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Panel I of a Hearing of the Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security Committee - Addressing Iran's Nuclear Ambition

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Location: Washington, DC


Panel I of a Hearing of the Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security Committee - Addressing Iran's Nuclear Ambition

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SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK): Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I have a statement for the record and I will go through all that.

You know, the real principle here is reconciliation; what we find ourselves is alienated. But the real practical matters in the world today is we have no means of containment with which we can deal with the situation in Iran. And before we give up and lose all leverage with Iran in terms of high-level talks, you have to have some other leverage somewhere.

And I know I missed part of Senator Coleman's talking points, but as I look at how we handled North Korea and how we're, in my thoughts, regrettably handling it today, with no accountability and no transparency, we send a signal to the Iranians to stand ground because we're never going to do anything any different. So I'm adamantly opposed on how we're handling North Korea today because I think it complicates our ability to deal with Iran. They see weakness rather than strength. They see delay as their asset. They see lack of unity on our part. And what you hear from their leaders is statements about the destruction of one of our allies.

And it ought to be U.S. policy that if you attack Israel, you've attacked the United States. And that ought to be our policy. And that ought to be first and foremost our policy and that we stand on that and that we act in regards to that.

So the rhetoric does need to calm down. Our statements against Iran or about Iran have nothing to do with the Iranian people because they have what I would consider a despot government that doesn't reflect the true values of the Iranian people that I know and their desires for a future.

So I look forward to our hearing; I look forward to our testimony. We have a big problem in front of us. And it's not just this country has a big problem; the entire world has a big problem because uranium enrichment in Iran means uranium enrichment in multiple other places throughout the Middle East. You can deny that if you want, but that's what's going to happen. And we need to be prepared for that. We need to be unified in how this country stands, and we need -- regardless of what's happened in the past. And there is a place for reconciliation, but reconciliation has to be built on trust, it has to be built on verification, and there's none of that now in terms of true verification and true trust.

And so one of my biggest concerns is that we have failed in terms of our diplomacy through things such as Voice of America, through Radio Farda, through presenting the options in a standard and complete view of our viewpoint, one that directs our respect and love for the Iranian people but our disdain for the statements that have been made by the Iranian leadership. This is a difficult area, not just for this country.

And I have some concern over our allies in terms of the -- we have three United Nations resolutions on sanctioning which are not effective, obviously, since we continue to see enrichment. And if we're not going to push for more sanctions, then what we've said is that we in fact are going to allow enrichment to continue. And if we're going to allow enrichment to continue, then we're going to allow enrichment throughout the whole Middle East. And we need to recognize that as the end point in this game. And then what we've done -- we have no more nonproliferation treaties because we will have had proliferation throughout the entire Mideast.

Thank you.

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SEN. CARPER: Dr. Coburn, thank you very, very much.

I'm going to invite our first panel of witnesses to join us. And as they come to the table I'll introduce each of them.

Mr. Jeffrey Feltman is a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, currently serving as the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Near-Eastern Affairs. He's previous served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon. He also headed the Coalition Provisional Authority's Office in the Erbil province of Iraq. He's spent much of his career in the Eastern European and Near East affairs. Welcome.

Joining Mr. Feltman is Ms. Patricia McNerney. Did I pronounce that right?

MS. MCNERNEY: McNerney.

SEN. CARPER: McNerney, yes. Welcome.

A senior adviser to the U.S. to the undersecretary of State for --

MS. MCNERNEY: Sorry, that's my old job. (Laughs.)

SEN. CARPER: Oh, okay. Why don't you tell us your new job?

MS. MCNERNEY: I am the principal deputy assistant secretary for the International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau and acting head of that bureau.

SEN. CARPER: Okay. Terrific, congratulations. We welcome you in that capacity as well.

We're delighted that you're here. Your entire testimony will be entered and made part of the record. You're welcome to summarize it as you prefer.

And with that, Mr. Feltman, if you'd like to kick it off and then we'll turn to Ms. McNerney.

MS. MCNERNEY: Oh -- I was going to -- right?

MR. FELTMAN: You want to --

MS. MCNERNEY: Yeah. Sorry, we had arranged that I would set it off and then turn to Ambassador Feltman.

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I very much welcome the opportunity to speak with you today and I look forward to your questions. I request that our full joint statement be placed in the record.

SEN. CARPER: It will be, without objection.

MS. MCNERNEY: Iran presents a profound threat to U.S. national security interests. The radical regime in Tehran threatens regional and international security through its pursuit of technologies that would give it a nuclear weapons capability, obviously its support of terrorist groups and militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, its expansive regional ambitions and its lack of respect for human rights and civil society.

From its location in crossroads of the Middle East and South Asia, a nuclear-armed Iran could threaten U.S. national security interests on three continents and even the U.S. homeland directly. The international community's failure to prevent Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would additionally imperil the international nonproliferation regime, as Senator Coburn had indicated, by casting doubt on our collective ability and commitment to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction abroad.

Our goal is to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program and urge Tehran to become a partner in bringing peace and stability to the region. The diplomacy to which we remain committed is the best course of action, we believe, in pressuring the Iranian regime to change its behavior.

However to respond to the range of challenges presented by Iran, the administration has stressed the use of a range of diplomatic tools available: multilateral diplomacy, support for the IAEA, financial measures, counterproliferation actions such as interdictions and, as a final resort, hold available the threat and use of military force.

The U.S. diplomatic strategy towards Iran consists of a dual- track approach, in concert together with the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States) plus Germany -- the P5 plus one. These tracks are mutually reinforcing and complementary.

The first is the incremental escalation of pressure, on the Iranian regime, to help prompt a revision of their strategic nuclear calculus, specifically a decision to abandon, once and for all, Iran's long-term nuclear weapons ambitions.

The second track is an offer to negotiate a generous package of incentives -- that cover the gamut of political, economic, technological and social benefits -- that would accrue to the Iranian people were the regime to resolve international concerns and its nuclear activities.

As part of this offer, Secretary Rice announced on May 2006 that should Iran create the necessary conditions for negotiations, by meeting its U.N. Security Council obligation to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States would be willing to meet with Iran any time, any place, to discuss any issue.

Ambassador Feltman will provide some introductory remarks addressing Iran's regional behavior and U.S. civil engagement programs. But I'd like to discuss a little bit the nuclear front, by noting that we seek to present Iran with an increasingly stark choice between two paths: confrontation and isolation or cooperation and reward.

While we believe we are having an impact, we have yet to achieve our objective of persuading Iran to step off it's current nuclear course. No one tool can succeed on its own. Iran's past behavior shows that it can be responsive to international pressure.

This dual-track approach is our best tool for making clear to Iran the costs and benefits, for its defiance, and dissuading the Iranian regime to take a different path. At a minimum, these sanctions are limiting Iran's access to sensitive technologies and goods, with the possible impact of slowing Iran's nuclear and missile ambitions.

These sanctions are also impairing their ability to access the international financial system, to fund its weapons program and terrorist activities, and to secure investment for its strategic sectors, as many states and firms no longer wish to associate themselves with the Iranian regime.

The sanctions keep Iran on the defensive, forcing it to find new finance and trade partners, and replace funding channels it has lost, often through more costly and circuitous mechanisms. Major banks such as Commerce Bank, Credit Suisse and HSBC have decided that the risk of doing business in Iran is too great and have ended or limited their relationships with Iran.

The effect of Iran's growing international stigma may in the end be as substantial as the direct economic impact of any sanction. Losing the ability for a single Iranian bank, such as Iran's Bank Sepah, to conduct business overseas is painful to the Iranian economy. Having major international financial institutions refuse to do business with Iran, because of the legitimate business risks that such trade present, is even worse.

The sanctions are also having a psychological impact. Iran has demonstrated its desire to assume the economic and political role it believes it deserves in the region, and to be seen as a legitimate player in the international community. But the series of U.N. resolutions has shown the world and Iran that it is isolated by the international community and will not be tolerated as an irresponsible actor.

In addition to sanctions, a key element of our strategy is to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency in its ongoing investigation of Iran. As the main international institution with responsibility for verifying the non-diversion of nuclear materials and providing credible assurances of the absence of undeclared nuclear activities, the IAEA's work in Iran is essential.

Press reports have indicated that many states are sharing more and more information with the IAEA to further its investigation. We look forward to the IAEA's continued efforts to uncover the true extent of Iran's nuclear weapons-related work and ambition. We'll continue to lead a strong international consensus that Iran must make a full disclosure of any nuclear weapons-related work and allow the IAEA to verify that it has stopped. Anything short of a demand for full disclosure would undermine not only our efforts to provide international verification that Iran has -- is not developing or preserving a nuclear weapons option but also would undermine the integrity of the IAEA safeguards regime worldwide.

Mr. Chairman, I'll yield to my colleague to address some of the regional aspects and look forward to your questions.

SEN. CARPER: Thank -- I thank you, Ms. McNerney.

Mr. Feltman.

MR. FELTMAN: Thank you, Chairman, Carper, Dr. Coburn, Senator Coleman, for this opportunity to discuss U.S. policy options regarding Iran.

You know, as Patti McNerney has described, we're taking many steps to address the challenges posed by Iran on the nuclear front, but we're also deeply, deeply concerned by Iran's overall behavior, both in terms of Iran's malign influence in the region, as well as Iran's oppression of its own people.

Iran poses multiple, multiple threats to U.S. interests, as your opening remarks have indicated. It destabilizes its neighbors. It is the world's number-one state sponsor of terrorism, continues the oppression of Iranian civil society. I'd add Iranian-funded militias, Iranian-funded weaponries are killing our troops and diplomats in Iraq.

I had the honor to serve as U.S. ambassador in Lebanon for three and a half years, and I saw every day the malign Iranian influence in Lebanon in terms of Iran's support for Hezbollah -- Hezbollah that with Iranian support dragged Lebanon into war with Israel in 2006; Hezbollah, which continues to try to undermine legitimate institutions of the government of Lebanon and seeks to create a state within a state there.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force continues to bolster Hezbollah financially as well as rearm the group with rockets and other weapons, which is systematic violations of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Iran also supports other terrorist groups, including certain Shi'a militant groups in Iraq, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas.

Farther to the east, Iran seeks to destabilize the Karzai government in Afghanistan by sending lethal assistance to the Taliban, once Iran's enemy.

Through its malign influence, Tehran undermines the elected government of Iraq and endangers our soldiers and diplomats by providing lethal support to Iraqi militants.

The president has made clear that Iran has a choice to make. It can choose to live in peace with its neighbors, enjoying strong economic and religious and cultural ties, or it can continue to arm, fund and train illegal militant groups which are terrorizing the Iraqi people and in fact turning them against Iran. America would welcome a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq; but make no mistake: The United States will act to protect its interests, our troops and our Iraqi partners.

In terms of the nuclear file, Patti has already outlined our dual-track strategy towards Iran and our approach to the challenges posed by Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities, but let me emphasize that the United States remains committed to finding a multilateral diplomatic solution to address the threat posed by Iran's proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities and its overall destabilizing influence in the region.

As Patti outlined, we're working closely with our P-5 plus one partners to both pressure the Iranian regime and offer it incentives to revise, as you said, Chairman Carper, the cost-benefit analysis that Iran has.

The P-5 plus one package of incentives covers the gamut of political, economic, technological and social benefits, including active international cooperation to help Iran develop state-of-the-art civil, peaceful, nuclear energy technology and obtain an assured nuclear fuel supply for a genuinely civilian nuclear energy program.

In addition to that offer, Senator (sic\Secretary) Rice has said multiple times since May 2006 that should Iran create the necessary conditions for negotiations by suspending all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, she personally would sit down with her Iranian counterpart any place, any time, to discuss any interest -- any issue of interest to Tehran, to discuss all of the multiple issues that you addressed in your opening remarks, Senators.

You know, let's talk about human rights for a second. Iran's foreign and nuclear policies are only part of the challenge Iran poses to the world. The regime's record of human rights abuse remains abysmal and has only grown worse over the years. The regime regularly commits torture and other forms of inhumane treatment on its own people and restricts the basic freedoms of expression, press, religion and assembly in order to discourage political opposition.

The regime has purged liberal university professors, threatened, imprisoned and tortured dissidents, journalists, labor leaders and women's rights activists.

The regime also denies its people the freedom of expression and press by cracking down on bloggers, closing independent newspapers, censoring Internet use and blocking satellite dish ownership -- all in an effort to control access to information.

Secretary Rice noted at Davos earlier this year that the United States has no desire to have a permanent enemy in Iran, even after 29 years of difficult history. We have no conflict with the Iranian people. An important component of our Iran strategy is to build bridges, bridges directly to the Iranian people through official exchanges and civil society development programs. We have grave problems with Tehran on a range of issues, but we have the greatest respect for the citizens of Iran, their culture and their rich heritage.

Through official, professional, educational and cultural and athletic exchanges, we're attempting to strengthen mutual understanding of our two peoples.

Additionally, we are trying to provide the Iranian people with a better understanding of American foreign policy, our society and our culture through our Persian-language television and radio broadcasting on Voice of America and Radio Farda as well as through the Internet and other media. The United States stands with the Iranian people in their struggle to advance democracy, freedom and basic civil rights of all citizens.

In closing, I note that we have presented Iran an option. The regime can continue down its current path toward isolation and further sanctions or it can choose to reengage with the international community, opening up opportunities for better relations and a brighter future. Should Iran comply with its U.N. Security Council obligations to suspend all proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities including enrichment and cooperate with the IAEA, the secretary has said, and I quote, "we could begin negotiation and we could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship, one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange and the peaceable management of our differences," end quote.

The choice is -- the choice is Iran's. The challenges posed by Iran are daunting, but we are confident that our current approach, working in concert with the international community on the nuclear and other issues, will move us towards peaceful resolution to the problems posed by Iran.

Thank you.

SEN. CARPER: My thanks to -- our thanks to both of you for your testimony and for your service to our country.

I have a question -- I'd really start off with a question to both of you, if I could. One of the underlying points of the NIE was that Iran responds to pressure and calculates the cost and the benefits of certain actions that we might take against them. The idea is that Iran stopped work on designing a nuclear weapon because of the perceived cost internationally of pursuing such work. Two questions: First of all, has the administration done assessment to determine the magnitude of economic pressure needed to dissuade the Iranian government from continuing to pursue all the unacceptable elements of its nuclear program, including enrichment?

MS. MCNERNEY: Well, you know, I think as we review that question -- you know, partly you have to understand what the regime itself is willing to bear in order to continue pursuit of this weapons -- this nuclear path. We've seen some polling and sort of calculated that the Iranian people as a whole, believing that their program is for civil nuclear purposes, indicate that they would like to pursue the nuclear path. But when you ask them a different question, which is, "What costs are you willing to take for pursuit of that path?" the calculus starts to change. And the public support starts to diminish in terms of the support for what they believe to be a civil nuclear path.

So our goal is to start to have an impact to such a degree that you start to change that popular support for the path the regime is on. We believe we're starting to have that impact. We don't believe there's sufficient pressure yet in that direction. Obviously, we've been trying to do this in a multilateral way. So it's -- sometimes working through the U.N. is a little more painful, a little slower.

But over time, it's sort of accumulation of these impacts and, as I mentioned in my testimony, the additional downstream impact of businesses themselves choosing to withhold investment and look elsewhere for their business are all ways that we're looking to sort of increase that pressure and change that calculus. We want to impact the regime in a way that makes them sort of look at -- not have the available options on their side.

One of the things too, looking back to this 2003 decision -- it wasn't simply there were no sanctions at the time, but there was obviously a lot of activity happening in the region. So the mix of pressures, I think, is beyond simply the sanctions but also the international scrutiny -- that was the time that the programs were revealed -- this covert nature of these programs, obviously a buildup in Iraq, in the region. And so there's this -- really, I think, a broad set of tools and pressures that we want to bring to bear.

SEN. CARPER: Do you have any -- and this is for either of you -- do you have any idea of the level of pressure that we need to apply to these folks, the Iranians, in order to succeed in our goal of no nuclear weapon capability? We've had these three U.N. Security Council resolutions. We've imposed unilaterally additional sanctions of our own. They appear to be having some effect. Unfortunately, since the promulgation of the NIE, it looks like some other countries, particularly the Russians and the Chinese, have decided that they need not be as stringent, I think, in adhering to pressure on the Iranians themselves.

MS. MCNERNEY: Yeah, I don't think we have -- there's no sort of magic "this is the amount that sort of tips the balance." But I think if you actually look to the Libya situation, it actually took some 10- plus years to really get to that balance. We don't believe we have that kind of time --

SEN. CARPER: I don't believe we do either.

MS. MCNERNEY: Yeah. And so the question is, how do you get there quicker? And you know, obviously the high price of oil has really helped this regime weather some of these sanctions in a way that they might not have otherwise --

SEN. CARPER: Although I'm told that their ability to pump oil drops by -- each year by about 500,000 barrels.

MS. MCNERNEY: Yes, that -- I know -- well, I've heard -- I understand that's the case.

SEN. CARPER: And meanwhile their consumption of oil continues to rise.

MS. MCNERNEY: But the price that they get for what they do pump continues to rise as well. So some of the other sort of things that work in our favor on that are -- the actual economic management of this leadership is particularly weak. So that does also exacerbate some of the sanctions as well. But again, I don't know that we know what is that magic number or amount of sort of economic isolation.

SEN. CARPER: Mr. Feltman?

MR. FELTMAN: I would echo what my colleague has said. We don't know exactly at what point that cost-benefit analysis will start turning, the cost-benefit analysis that you referred to in your opening remarks, Mr. Chairman. But we are going to continue to pursue this dual-track multilaterally, that we will look at how we ourselves can impose unilateral pressure in a variety of ways on Iran, and we will work through the P-5 plus one, through the IAEA to see how it can impose international pressure.

The Security Council resolutions -- the three Chapter 7 Security Council resolutions have had an increasing number of sanctions, of punishments, of penalties on Iran, and I don't believe we've seen the full impact of those yet.

SEN. CARPER: When are we likely to?

MR. FELTMAN: Right now, we ourselves are bringing our own system into compliance with the most recent resolution. The European Union is doing the same in adopting 1803 into their common policy. The European Union is looking at making some autonomous sanctions beyond 1803. We're doing the same. We're doing this all in coordination multilaterally because I think all of us recognize that this -- that the danger is multilateral and that the sanctions also have to be multilateral to have this sort of impact, but we don't know the exact point where the cost-benefit analysis will start switching in the way we want.

SEN. CARPER: Ms. McNerney, Libya is a lot smaller, as we know, than Iran, and it doesn't have the oil reserves that Iran enjoys. So if took Libya -- what did you say, 17 years -- 17 years in order to, if you will, to change their course, according to your calculation, how long do you think it's going to take for the Iranians to change their course? And do we have the luxury of that -- waiting that long?

MR. MCNERNEY: I certainly -- what I was -- the point I was making, just that sometimes over time, these pressures build. I don't think we have that kind of luxury. But also think that Libya was a little difference in the sense of perhaps relishing that isolation in a different way than -- the Iranian country, as a country, the people are very certainly used to traveling globally, used to vising Europe, used to a very different kind of life, I think, than perhaps you'd compare to the Libyan people, and certainly have a more robust kind of society. So, you know, there are some differences.

And I think the original -- one of the values of the Security Council process, not only these economic sanctions but the fact that the entire Security Council unanimously continues to line up against the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. So all these things, I -- we believe can have a larger and more direct impact on the civil society kind of impact.

SEN. CARPER: Dr. Coburn? Thank you.

SEN. COBURN: Thank you for testimony.

I'm concerned about the timeframe that Senator Carper mentioned. And you mentioned -- Secretary McNerney, further sanctions might be needed. How do we know when further sanctions are needed? And why wouldn't we put the full press of all the sanctions that we can now? You have in the press and stated by the president of that country that they're adding 6,000 centrifuges right now. They intend to go to 50,000 centrifuges. And the question is, is -- is there a real nuclear need for power in that country when they have the world's second largest reserves of natural gas?

They could generate power for 500 years if they needed to.

So the question is, if there are further sanctions that are needed, and I have some concern that Secretary Rice has signaled that no further sanctions are going to be brought before the U.N. in the near term, where's the balance there?

MS. MCNERNEY: Well, I think her statement was just to suggest that we're not going to move away from the policy that we're following.

We do intend to continue working the U.N. security track, including additional sanctions. At the same time, we're also trying to renegotiate this package of incentives. And Dan Fried led meetings in China last week, and they're continuing to work, among the P5 plus one, to redevelop or refresh that package of incentives.

Additionally, you know, the United States obviously has had a complete embargo on Iran for many years. What we've been trying to do with this strategy is really broaden that especially to our European allies as well as some of the key Asian economic powers.

And that, we believe, is where we need to continue to ratchet the pressure. That's the importance really of maintaining this U.N. Security Council track, to increase -- you know, many of those countries are much more comfortable doing these sanctions with the U.N. Security Council mandates.

Now, when we work with them, we, you know, you use that as a starting point. But it also is an opportunity to expand beyond the strict requirements of those Security Council resolutions.

So when the U.N. or when the EU reviews its sanctions package in the coming weeks, they intend to go beyond sort of the strict requirements of that Security Council. And we believe that's an important avenue as well.

So we don't want to simply suggest that that U.N. track is the only way to do sanctions. But --

SEN. COBURN: Should we believe the president of Iran when he's saying there are not any incentives that they would ever accept? Is that posturing?

MS. MCNERNEY: You know, I mean, when it comes from him, I don't want to pretend to know what he's thinking. Or, you know, I think --

SEN. COBURN: Well, I mean, it's a fairly straightforward statement: There are no incentives you can offer us to stop us from our nuclear enrichment program.

MS. MCNERNEY: Well, I think they've made statements in the past that they won't do things. But then if you sort of look at sort of how things have evolved, they weren't going to talk to the IAEA about nuclear issues. They did announce this week that they will in fact be doing that next month.

Now, whether they do that in any real way or in any substantive way, that remains to be seen. But you know, some of these statements certainly can be posturing.

I do think, as I mentioned before, that the Iranian people actually can put pressure on their leadership in ways maybe, in a country like a North Korea, would certainly not even be an element.

SEN. COBURN: There's no question it's difficult to get consensus on this P5 plus one. It's been obvious it's been a hard road to get there.

What if you can't get consensus for the next step? What are we doing, in terms of building relationships for containment, given the ultimate plan, which most of our leaders think is nuclearization of Iran?

What are we doing in terms of building containment?

MS. MCNERNEY: You know, the U.N. path and the P5 plus one path is one element. We reach out regularly, through dialogues and through our embassies, to countries particularly in the gulf region, to countries in Asia, Japan and Korea and China, obviously even to our, you know, I don't -- Russia's obviously difficult in the Security Council context. But they, every step of the way, also have agreed with this policy, that we need enrichment and reprocessing to stop in Iran, and that there is a threat posed by Iran to international peace and security.

So, you know, whether the P-5 plus one -- that's one element of our strategy, but certainly, you know, part of containment is maintaining a coalition, and that is a key element of what we're doing.

The Russian -- it was mentioned earlier the Russian plan for enrichment and reprocessing facility in Russia. We think that that's part of the P-5 plus one package and remains, we think, a viable avenue for allowing Iran to get the benefits of nuclear energy without the know-how that can bleed into the nuclear weapons capability.

SEN. COBURN: In 2007 the State Department gave half of the 2007 Iran democracy promotion funding to the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Much of this money was diverted from democracy promotion to general infrastructure; half of it, matter of fact. The BBG also claims its mission is not to promote to democracy but to balance news between the U.S. perspective and regime propaganda. Farsi-speaking BBG whistleblowers and a 2006 National Security Council report said the BBG many times fails to balance the regime's propaganda with the truth. In light of this, does the State Department plan to divert any of the 2008 Iran democracy funding to the BBG?

MR. FELTMAN: Dr. Coburn, the short answer to your question is yes. But I'd like to talk a minute about the broadcasting part of the overall strategy, because the broadcasting part has two goals. One is to be able to allow us to send messages directly to the Iranian people, not through the filter of their government, not through the filter of --

SEN. COBURN: I understand that.

MR. FELTMAN: -- their state-controlled media. The second is to provide an example of what would a free media look like. If they weren't living in this oppressive regime under this dictatorship, under this crazy, autocratic regime, what would a free media look like. And a free media has a wide variety of views expressed in it.

Now, at the same time, we have discussed the issue that you allude to with the Voice of America -- with Voice of America, Radio Farda and Broadcasting Board of governors officials. As you know, there's new leadership now. There's new management. They're changing personnel. They're looking at the content. They're addressing some of the concerns that you've raised, that we have raised.

But the important thing is, I believe, that we have now increased the broadcasting to Iran. Radio -- Voice of America is now 24 hours a day, up from eight hours a day. The original Persian language content --

SEN. COBURN: What's the content in the Voice of America broadcasts?

MR. FELTMAN: The content is now -- is original content that's now up to six hours a day that was only two hours a day. It's news. It's --

SEN. COBURN: How do we know what it is? How do we know what it is?

MR. FELTMAN: We have a constant discussion with the new leadership of VOA, with the Board of -- the BBG, about the content.

SEN. COBURN: They have nobody on the board and nobody in the leadership that speaks Farsi. They have no idea what they're broadcasting, because we can't get translation from the State Department about what they're broadcasting. We don't know what they're doing, and we know what they have done. And it's not about a balance, it's about giving an -- oftentimes, many instances, where we give credence to what their own government is saying in an unbalanced fashion.

And so the only way to see if we get that is to have translation services of what we're promoting. If we're going to use the people of Iran as a tool for freedom, then we ought to know what we're saying. And we have an absolute refusal to present to this Congress and the American people what we're broadcasting into Iran. And based on the track record of the 2006 report, plus the track record of whistleblowers, what we know is it's not what the secretary has suggested. It is oftentimes supportive of the regime.

And so the question has to be is if we're going to use that as a tool to help the Iranian people see what a free democracy's about and have a true, balanced point of view -- not one that supplants and supports the leadership of Iran -- we have to have transparency. And there is no transparency now because nobody at BBG knows, because none of them speak Farsi. How will we know? How do we know that we're effective in the tool that you want to use to promote freedom and liberties inside Iran through Voice of America and Radio Farda? How do we know?

MR. FELTMAN: All I can say, Dr. Coburn, is that the secretary is using her position as an ex officio member on the BBG in order to have these sorts of conversations directly with the leadership, the new leadership of VOA and Radio Farda about these issues. This is an important part of our strategy. And the secretary and those below the secretary are engaged with the BBG on this issue -- on these issues.

SEN. COBURN: Well, it would just seem to me that if we're going to use that as a tool, that the State Department ought to know what we're saying, we ought to know what we're saying, to see if it's an effective tool. It's called a metric. And it's called transparency. That's the only way you get accountability. And quite frankly, based on what we've heard from whistleblowers inside Voice of America, inside BBG is they don't know and oftentimes the message isn't what we want to send. So the only way to do that is if you require transparency, then they're going to know that we're going to know what we're saying.

To me it's unconscionable we would use a tool and not know whether the tool is working, and not know whether it's an appropriate tool.

SEN. CARPER: (Strikes gavel.) All right. Your time has expired.

Let me just say, for the record, and then I'm going to yield to -- Dr. Coburn, I have a different take on this issue. I think one of the important things is for -- if we want people in these countries to listen to what's being reported on the news, we have to provide fair and objective reporting. People in these countries don't listen to their own radios, their own media because they don't believe it. They know it's propaganda. And one of the best ways for us to make sure they don't listen to our stuff is for them to be convinced that we're putting out propaganda as well.

Senator Coleman.

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SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK): Thank you.

I'd like unanimous consent to put the NSC 2006 report on Radio Farda and Voice of America.

SEN. CARPER: Yeah, without objection.

SEN. COBURN: And with all deference to my good friend and chairman, I don't want us to have propaganda either. I want us to have the truth.

So I will spend one second on this and get off of BBG. I'd like for you to answer in written form why the American people shouldn't have transcribed to them what is being broadcast into Iran, both from Radio Farda and Voice of America, why the American people shouldn't know what we're saying, and as a check -- transparency creates accountability. And so tell me why we should not do that. And I'll stop with that.

We're having some hearings today in other aspects of the Senate on the nuclear facility in Syria. And there's no question that there was involvement from a couple of countries on that. One was Iran and one was Korea. The -- what do we know about Iran's involvement in that facility that you can speak about at this hearing?

MS. MCNERNEY: Senator, I think I'll have to defer to the experts to do it in these other briefings. And they'll be providing some of that information through all the committees.

The -- I don't think you'll find that there's an Iranian angle, except to the degree that it really highlights the destabilizing influence of these covert and activities -- nuclear activities and the importance of really rallying international support to put the pressure on Iran to stop its ability, because once -- as I said, once they develop this enrichment and reprocessing technology, unlike the plutonium-based example you'll be hearing about, the enrichment reprocessing effort can quickly go underground and be almost undetectable.

SEN. COBURN: Yeah, I know. So -- but does it say anything about proliferation -- we've been spending all this time talking with North Korea, and at the same time they're building a nuclear facility in Syria and the fact that we're going to a point where we have limited verification?

MS. MCNERNEY: I think it really speaks to the significant challenges. You know, obviously we've been very cautious in promising good results from North Korea given the record and what we saw in the '90s and their ability to talk to us and do one thing and then obviously quietly be also engaged in an enrichment reprocessing program.

One of the key elements that we're talking about now in the next phase is verification. And you know, having North Korea come clean and actually open up, declare its facilities and open them up will be a key challenge of that next process. I don't want to pretend that I would guarantee that North Korea's being completely honest with us because I think their record says otherwise.

SEN. COBURN: Yeah. Do we have any knowledge that during all this discussion that this was initiated in Syria at the same time they're negotiating with us about nonproliferation?

MS. MCNERNEY: I think we'll just have to defer to the other briefings for now.

SEN. COBURN: Okay. All right. I want to go back a little bit where Senator Coleman was, in terms of the proliferation to Iran, in terms of nuclear material. If we kind of look the other way with Russia on this one aspect, does it not send the wrong signal to other people that might be helping Iran proliferate? In other words, basically they're sending the material in there but they're on our team and we're saying okay. There's no consequences to that that we can actually do something about right now.

MS. MCNERNEY: Well, one of the things -- their activities are allowable under the U.N. Security Council resolutions. What is not allowable is cooperation on enrichment reprocessing and the heavy- water reactor.

SEN. COBURN: Yeah.

MS. MCNERNEY: And so -- you know, obviously we would prefer no cooperation with Iran, but at the same time it can be a counterexample of civil nuclear light-water reactor versus these real concerning proliferation --

SEN. COBURN: So the question comes -- it's not allowable by U.S. law, either. So does the United Nations sanctions trump U.S. law?

MS. MCNERNEY: Well, I think it's --

SEN. COBURN: It is not allowable under U.S. law now to promote and ship enriched uranium to Iran.

MS. MCNERNEY: Oh, certainly. Are you talking about the fuel for the --

SEN. COBURN: Yes.

MS. MCNERNEY: But that's low-enriched uranium versus a highly- enriched, yeah.

SEN. COBURN: I understand, but they're building the capability to build highly-enriched.

MS. MCNERNEY: That's through the enrichment reprocessing, which is separate, obviously, nuclear pathways.

SEN. COBURN: But so -- there's no question it's difficult to bring everybody together with a common purpose. My final question is, what is your hope? You and Ambassador Feltman, as you look at where we are today and where we're going, what is your hope? Two years from now, a year and a half from now, what do you see in terms of the sanctions, the ongoing process? Where do you think we're going to be?

MS. MCNERNEY: I guess I'd look at a couple places. I would hope that we could continue to build increasing support within Europe, within Asia, within the Gulf countries and other Middle East countries to continue to really apply these resolutions, not only strictly, but also the spirit of the resolutions, which is to hold Iran accountable for violating its Security Council obligations.

The other -- obviously, in terms of Iran, we hope that they will realize that this is a path that is going to continue, the isolation will only increase. And we need to find a way to start talking about this under a baseline that not only the United States but the entire international community has laid out for them which is to stop enrichment and reprocessing activities. And so with that, you know, obviously, then you can have a fulsome conversation because you don't have these nuclear activities continue.

But you know, I think, Ambassador Feltman may talk about this a little more, but obviously that's just one aspect. They're shipping arms to the Taliban, to Iraqi insurgents. They're a destabilizing influence through Hamas and other organizations. Again all of that is important to a broader dialogue.

SEN. COBURN: Ambassador Feltman.

MR. FELTMAN: I won't touch on the nuclear side because I'll let Patti's words stand for themselves.

But our agenda with Iran is enormous. We, you know, we want Iran to realize it is unacceptable to be killing our troops, our diplomats, to try and be destabilizing Iraq. We want Iran to realize that they must stop funding Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They must stop shipping arms to the Taliban.

The agenda is huge. And we are working unilaterally and multilaterally to try to change Iran's behavior across the board, not simply on the nuclear file. The nuclear file is the trigger for the possibility of direct talks on these things, following up on Secretary Rice's initiative from two years ago. But it's certainly not the only issue. It's not the only important issue.

Iraq is an interesting venue to watch right now, because there's some signs that perhaps the Shi'a Iraqis are disgusted with what Iran has done, in funding Shi'a militias in Iraq. This is almost a parallel to the fact that the Sunnis are disgusted to see the sort of Sunni militia activity. And Iran must be noticing that there was a revulsion in Iraq, against what the Iranians were doing, in terms of providing arms.

SEN. COBURN: Okay. Well, thank you.


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