Statement by Congressman Howard Berman on H.R. 7112

September 26, 2008

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

Washington, DC - This evening the House passed on voice vote the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (H.R. 7112). Congressman Howard L. Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had introduced this measure, which will significantly strengthen our nation's peaceful efforts to counter Iran's nuclear weapons program. Here is a transcript of Chairman Berman's remarks on the House floor at the start of debate on the bill:

Mr. Speaker, preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power to me is one of the great national security challenges of our age. A nuclear-armed, fundamentalist Iran would become the dominant power in its region. The global nonproliferation regime would crumble; already today we know that many of Iran's neighbors are contemplating their own nuclear programs - and can anyone be sure that Iran, with a leader who speaks like he speaks now, would not resort to either the use of nuclear weapons or to the hand-off of those weapons to terrorist organizations?

The sanctions that the United States and the international community thus far have placed on Iran have squeezed Iran's economy somewhat perhaps, but clearly not enough significantly to slow down its nuclear program. The present strategy is not working. I'm disappointed, and I believe that the Iranian regime is surely heartened -- by the failure of urgency the Administration's to produce the kind of results we need regarding Iran's nuclear program. We need to make our foreign-policy priorities clear, and Iran must be at the very top of the agenda in our dealings with other countries. Sanctions will never work unless we have buy-in and support from other key countries. And if the process of achieving that buy-in requires us to engage directly with Iran, that is certainly something we should do.

Two months ago, the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council and Germany offered Iran all kinds of generous incentives to persuade it to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Just for the sake of initiating further talks on this package, they offered what they called a "freeze-for-freeze" -we will agree not to pursue further sanctions for six weeks, Iran agrees not to increase the number of its centrifuges for six weeks. But these offers weren't good enough for Iran, which responded only with a non-committal letter.

If Iran won't change its behavior as a result of the sanctions the international community has already imposed, and if it won't change its behavior as a result of the generous incentives package offered in Geneva, we should be pursuing tougher and more meaningful sanctions.

The legislation before us won't put an end to Iran's nuclear program, but it may help to slow it down. Moreover, it will send a strong signal to Tehran that the U.S. Congress views this matter with urgency. And it will send a message to companies and countries that invest or consider investing in Iran's energy sector.

This bill before us contains somewhat a diluted version of two measures put together in the other body that had previously passed by the House by votes of 397 to 16 and 408 to 6.

This legislation would codify and expand export and import bans on goods to and from Iran. It would freeze assets in the U.S. held by Iranians closely tied to the regime.
It would render sanctionable a U.S. parent company if that parent company uses a foreign subsidiary to circumvent sanctions. It expands the Iran Sanctions Act to cover not only oil and all natural gas but related industries. It authorizes state and local governments in the United States to divest from any company that invests $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector. It increases U.S. export controls on countries that are directly involved in trans-shipment or illegal diversion of sensitive technologies to Iran. And it requires the Administration to report all foreign investments of $20 million or more made in Iran's energy sector - action which they have not done, notwithstanding the existing law -- and to determine whether each such investment qualifies as sanctionable.

Since 1996, the Executive Branch has never implemented the sanctions in the Iran Sanctions Act, even though well over a dozen sanctionable investment deals have since been concluded with Iran by international companies. The Administration hasn't even made a determination as to whether any of the investors are sanctionable. This bill will close that loophole.

The legislation before us also reaffirms our nation's commitment to multilateral diplomacy to increase pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, and it explicitly states that nothing in this Act authorizes the use of force.

Based on previous votes, this body is committed to ending Iran's illicit nuclear program by taking measures that are peaceful but meaningful. I believe this legislation is a useful step toward that end.