Verbatim, as delivered
Statement by Chairman Howard L. Berman at hearing, “U.S.
Policy Toward Iran”
were to acquire nuclear arms, the world would be forever changed. The
most active state sponsor of terrorism could, and possibly would, wield the
most terrifying weapon of all.
Iran’s mere possession of a
nuclear capability would be transformative in the Middle
East and beyond. As a member of the nuclear club, Tehran’s destructive leverage in international diplomacy
would increase immensely, even vis
a vis the United States and the West. Sunni
Arab states would be intimidated, and more likely to follow Iran’s lead. Achieving nuclear
status would exponentially increase Iran’s influence and the appeal of
fundamentalism throughout the Islamic world.
Tehran’s terrorist offspring such as Hezbollah
and Hamas would constantly clamor for access to Iran’s nuclear know-how – and can
we comfortably rule out the possibility that they would acquire it, through
direct or indirect means? We can’t even assume that Iranian nuclear security,
even with the best of intentions, would be airtight against theft by these
groups or their sympathizers in Iran’s
paramilitary services. The international nuclear arms control regime
would be effectively dead, as numerous states in the Middle East would rush to
acquire nuclear arms to counter-balance Iran. In short, this would be
a world in which the United
States and its friends and nations
throughout the region would be constantly under threat of nuclear attack and
never at rest.
deadline for solving this looming problem is fast upon us, as Iran daily inches closer to the
point where it can produce enough weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear bomb.
No one knows precisely when that will happen, but most experts say it
will be soon. Some predict as early as the end of this year. The NIE
published earlier this year said it would be sometime in the 2010-2015 time-frame and possibly as early as the end of next year.
When it does happen, a threshold will have been crossed; once Iran is producing nuclear
weapons-grade material, the difficulty of keeping it from becoming a nuclear
power will be massively increased.
one U.S. ally, Israel, the threat posed by a nuclear Iran
would be existential. To illustrate the immediacy of this point, we need
look no further than today’s news of an Iranian long-range missile test – a
missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload to Israel. This, coupled with
the belligerent talk from Tehran of "enemy
targets" being "under surveillance," could not make it any
clearer that we need to use every diplomatic and economic tool available to
away from developing nuclear weapons capability.
are optimists who believe that Iran,
were it to acquire nuclear arms, could be deterred, just as the Soviets
were. But given the martyrdom mentality of the Iranian leadership, one
cannot be sure. The risks are too great to hope that an Iranian
government that frequently calls for the end of Israel’s very existence will be
calmed and pacified by a nuclear arsenal.
nuclear quest is our most urgent strategic challenge. The United States should give this
threat the priority it deserves.
need to impose sanctions on companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector. We’ve had a
law on the books for a dozen years that requires such sanctions, but it never
has been enforced. Some of these companies are based in Europe.
It’s time for our European allies and their corporations to cease
investing in Iran.
EU states acknowledge that Iran
is trying to acquire nuclear arms, and the EU has begun slowly to ratchet up
sanctions, including, most recently, on Bank Melli, Iran’s
leading financial institution. But it’s time for them to take far more
significant steps along the lines of cutting off all significant commerce with Iran,
as we did years ago – or at least I thought we did. I’m not so sure, after
yesterday’s Associated Press report that U.S.
exports to Iran
have increased nearly twenty-fold during the Bush Administration years, up to
nearly $150 million in 2007.
Iran should also be at the
top of the agenda in our bilateral relationship with Russia. Some believe Russia’s major foreign policy priority is to
policy at every turn. I question that, and Secretary Burns’ perspective on that
issue would be of great value. At the least, we should test the proposition
through disciplined prioritization of our goals – followed by hard bargaining –
month our country again joined the “EU-3” -- Britain,
France, Germany -- along with Russia
and China, in offering Iran
generous trade and even certain types of assistance. Iran, which brushed aside a similar
offer two years ago, responded to the latest offer just last week. That
response has not been made public, but perhaps Ambassador Burns can enlighten
us today about its contents. Nevertheless, my understanding is that our
offer has once again followed our tradition of making dialogue with Iran conditional on Iran’s suspension of its uranium
is determined to go nuclear, but we need to make a direct, unconditional effort
to engage them and to dissuade them from that course, as the international
community has demanded. Moreover, I’m convinced we won’t be able to rally
world opinion to our side if we don’t make clear our willingness for
unconditional engagement with Iran,
and I reject those who believe that talking is tantamount to surrender.
we should agree to join the “EU-3”, Russia,
and China in an
unconditional dialogue with Iran
– or, if our partners prefer, we should meet with Iran
bilaterally -- on the understanding that our partners would fully support
crippling sanctions if Iran
rejects our dialogue offer or ultimately refuses to cease enriching uranium.
Administration policy towards Iran
has been a failure, veering from one approach to another. Iran
has made continuous progress in its nuclear program throughout the Bush years,
international support for sanctions has not gathered much steam, and our allies
still do far less than they should. It is time for us to give the Iran
problem the priority it deserves and the creative policy it requires -- before
it is too late.