Remarks by Representative Howard Berman on U.S.-Iran Policy

September 10, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

We are all here today because we share the same goal, and that is stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear-weapons capability. That does not mean containing or deterring or regulating or living with an Iran with nuclear weapons, but actually stopping Iran from achieving its nuclear ambition. And I know the Administration, which just yesterday declared that Iran has already achieved possible breakthrough capacity, shares that commitment.

The Iranian nuclear issue is at the forefront of my policy agenda. I raise it at every meeting I hold with relevant foreign leaders. Since introducing the Iran sanctions bill that Ileana (Ros-Lehtinen) and I have cosponsored, I have made trips to Moscow and to Beijing in order to emphasize this message.

The world would be changed irrevocably for the worse if the Islamic Republic of Iran were nuclear-capable. Merely by possessing the bomb, even without using it, Iran would emerge as the intimidating force and the political powerhouse, the hegemon of its region - not to mention the arms race it would set off, as states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia would attempt to secure their own nuclear bombs.

And, regarding Iran, we're not talking about a regime that has the same calculus -- that same sense of restraint -- as we do about the use of such a weapon. This is a regime that sent tens of thousands of children to certain death - its own children -- as human mine-sweepers during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. This is a regime whose ex-president, as Nita (Lowey) mentioned -- the so-called moderate Ali Rafsanjani -- has boasted openly that Iran would win a nuclear exchange with Israel. This is a regime, as we have witnessed once again in recent weeks, whose brutality against its opponents knows no limits. And, at last, the world has begun to acknowledge the extent of its repressiveness.

President Obama has made a good-faith effort to engage the Iranians. Plan A has always been to demonstrate that our preference is to solve this problem peacefully and diplomatically, however unlikely that result might be.

Should that fail -- and I have no illusions about whether it ever could have succeeded -- Plan B was to engage the international community in obtaining much stronger sanctions. Having tried engagement, I believe we will be in a much stronger position to maximize our ability to obtain crippling sanctions because of our sincere effort to engage. I don't know if our approach will win over Russia and China -- perhaps not -- but it certainly gives us a chance to get the support for those kinds of sanctions from the Europeans.

Plan C was to move ahead with our own extra-territorial sanctions, all the while keeping all of the other options on the table.

Thus far Iran has thumbed its nose at President Obama's generous offer to engage. It reportedly did so again yesterday, with another evasive message to the P5-plus-one. President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy, and others have all indicated that Iran must respond to our overtures before the end of this month -- specifically, by the time of the G-20 meeting September 24th -- or face consequences. I intend to do my best to make sure that those consequences are serious and have a real impact. I will urge the Administration to pursue the strongest and the most effective sanctions measures possible.

If the Iranians are going to engage in a meaningful and significant way that will spell the end of their nuclear enrichment program, we'll open a new chapter with them. But let's clarify "meaningful" - we're not going to be conned by an Iranian rope-a-dope, its stalling efforts. We have no intention of spending months analyzing old proposals which are offered merely to delay imposition of sanctions. The clock is ticking and in fact, it has almost run out.

That is why I intend to take action on my bill - HR 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act - expeditiously and at the most opportune time to accomplish our shared goal, if Iran does not reverse course. Absent some compelling evidence as to why I should do otherwise, I will mark up my bill next month and begin the process of tightening the screws on Tehran.