Diplomacy and Sanctions Set the Stage for Progress with Iran

Recent reports that Iran is less than one year away from completing a nuclear facility is cause for serious action by the international community. As the United States and other leading countries continue to hold talks with Iran to determine the true intent of the nation’s nuclear ambitions, Iran continues to defy orders of the International Atomic Energy Agency to cease its pursuit of the enriched uranium needed to make nuclear weapons.

Actions speak louder than words. Iran’s actions in the past year alone – repeated missile tests, pursuit of uranium enrichment, and delay tactics in the most recent request to send its nuclear enrichment program abroad demonstrate its intent to obtain a nuclear arsenal.

A nuclear Iran is a threat to our security and the security of critical allies, and the repressive tactics of the regime make Iran a threat to democracy – period. A nuclear Iran could destabilize or attack a critical portion of the world, including our allies in Israel and Southern Europe. If Iran were to go nuclear, it is conceivable that a tactical nuclear weapon could end up in the hands of an extremist group.

Iran is a vibrant country with rich history and traditions that Iranians bring to communities across the United States, and I believe the majority of Iranian people wish for their children and grandchildren a future that is prosperous and peaceful. Unfortunately, the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, support of violent and extremist proxy groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and its violence unleashed on peaceful demonstrators make Iran’s future relationship with the United States – and the rest of the world – uncertain.

Facing this threat, the United States must have a strong, coherent, bipartisan foreign policy that promotes dialogue but also leverages the full range of diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to maintain and improve global security. In this pursuit, we must use all available measures to prevent nuclear weapons from finding their way into the hands of terrorists. President Barack Obama has reached out to the Iranian regime to engage in a dialogue, but in order to demonstrate the collective determination of the U.S., Congress must also show that it is serious in the quest for peace. This includes the use of sanctions.

On that front, the United States must send a strong message.  That’s why I am a strong supporter of two bipartisan measures to impose economic sanctions on Iran, help the United States take a firm position against allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and to make it clear to the Iranian regime that continuation of its nuclear program is unacceptable. H.R. 1327, Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which passed the House of Representatives on October 14, 2009, would permit state and local governments to divest any public funds from companies that do more than $20 million a year in business with Iran’s energy sector. Additionally, H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, passed the House on December 15, 2009, and proposes to restrict large-scale sales of processed petroleum to Iran in order to convince the government to abandon its nuclear ambitions. With 40 percent of its refined petroleum imported from other countries, Iran depends heavily on other countries to supply its energy. The Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act provides leverage in negotiations that can often stall and they offer an alternative, diplomatic approach to avoid use of military force. 

As we exert economic pressure on Iran to peacefully co-exist with other global nations, we must simultaneously exert diplomatic pressure. There is a place for dialogue, but we also cannot stand idly by as rumors of human rights abuses grow. For the first time in five years, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, located in Connecticut, was refused federal funding to carry out its mission of making the world aware of potentially repressive tactics and human rights abuses. To address this pressing issue, I’ve recently partnered with Senator John McCain to request that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reestablish funding for this group and similar organizations that provide critical information to the U.S. and the rest of the world about the abuses occurring in this unstable regime.

The people of Iran deserve a secure, peaceful future. This cannot happen without changes in Iran’s policies. In order to bring about those changes, we must use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal, including the further use of sanctions. I hope we can continue working together to bring freedom, prosperity, peace and stability to the people of Iran and the entire region.