Lantos On Iran Freedom Support Act

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) called on the House to pass legislation sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) that would implement sanctions in response to Iran's uranium enrichment program.
But Madame Speaker, let me be clear on one point: Congress will no longer tolerate lax enforcement of American sanctions against Iran. For over a decade, both Democratic and Republican Administrations failed to implement the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act measures that we do have in place. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program has marched forward at a frighteningly rapid pace.


 

Lantos delivered these remarks on the House floor this morning.
Madame Speaker, the single most important action that we will take today is to ensure that the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act is not extended. Libya no longer needs to be subject to such punitive measures; it is our partner in the global goal of controlling the spread of unconventional weapons.

 

In December 2003, Libya took a bold and courageous step. It pledged to rid itself of all weapons of mass destruction. I was in Tripoli immediately thereafter, in January 2004, to encourage the leadership of Libya to follow through with its stated goal. After that, Libya loaded its nuclear weapons onto American ships. These weapons, together with all detailed plans and programs, are today under lock and key in Tennessee.

 

As a result, the legislation now before us removes all references to Libya from the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. ILSA, Madame Speaker, is dead, and the Iran Sanctions Act will rise in its place.

 

The weight of American sanctions will now be focused exclusively on Iran because the Mullahs in Tehran continue to pursue blatantly their nuclear ambitions. The message to Tehran is simple: follow the Libya model, and we in Congress are more than prepared to open a new, constructive, and happy chapter in U.S.-Iran relations.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Iran Freedom Support Act will dramatically ratchet up the economic pressure on Tehran to abandon its headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons. If we fail to use both our economic and our diplomatic tools, the world will face a nightmare that knows no end: a despotic, fundamentalist regime that avidly supports terrorism,

exploiting and threatening to use the ultimate weapon of terror.

 

Just yesterday, the leader of Iran indicated that they stand ready to share their nuclear technology with the government of Sudan – which, as we speak here this morning, is engaged in genocide in Darfur. This is the regime we are dealing with.

 

It is very naïve, Madame Speaker, to expect that we can convince Iran to end its nuclear program voluntarily, based on reason. We can only hope to inflict economic pain at the highest levels in Tehran and starve the Iranian leadership of the resources it needs to fund a costly nuclear program. And that is the purpose of our legislation.

 

Some argue that this legislation might undermine our relations with European allies who invest in Iran, but who have also helped lead an important diplomatic effort to bring the Iran nuclear issue to the UN Security Council.

 

But that argument, Madame Speaker, is a pure and simple misreading of the contents of our bill. Our legislation is intended to reinforce diplomacy with economics. We ask our allies to do what the United States did over a decade ago: divest from Iran’s energy sector, the cash-cow of the Ayatollahs’ nuclear plans.

 

At the same time, our legislation does not put the President in a strait-jacket. If a verifiable deal to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program can be negotiated, or if certain sanctions will undermine the national security of our own nation, the President may waive implementation of this law.

 

But Madame Speaker, let me be clear on one point: Congress will no longer tolerate lax enforcement of American sanctions against Iran. For over a decade, both Democratic and Republican Administrations failed to implement the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act measures that we do have in place. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program has marched forward at a frighteningly rapid pace.

 

Our legislation will extend the Iran Sanctions Act indefinitely. It will dramatically boost Congressional oversight over its implementation. The Administration will have to enforce the law fully. Ignoring the law will no longer be an option.

 

I commend the Administration for convincing the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to send its Iran file to the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, the Russians have already made clear that the Security Council action will be impeded by them.

 

Just last week the Russian foreign ministry announced that Moscow would only consider UN sanctions on Iran if it were shown what it called "concrete proof" of Iran’s non-peaceful intentions. Madame Speaker, what gall!

 

As we all know, there is no shortage of "proof" to be found in the numerous International Atomic Energy Agency reports over recent years. These reports demonstrate conclusively that for two decades – for two decades – Iran has run a clandestine nuclear program in violation of its commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

 

I can’t help but wonder what the Russians require as proof. Perhaps Iran parading a nuclear device through the streets of Tehran. Or Israel’s being wiped off the map, as Iran’s President has publicly declared.

 

The leadership in Moscow ought to know that support for terrorists is not a policy that the United States or other civilized nations will accept, especially from a country that expects to be treated like as a member of the G-8 nations, seven of which are true democracies – Russia clearly is not.

 

Madame Speaker, I would be delighted if our legislation were rendered redundant by serious Security Council action. But the attitude shown by Russia and China thus far show that that is a most unlikely development.

 

In the meantime, we cannot shirk our responsibility to employ every peaceful means possible to undermine Iran’s ugly nuclear ambitions. And that, in essence, is the reason for the urgency of our passing H.R. 282 today.

 

Madame Speaker, I strongly support this bill for the sake of staving off a looming, long-term nuclear terrorist threat, and I urge all my colleagues to do so as well.