Joementum delivered a speech at AEI this afternoon previewing new bipartisan legislation for tighter sanctions on Iran specifically targeting the country's dependence on imports of refined petroleum products. The full text of the speech is after the jump, but the key excerpt:
To be clear, I am not opposed to talking to the Iranians. But engagement is a tactic, not a strategy-and what we need is a multi-pronged, explicit strategy that employs all of the elements of our national power and that ties together multiple lines of operation, including direct diplomacy with the Iranians, into a coherent plan of action for the months ahead, that has goals, schedules, rewards, and punishments. One component of such a plan must be a clear and credible set of benchmarks, milestones by which we can measure Iranian behavior, and an explicit timeline by which the Iranians understand that we must start seeing results. By developing and building consensus around such a metric of Iranian behavior, the Obama administration can make clear that it does not view engagement as a process without end, but rather as a means to a clearly identified set of ends that benefit both countries and their people.... With the goal of giving President Obama the authority to impose precisely such sanctions, a bipartisan coalition of Senators, organized by Senators Evan Bayh, Jon Kyl, and me, including Barbara Mikulski, John Thune, Russ Feingold, Susan Collins, Barbara Boxer, Jim Risch, Chuck Schumer, and several others, will be introducing new sanctions legislation in Congress tomorrow. Specifically, our bill will amend the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act to allow the President to sanction foreign companies that are involved in the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, or that provide insurance or shipping for the delivery of these products to Iran, or that assist Iran in maintaining its own refineries. The logic behind our approach is simple. Although blessed with immense oil wealth, Iran-due to the economic mismanagement of its leaders-lacks the capacity to meet its domestic demand for gasoline and other refined petroleum products. As a result, it must rely heavily on imports for as much as 40 percent of its gasoline needs. During last year's campaign, President Obama repeatedly expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on foreign gasoline as leverage in our nuclear standoff. However, under current law, the President's authority to do so is ambiguous. Our legislation would eliminate this ambiguity.
In thinking about the subject of today's discussion - U.S.-Iranian relations in an era of change - I am reminded of the famous story about former Chinese premier Zhou En Lai, who when asked his opinion of the historical significance of the French revolution, on its 200th anniversary, said: "It's too soon to tell." This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of another revolution-the Iranian Revolution-whose full impact on history is likewise still too soon to tell. What is clear, however, is that we are now approaching a defining moment in that history and in the relationship between the international community, including especially the United States, and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran-a defining moment in which both sides must make big decisions, whose consequences will carry far into the future. What is also clear is that the challenge of Iran has the potential either to bring the rest of us together-both as a country, and as an international community-or to pull us apart. For too long, unfortunately, the dynamic of our debate about Iran has cut in the wrong direction. Far too often, our domestic discussion of Iran has gotten entangled in partisan politics, with destructive accusations of bad faith and hidden agendas. Internationally, the unpopularity of the Bush administration has provided an easy excuse to any country that wanted to ignore the Iranian threat or avoid making tough decisions about it. It's time to turn the page. It is time for all of us-Democrats and Republicans here at home, Americans and our allies abroad-to begin to work together to rediscover just how much common ground we share when it comes to Iran. In this regard, Secretary Clinton said last week that the Obama administration will approach its new engagement with Iran with eyes wide open and under no illusions. That's exactly the right way to do it. Such open-eyed realism requires us to recognize first that the Iranian policies that present the greatest concerns to us today are not a recent development, not the result of an accidental misunderstanding, and not a reaction to the policies or rhetoric of the previous American administration. On the contrary, the confrontation we now find ourselves in is the consequence of a persistent pattern of thinking and acting on the part of the Iranian regime over the course of the last three decades, beginning with the seizure of the American embassy in Teheran in 1979 and continuing right up to today when Iran remains the #1 state sponsor of Islamist terrorism. In the defining struggle of our time between the forces of moderation and extremism in the Muslim world, Iran has been a consistent source of extremism and supporter of terrorism. Iran's illicit and covert nuclear activities are likewise not recent developments. There is reason to believe that the Islamic Republic of Iran began secretly purchasing its nuclear know-how in the late 1980s from A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist whose black market network was selling nuclear weapons technology. Iran's nuclear activities have continued since then under a succession of Iranian presidents of strikingly different dispositions, from the "pragmatist" Rafsanjani, to the "reformist" Khatami, to the "extremist" Ahmadinejad. This continuity should not surprise us, because it is clear that the overwhelming concentration of power in the Iranian political system lies not with the country's presidents, who change, but with the Supreme Leader, who rarely does. And that fact should make us skeptical of the prospects for a sudden shift in Iran's nuclear policy as a result of the presidential election that took place here last November or the presidential election that will take place there in June. Being open-eyed also requires that we see Iran's illicit nuclear activities in a broader strategic context, and appreciate why the possession of nuclear weapons capability by this regime constitutes such a uniquely dangerous and transformational threat to America's vital national interests, and those of our closest allies in the Middle East. Some have argued that we can learn to live with a nuclear Iran, just as we learned to live with nuclear weapons in the hands of the Soviet Union. According to this view, the same policies of containment and deterrence that served us so well during the Cold War can be adapted to deal with a nuclear Iran in ways that preserve our vital national interests in the Middle East. I strongly disagree. First, as all of Iran's neighbors keenly appreciate, the Islamic Republic's illicit nuclear activities need to be viewed through the prism of its broader foreign policy ambitions and its historic patterns of behavior-in particular, its use of terrorist proxies. This is a regime, after all, that for three decades has sought to strengthen and expand its position in the region by weakening and destabilizing its neighbors through sponsorship of extremist groups. Iran has supported terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian Territories, and Shiite militias in Iraq, using these proxies to try to carve out spheres of Iranian influence and fragment Arab government authority. The Iranians have sponsored terrorist attacks that have resulted in the murder of many innocent people, including hundreds of American soldiers in Lebanon and Iraq and thousands of fellow Muslims. And they have exploited the plight of the Palestinians to try to deepen the wedge between moderate Arab governments and their people, while sabotaging the prospects for real peace. Simply put, Iran has shown by its aggressive actions over many years that it aspires to become the dominant power in the Middle East, overturning the regional status quo and turning it toward extremism-an ambition that its acquisition of nuclear weapons would greatly advance. Consider how the balance of power in the Middle East would change if Iran's terrorist clients were free to act against their Arab enemies and Israel under the protection of an Iranian nuclear umbrella. Consider how much more emboldened the Iranians are likely to become in their regional aggression after acquiring nuclear weapons and concluding that they can use them to deter conventional military retaliation in response to terrorist attacks by their proxies. Being open-eyed also requires us to take seriously the violent words of the Iranian regime, and its repressive treatment of its own people. I know that there are some who dismiss calls by the President of Iran for Israel to be destroyed simply as rhetoric, or ask us not to listen when Iran's rulers lead thousands of people in chants of "Death to America." And I also know that there are some who argue that the Iranian regime's mistreatment of its own citizens-its arrest of prominent intellectuals and human rights activists, its suppression of women, students, and labor organizations, its roll-back of social freedoms, and closure of newspapers-should not interfere in our diplomacy over Iran's nuclear activities. The fact remains, however, there is a connection between the way a government treats its citizens, and the way it acts on the world stage. As the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov once said, "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors." There is no better proof of this than the Islamic Republic of Iran today. We dismiss Iran's acts of domestic repression, its outbursts of fanaticism, and its threats of violence at our peril. Let's also remember, as we consider the argument of those who say we can easily contain a nuclear Iran as we did a nuclear Soviet Union, there was no Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty when the Soviet Union and then China crossed the nuclear threshold. By contrast, Iran is a signatory to the NPT, and its illicit nuclear activities represent a direct assault on the global nonproliferation regime in which we have invested so much. Should Iran succeed in acquiring nuclear weapons capability, the harm to the NPT regime may prove irreparable, and with it, I might add, President Obama's vision of a world without nuclear weapons. On the contrary, an Iranian nuclear breakout would send an unmistakable message that, despite multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and repeated declarations from the world's most powerful and prosperous countries, we lack the will to enforce our own most important international laws. Even if Iran does not stockpile an overt nuclear arsenal but rather slips into the twilight realm of nuclear ambiguity, it has the real potential to provoke other states in the region and beyond to pursue their own atomic arsenals. And let be there no doubt: the more proliferated the Middle East, the more likely a nuclear weapon will someday fall into the hands of terrorists In a Middle East with multiple nuclear powers, the prospect is greater that a nuclear weapon might be used and its origin would not be immediately apparent-compromising the bedrock assumption on which deterrence has traditionally depended. The critical question before us then is: how can we prevent this Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons? The Obama administration has made clear that it will seek to engage directly with the government of the Islamic Republic in the hope of achieving better relations and the end of Iran's nuclear program, and hopefully the end of its support of extremists. I pray that these negotiations will yield success, although I confess I am skeptical. To be clear, I am not opposed to talking to the Iranians. But engagement is a tactic, not a strategy-and what we need is a multi-pronged, explicit strategy that employs all of the elements of our national power and that ties together multiple lines of operation, including direct diplomacy with the Iranians, into a coherent plan of action for the months ahead, that has goals, schedules, rewards, and punishments. One component of such a plan must be a clear and credible set of benchmarks, milestones by which we can measure Iranian behavior, and an explicit timeline by which the Iranians understand that we must start seeing results. By developing and building consensus around such a metric of Iranian behavior, the Obama administration can make clear that it does not view engagement as a process without end, but rather as a means to a clearly identified set of ends that benefit both countries and their people. Another element of such a strategy must be to build consensus-both within our own country, and among our international partners-that, just as steps forward by the Iranians will justify continued deepening and benefits, a failure by the Iranian regime to seize this opportunity must be met first with what Secretary Clinton characterized last week as "crippling" sanctions, backed by a united concert of nations. With the goal of giving President Obama the authority to impose precisely such sanctions, a bipartisan coalition of Senators, organized by Senators Evan Bayh, Jon Kyl, and me, including Barbara Mikulski, John Thune, Russ Feingold, Susan Collins, Barbara Boxer, Jim Risch, Chuck Schumer, and several others, will be introducing new sanctions legislation in Congress tomorrow. Specifically, our bill will amend the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act to allow the President to sanction foreign companies that are involved in the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, or that provide insurance or shipping for the delivery of these products to Iran, or that assist Iran in maintaining its own refineries. The logic behind our approach is simple. Although blessed with immense oil wealth, Iran-due to the economic mismanagement of its leaders-lacks the capacity to meet its domestic demand for gasoline and other refined petroleum products. As a result, it must rely heavily on imports for as much as 40 percent of its gasoline needs. During last year's campaign, President Obama repeatedly expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on foreign gasoline as leverage in our nuclear standoff. However, under current law, the President's authority to do so is ambiguous. Our legislation would eliminate this ambiguity. I am especially proud of the breadth of our coalition, which includes not just Democrats and Republicans, but some of the most liberal and most conservative members of the United States Senate. I believe this alliance reflects the deep and broad consensus on Capitol Hill when it comes to Iran, and should send an unambiguous message of unity, strength, and resolve from America to Iran and to the rest of the world. We must not allow anyone to mistake our willingness to engage with the Iranians as a sign of weakness-least of all, the Iranians themselves-yet frankly, that is precisely the conclusion that some in Iran and elsewhere in the region are drawing. The Obama Administration must make clear by its actions that such conclusions are baseless. The new powers to sanction Iran that our legislation would give the President are one strong way to do that. The threat of these sanctions on refined petroleum products can be a critically important piece of our strategy to directly reassure and strengthen our friends in the Middle East both militarily and diplomatically-including Israel and our moderate Arab allies. In this regard, we should remember that some of the strongest alliances in history have been forged among old antagonists when confronted by a new threat. France and Germany, for instance, were mortal enemies for generations-until brought together, through NATO, in response to the Soviet Union. In the Middle East today, there is an unprecedented convergence of concerns about Iran among Arabs and Israelis alike. The question is whether we can seize this moment to help usher into place a new strategic architecture for the Middle East-not necessarily a formal alliance, at least initially, but a series of understandings, arrangements, and policies that strengthen the sovereignty and security of the states that are being threatened by Iranian extremism and expansionism, and that can bind them closer together-until the day they are ready to become formal allies. Iran's most direct path to a nuclear weapon is clear. It is by dividing the rest of us. It is by dividing Europeans from Americans, and playing the Russians and Chinese against the West. It is by pitting Arabs against Arabs in Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and the Gulf. It is by stirring up hatred between Muslims and Jews. And it is by dividing us here in the United States as well-Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, hawks and doves, that Iran best clears a path to nuclear weapons. The path to stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons is equally clear. It is by coming together. It is by recognizing that whatever differences divide us, whatever suspicions lurk among us, our shared interest in stopping the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is far greater than all of them. My friends, the dangers of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied, diminished, or dismissed. There is no room for complacency, and no excuse for inaction, about this threat. The question now is not whether we recognize the nature of the challenge that we face, or the catastrophic consequences if we fail to address it, but whether we, as a nation and as a community of nations, can summon the insight, determination, and courage to succeed. I believe that we can. And I know that we must. Thank you.
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