully dispute the "nothing," but I think that, as I said, we've had some problematic actions by the government of Israel in the wake of no action and no ability to have the Palestinian Authority unleashed, the security forces unleashed against those who would conduct terror.
SEN. CHAFEE: One last question. Is the administration in favor of a Palestinian state?
MR. ARMITAGE: Yes, sir. But, if I may, a state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. So we are in favor, but there are some obligations for that Palestinian state as well.
SEN. CHAFEE: Thank you, sir.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Chafee. Senator Biden.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
Mr. Secretary, Iran is a hard nut. And we have a whole lot on our plate with Iran. And, like at least my observation has been, sometimes the policy of states takes a lot longer to adjust to changes that have taken place in the world and around them than, when viewed from hindsight, it should have taken.
And we have somewhat limited options relative to Iran, although the options are real, and at least one of which is very lethal. And so one of the things that I've been trying to discern is how much of the, in an international sense, the anti-social behavior of the Iranian government is a consequence of their feeling isolated and, from a purely self-interest point of view, the conclusion is reached that they have to do certain things?
For example, I can remember -- I hate to admit it; I was here when the shah was there -- from the shah on, Iran has been seeking nuclear weapons, including the shah. The idea that the continued pursuit of nuclear weapons -- I'm not saying you're suggesting this; I really am not -- the idea suggested by some that the pursuit of nuclear weapons is part of an extremist Muslim Shi'a clerical leadership that somehow is different than has been the instinct of every government that I've been aware of since I got here in 1973, is somewhat misleading.
Now, they may have different designs on the reasons why they want a nuclear capability. And one of the things we don't often examine, at least out loud, is whether or not there is any potential for, you know, a grand security bargain with the Iranians that might serve their purposes as well as ours.
When I say theirs, that's even problematic. Who's they? Because there is this internal dispute. But one thing everybody seems pretty well set on, whether they are, quote, "democratic reformers" or they are the ayatollahs, is the desire for Iran to have weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.
And so I'm wondering -- I don't expect a specific answer, but a generic answer -- are there folks at State and Defense, the National Security Agency, that have examined this in the overall context of U.S.-Iranian relations, as opposed to specifically their initiatives on weapons of mass destruction, their initiatives with regard to terrorist organizations, their initiatives with regard to Iraq, Afghanistan, et cetera?
Because if you're sitting in Teheran, whether you're a democratic government or you are the supreme leader for whom democracy is antithetical to everything that he thinks, there are certain sort of imperatives. They are at the moment surrounded by forces that seem somewhat hostile to them. Our assertions have been very straightforward about the threat we think they pose to the region and to us.
And I'm not suggesting that justifies any of their actions. I'm just trying to figure out what are the broad policy prescriptions that have been debated internally within the administration, other than what seems to be essentially one of two options?
Either we contain them -- but containment only works if we have really wide international support for that containment, and obviously the Europeans have concluded that it's better to take a shot at trusting but verifying, to use Reagan's phrase; we'll see how much that verification is -- how tough that is. And in this setting, I don't quite understand what containment, absent their support, gets us.
On the other side of the equation, we always have the option of the hammer, which is, you know, what we did in Iraq, which seems to -- I think would probably not generate a lot of U.S. public support right now. And so what are some of the other dynamics that are in play internally about -- what are some of the big questions you guys are raising? I'm not even looking for the answers. I want to get a sense as to how you're trying to get your arms around what I don't think a single one of us up here would suggest, if we were making the decision, we knew -- would know with any degree of certainty exactly how to proceed either, so this is not instructive. I'm trying to get a sense of what the nature of the debate is internally, and what are the questions that are being raised.
MR. ARMITAGE: The nature of the debate -- if I may, Senator, that's a great question. On the question of -- I think you have to take each of the elements separately first of all, and then you come back to them.
On the question of WMD, I think many of us who are informed, I -- personally, from my own experience -- I served in Iran during the time of the Shah when you were first coming up here, sir, or right after that. And even at that time, as you correctly point out, not only were they aspiring to have a nuclear weapon, but they were trying to have an overwhelming conventional, and they were not surrounded by threats. They were not. The Russians were working in the north. They were not surrounded by threats to their society. I believe that many of us feel that there is sort of a -- an innate grandeur still in the dreams of Persepolos and all of that. So that -- that informs part of the debate. So, the WMD question might be harder than it -- than it seems because it might be more broad in society.
Now, the question of terrorism is not. This is very, I believe, sui generis to post-revolution, and at the time I think the Iranian revolutionaries started on this, in Lebanon and through Syria. And this is -- the Quds force, and the IRGC has just gained in power, and in a way they are almost on automatic pilot and very detrimental. But that is not innate, I think, to Iran or to Persian society.
Then there's the question of human rights, which is very interesting, because at the time of the Shah, when many people would say was the golden era, there was something called Savak -- something called Savak -- and it would --
SEN. BIDEN: Did you --
MR. ARMITAGE: -- be a very rare senator, indeed, at the time, who didn't vociferously criticize the activities and the violations of human rights of Savak.
So, it's a very -- those are the kinds of questions we wrestle with. We find that there's nothing inherently contradictory about Shi'a Islam and democracy, and that appears to be what the Nobel Prize winner is saying as well. And so that also informs the debate. So, that's where we're coming from. The idea of a grand bargain -- I don't think that's on yet, because I think the questions -- I answered -- each one of these questions is answered in a different way.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I -- my -- my time is up. I begin to question how much of their support of terror relates to keeping us off balance in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the region, and how much of it relates to not wanting to see the emergence of a peace agreement in Israel and an Israeli state that is secure, but I'll come back to that later if we have time. I thank you for engaging that question.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Biden. Senator Brownback.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Armitage, really for your wisdom and your insightfulness, and your great knowledge, and your years of service. It's quite instructive. Your answers really give us a lot of history and a lot of knowledge.
I also want to congratulate you. The president had a great trip into Asia last week on the issues dealing with North Korea and building that broad coalition on issues of proliferation (surrounding ?) North Korea. Hats off. I mean, that's a -- that's a tough issue to pull together, and you guys really seem like you're getting it moving in a nice fashion.
I would say, maybe contrary to some others, on Israel, it looks to me like you're doing what you can in a very difficult situation where you have heightened terrorist attacks taking place on the people of Israel that seek to live in peace in the region, and that's -- that's just a very difficult situation. I'm not sure if this model of land for peace that we've been on for now 10, 15 years, I'm not sure that that's the right model to move us towards peace, but that's a discussion for another day.
And I also want to congratulate you on the Sudan, what's taking place there, where you're very close, it appears, to be -- to getting a peace on a war that's taken a couple of million lives and that's been going on for more than 10 years. And where you've got religious factions in each area, where you're pretty close to getting that done, which would be a remarkable thing in the region and in the world. So, you've got a number of things taking place.
On Iran, I've tracked the Iranian activity and terrorist activity for at least the period of time I've been in the Senate, traveled throughout Central Asia mid-'90s, late-'90s, and the Iranians were very active in spreading terrorist cells up in that region at that time and continue to be. I would go into a number of countries coming out from the former Soviet Union that had an Islamic, significant Islamic population, if not majority, and they were citing -- they were citing to the Iranians and the Saudis as planting community centers, mosques there, which were fine by them, but then out of that would come a radical element that would be organized, and they've been at this for some period of time and continue to be.
There are a number of Iranian democracy advocates in this country and around the world -- I've worked with a good portion of them. They would note very clearly, Teheran is not a democracy. You've got a ruling guardian council that has to -- all the candidates have to go through. You have a -- in essence, a religious ruler over the country. They support a referendum on Iranian governance and what's taking place within the Iranian society, and you're hearing more and more calls for that within Iranian society.
I would hope that we could support as well that call for a referendum within the Iranian society and note clearly Iran is not a democracy. We believe in democracy and human rights, and I would -- I would hope you could speak to that on support for a referendum internally, by the Iranian people, on the future of Iranian -- Iranian governance.
MR. ARMITAGE: Like I think most Americans and certainly all of my colleagues at the Department of State, we were mesmerized by the vision of the Shirin Ebadi receiving the Nobel Prize. We were fascinated by the spontaneity of the demonstration that greeted her when she returned to Iran. But I was even more interested in what she had to say. And what she had to say about developments and Iran -- and I'm paraphrasing, I can't do it with the eloquence -- but basically that if we're going to have meaningful change, it has to come from within. I think she's on to something. It has to be something the majority of people who live under the system embrace and see as a better way forward for them. If it's referendum, then that's fine. But I think it's not -- I'm not able to, from the outside, to determine what the proper path exactly to transparency, elimination of corruption, whether it's political corruption or fiscal corruption, et cetera. I think what our best path and our best policy is to very forthright in our views about transparency and governance, and human rights, et cetera, not to propagandize but put out the information -- put it out, put it out constantly, because we're finding from what I call -- I think I called it in my testimony "virtual embassies," we're finding Iranians who travel around, they're coming in and tell us they're getting the message, they're hearing it. And rather than try to pick winners or losers in this -- I don't think that's something we can do very well from the outside. I think it our duty, as well as our right, is to just put the facts on the table and call things as we see them about the need for civilized behavior in the world, et cetera. But, whether it's a referendum or not, I think if that's what the majority of the people want, I'm all for it. But I don't know where they are in their own development. We know there's intellectual and political ferment. There has not been, other than those student demonstrations of the summer which were so horribly and brutally put down, there hasn't been sort of political activism yet, and I think they've -- they've got to come a ways internally before we'll know which direction they want to go.
SEN. BROWNBACK: We do know that Iran is a lead sponsor of terrorism --
MR. ARMITAGE: The leading --
SEN. BROWNBACK: -- the leading sponsor of terrorism, and you know, which I found interesting, that that's an aberration from historic Iranian, Persian society. So, that's really with the mullahs that they have decided to go this route, and that's something we stand abhorrent -- we find abhorrent and just stand completely against.
MR. ARMITAGE: Yes sir.
SEN. BROWNBACK: I would also note there's a number of outside Iranians broadcasting inside and into Iran that are having their signals jammed at times, that the regime -- I hope the State Department and our governmental apparatus are working with them to try to stop the places where that signal is getting jammed and help them, because it strikes me that one of the key things we can and should provide is information. And that information helps provide an organizational flow internally in Iran, where they can't communicate. I've seen and heard of some of these operations where they're getting calls from inside Tehran to a radio station in the U.S. or another place, of here's where we can organize to talk about right now and then broadcasting it back into Iran because they can't internally organize with disruption, violation of human rights, or risking, really, life and limb themselves. I would hope we could help more with that broadcasting and communication ability inside Iran.
MR. ARMITAGE: My understanding is that -- I won't go through the complete laundry list of what we as a government broadcast, but it's VOA -- I saw some of the correspondents here. They've got the next chapter, roundtable with youth, all these kinds of things, that we send in Radio Farda, which is 24/7, a mixture of news, music, pop, you know, to kind of keep people interested. The question of private groups broadcasting in, I think our preference on that is on a case- by-case basis we will support, under the MEPI, getting that information in. I'm not expert in these matters, but I know at one time years ago with VOA, we had to be very careful about who was broadcasting in to whatever country, and who might be broadcasting for diaspora in our country. And there were at least regulations, and I believe rules, about that. So, I got the message, and I'll look into it for you and respond.
SEN. BROWNBACK: I appreciate it, because to me Iran is a critical country in that region, where we're, you know, on a stated policy of trying to drain this swamp and to provide open and free societies that can grow and prosper, and you've got one here that has an economy that's less than it was during the period of the Shah, over what -- 25 -- nearly 25 years ago, and, you know, clearly I think Iran will make a vibrant, open, democratic society with quite a contribution to the world once it throws off the tyranny that sits on top of it. And, I hope we can be as supportive as possible in that process.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Brownback. Senator Nelson.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your public service. You're one of the best that we have.
I'd like to get you to opine, given the recent agreement by Iran to suspend their development of nuclear weapons, an agreement with the Europeans, what appears to be in exchange for European economic help for Iran. I'd like for you to interpolate that as to whether or not it would work if we were to offer economic help in the same vein that the Europeans have?
MR. ARMITAGE: I kind of look at this, Senator, as sort of a who needs to go first, and who has been hiding the ball. And as the chairman indicated, Mr. Biden indicated, the Iranians have been caught out -- they've been caught lying and hiding the ball several times, the most recently during a visit of the IAEA when there were some traces of highly enriched uranium found that gave lie to all the things that -- many of the things that the Iranians were saying. So, my own view is we're the United States, we're not like everybody else, and we need to be very cautious and careful when we make decisions about economic assistance, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, because you're sending a signal absent some rather basic agreement on other elements of policy with Iran, with which we have vehement objections, such as the terrorism and things of that nature, that Senator Brownback was saying -- so I think I'm -- I would be pretty careful.
Regarding the agreement, the apparent agreement, it appears that the Iranians have agreed to all the elements of the September 12th board of governors' resolution. It's not just an agreement with the three ministers, though they were the ones who went to Tehran and received it, and the proof of that will be in the pudding, and we'll see. Dr. ElBaradei will issue a report after he's poured through the pages of the voluminous documentation. Then we will be consulting with the international community about the way forward as we to go the 20th and the 21st of November board of governors' meeting.
SEN. BILL NELSON: You were talking to Senator Brownback about the jamming. There was a report that the Cuban government was jamming broadcasts into Iran at a time that -- when students were protesting the oppression by the ruling clerics. What do you know about that?
MR. ARMITAGE: We approached the government of Cuba about some jamming that was emanating from Cuba. It was not the government of Cuba, it was another entity, and it has ceased.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Since Iran is such a sponsor and benefactor of Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is clearly an impediment to the interests of the United States in reaching a peace accord in the Middle East, plus the fact that there are substantial presence of Hezbollah here in the United States, what contacts, if any, have been with the government of Iran about their sponsorship of Hezbollah? And if none, what do we plan in the future?
MR. ARMITAGE: Well, what we have done -- there's no -- first of all, there's no need on this issue for someone to send a private message. Everybody from the U.S. Senate to successive presidents have been very clear from the time of Ronald Reagan on about the Hezbollah- Iranian marriage. We try to complicate and constrict the ability of Iran to provide aid and comfort to Hezbollah. We try this by stopping of overflight, or trying to jawbone countries into not allowing overflights when weapons are going to be delivered through Syria or something of that nature. We do it by trying to stop flows of money, which is a much more difficult thing because it can go 360 degrees and still find its way back to Hezbollah. We work with the terrorist financing resolution at the U.N. to try to constrict and control Hezbollah's access to funds. It's a pretty difficult thing.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Nelson. Senator Coleman.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Mr. Secretary, thank you for your service. It's pretty inspiring for somebody new like me to be able to listen to someone like you who has been there a long time, but you never talk about yesterday, you're always talking about tomorrow --
MR. ARMITAGE: You're making me feel like a lot of moss on my -- (laughs) --
SEN. COLEMAN: Let me -- first, if I may, I just want to follow up on the Middle East, the situation with Israel and terrorism. And I share the opinion of my colleague from Kansas, this is a difficult situation, and I'm sure my colleague from New Hampshire, when he -- excuse me -- from Rhode Island, when he was discussing concern about what's happening with the building of some barriers that there's not an equivalency between Iran supporting Hezbollah, which is supporting killing -- killing of Israelis, killing of Americans, of allies of America. I'm clear, there is no moral equivalency there. Iran is supporting terrorists, there is no question about that.
SEN. COLEMAN: The second piece of that then, just to finish the discussion about the Middle East for a second, that portion of it, in terms of U.S. policy, our policy is the establishment of a Palestinian state. But the precondition of that still stands to what the president said on June 24th, that an end to terrorism is a precondition. Is that correct?
MR. ARMITAGE: Yes.
SEN. COLEMAN: If we can just talk about -- a follow up with a comment that Senator Nelson raised about the jamming of the signals to Iran. I had a chance to be in Cuba, and Cubans are very forthright -- they said, We didn't do it, and others did it. You said "other entity." Can you identify who was that other entity? Was it Iranian officials?
MR. ARMITAGE: Yes, it was.
SEN. COLEMAN: So the Iranians were jamming the ability of folks --
MR. ARMITAGE: It has ceased --
SEN. COLEMAN: Okay, appreciate that. Let me just one other question then. How do you -- we know that the efforts in democracy in Iran, they rise up, the students rise up, and they get crushed. They were crushed brutally a number of years ago. They continue to be crushed. How do you support democracy? What is it that we are not doing today that will be more helpful in supporting a more democratic Iran?
MR. ARMITAGE: You know, the student riots to which you refer, senator, as I understand it, actually came about not in a search for democracy, but they were demonstrating against the fact that the universities were going to be privatized, and the tuition would dramatically rise. And that developed over some time, a couple of days, a need for a more open society and democracy, et cetera -- and of course, as we indicated, was brutally crushed.
I think our job in this -- we can't force something on people who want it less than we do. I think that we -- and as I say was very moved by Ms. Shirin Ebadi's comments about meaningful change has to come from within. And the intellectual and political ferment I think has to be translated into louder and more demands for freedoms. We have heard -- it's not state secret -- that recently the parliament, the majlis, has passed laws having to do with more judicial openness, et cetera. Now, these laws were contravened by the unelected body, the Council of Guardians. But that kind of expression I think speaks to what is underlying most peoples in the world; that is, a basic desire to run their own lives. Our job in this I think is to make first of all the facts available. And the facts are both positive facts and negative facts -- positive facts about how countries around the world are developing their own democracies, and for instance some of the countries of the former Soviet Union who in relative terms have come quite far in 10 or 12 years. Also the negative facts; that is, how Iran is perceived in the world, why Iranians have difficulty getting visas, those who are able to travel; why, when we talk about corruption, just who is doing what to whom -- those kind of things. So I think that's our job right now. And that would allow I think the political ferment to take hold.
SEN. COLEMAN: Last question, if I have the time, just to touch upon the issue of Iran and developing its nuclear capacity. How do we avoid the pitfalls of U.S. policy towards arming Iran with our policy toward North Korea in 1994? How do you avoid the situation where somebody says that they are going to negotiate, they're going to sign an agreement, they're not going to go down this track, but when they have the record that they have had -- when they have certainly as you indicated the record for terrorism, we can't afford to have what happened with North Korea happen with Iran -- who do we avoid those pitfalls?
MR. ARMITAGE: My own view, it's a good lesson, something that we need to keep our eyes on. I go into this saying our enthusiasm for Bushehr, for instance, the so-called civil-nuclear reactor, is very much under control, because they haven't -- the Iranians haven't demonstrated their bona fides in terms of the NPT. They would say to you, the Iranians, that we have an inalienable right as an NPT signatory to civil nuclear use. Well, that's not quite right. They have an inalienable right if they are living up to all the criteria in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has to do with eschewing nuclear weapons and enriched uranium and plutonium reprocessing for weapons, et cetera, et cetera. So I think we have got to spend some time calling them, making them live up to their bona fides.
And, second of all, I think unlike North Korea this is a nation awash in energy -- fourth largest reserves of petroleum, second largest in gas. So for them to say they need civilian nuclear reactors seems to me to be a bit incredulous, and I think we need to point that out. If there were some interest in developing the infrastructure of oil and gas, and terrorism had ceased and all of that, then that would be a different situation, and that ought to go ahead at some point in time. But our enthusiasm of this whole civil nuclear thing is very much under control for the reasons I mentioned.
SEN. COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Coleman. Senator Feingold.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary, it's good to see you again.
MR. ARMITAGE: Thank you, sir.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Given the close relationship between powerful elements of the Iranian government and several terrorist organizations, it obviously seems to me that Iran is among the most likely states, if not the most likely state, that could transfer weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organizations. I'd like you to comment on that, and why is it that we heard so much about this issue with regard to Iraq and relatively little with regard to Iran?
MR. ARMITAGE: I think we have in place several different things. I think they are the leading sponsor of terrorism, state sponsor, in the world. Their need for the hard currency might be slightly less than North Korea -- something we've discussed up here more. Some might argue that would make North Korea more inclined to trade money for weapons.
Having said that, we have both the international regimes, the NPT and other things, that we apply. We've got also a proliferation security initiative in which eleven countries are now participating, which is a regime that, following international law, would try to block and stop shipments which we believe are suspicious in nature, and are WMD, or related materials. Like I say, eleven countries have signed up for that. We recently exercised it in Coral Sea.
I think on the question of Iran, as my understand it, the -- their ability to acquire this weapon, their desire, there was no question of, how far along in their process in terms of nuclear, sir. There were some real questions about it. I think we felt that they were, first of all, it was more time. Second of all, we were able in the case of Iran to develop an international consensus. In the case of Iraq, we had a limited international consensus, but we've had much better luck thus far. And that's why the president is moved to say that it's not a one size fits all. We're making some progress, he feels, in multilateral diplomacy, and we'll continue to do so.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Has the rift that has developed between the United States and other Security Council members relating to our policy in Iraq affected the prospects for international cooperation and pressure on Iran?
And in connection with that, what -- if you could talk about what specific proactive steps will the administration be taking the near term to foster that cooperation and strengthen multilateral cohesion?
MR. ARMITAGE: Senator Feingold, I -- thanks to a lot of hard effort by my colleagues at the Department of State, U.S., U.N., and the president's jawboning, we got 1511, U.N. Security Council resolution, unanimously. And I think, in the first instance, that is a good sign that the past is the past, and we're going to move forward.
On the question of Europe, it's quite interesting. I think many of our European friends -- and that's where the trouble was in the Security Council -- they find that the prospect of an Iran with a nuclear weapon and, as we know, the delivery systems they're developing -- one, the Shahab, which, I think, in an unclassified basis, has about a 1,300-kilometer range -- is something that makes the problem theirs, as well as ours. And I think that is a good sign.
Now I indicated earlier, Senator, that my colleague John Bolton and some of his colleagues, acting Assistant Secretary Susan Burke (sp) and others, are right now out internationally -- Bolton's in Spain, and Ms. Burke was meeting with the Japanese -- to try to make sure we keep consensus as we move forward to the 20th and 21st board of governors meeting of the IAEA.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you.
Finally, the administration reportedly signed a cease-fire with the MEK in April, and then it changed its mind. Can you explain why the administration changed its policy towards the MEK in such a short period of time?
MR. ARMITAGE: We shouldn't have been signing a cease-fire with a terror -- foreign terrorist organization. And my understanding -- and I think it's been written about -- this was done tactically in the field by a soldier who was faced with an immediate problem.
Given the fact that this is an FTO, we're in the business of disarming them from their major weapons, which, I am told, has been done; containing them in a rather large area, which takes a certain amount of person power from the U.S. Army; and we're classifying them, going through them person by person, to see those who may have terrorist connections. In my understanding, a certain number of those do, and we could talk about it in a closed session. And that process is ongoing now.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, I'm pleased to hear your comment about the impropriety of our signing a cease-fire with a terrorist organization, something I raised at the time.
Does the ambiguity surrounding U.S. policy toward the MEK complicate our efforts to demand that Iran act against terrorist organizations? And what exactly is the status of the members of this group who are operating in Iraq?
MR. ARMITAGE: They are contained, as I understand it, by the U.S. military, primarily the Army, and they have been disarmed of their major weapons. I don't think all of them have turned over their side arms. They are not allowed, as I understand it, free access in and out of their own camp.
There have been speculations about maybe swaps with Iran, et cetera, but we do have -- as you know, we may have some real complaints against terrorists. We also have some real strong views about how people should be treated. And so I think that impedes any possibility of swaps, et cetera, with Iran, because we can't be sure of the way they'd be treated.
But if we find that people are -- qualify as terrorists under our definition, then they're going to have to be dealt with in a legal manner.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Feingold.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. I -- you indicated, Mr. Secretary, that the way to support democracy in Iran is to make the facts available to the Iranian people.
How do you do that if there's not direct engagement with them? I mean, how does that get done? Do we do it through radio messages? And did your counterparts in France, Britain and Germany convey to you any request for steps that would help them arrive at last week's agreement?
In other words, if so, did we take any steps, did we convey, via the Europeans or through any other channels, any steps that -- was there any discussion about security assurances? Are our fingerprints on any of that? I don't mean that -- (inaudible) -- positive way -- I mean.
So the first question is, how do we communicate this? And secondly, were we contemporaneously informed? Did we have any input? What part --
MR. ARMITAGE: We were informed before the trip, when the political directors went to Iran to sort of set the stage. Secretary Powell had some discussions with some of his colleagues.
John Bolton and I met separately with various German and French interlocutors -- and with the British; we're cheek by jowl anyway -- to make our point clear that we hoped the ministers would not settle for the 80 percent solution, that they'd settle for a 100 percent solution, because we felt the only reason we were at the point where the Iranians were willing to talk was because of unanimity of views on the board of governors.
So, to that extent, we were informed. And immediately upon the completion of the mission, Secretary Powell's colleagues informed him. And then laterally we got it through diplomatic communications as well. We did not offer and, to my knowledge, not (witting ?) in any way of any sort of security -- (inaudible).
SEN. BIDEN: Are they asking us -- I'll conclude with this, Mr. Chairman. Are they asking us -- are the Europeans asking us for any assistance from us in this run-up to the IAEA November meeting?
MR. ARMITAGE: Not to my knowledge. We are, as I indicated, however, reaching out to them as we develop our own understanding of what's in those pages, to give them the benefit of our views.
You had another question, Senator.
SEN. BIDEN: No, I think you -- how do we get the "facts," quote/unquote, I think we all agree, to the Iranian people without engagement?
MR. ARMITAGE: Well, we've got about six hours a day VOA and a couple of hours a day TV that goes in. We've got a web site. And we've got a 24/7 operation called Radio Farda, which we're told is quite popular, because it mixes contemporary U.S. and Iranian music with news, broadcast, et cetera. It's not propaganda. It's straightforward.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.
MR. ARMITAGE: I was asked even here today by the VOA, would I sit for a one-on-one discussion that just goes to the Iranian people and just tell them what we think.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Secretary Armitage, for your testimony and for your response to our questions, as always. It's great --
MR. ARMITAGE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It's a pleasure, as always.