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Press Conference With House Minority Whip Eric Cantor; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; Rep. Darrell Issa; Rep. Tom Price; Rep. Dana Rohrabacher; Rep. Pete Hoekstra; Rep. Mike Pence; Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart - Iran

Press Conference

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Location: Washington, DC

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REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you very much for being here with us and I'm so honored to represent a district that knows about the lack of freedom, knows about the lack of human rights and constantly fights for getting those universally accepted human rights respected in my native homeland of Cuba.

Iran should be no exception and how honored I am to be with a long line of heroes here who are speaking on behalf of the Iranian people, who may feel that they have no voice, but they are being listened to internationally, and for decades as all of us know, the people of Iran have been denied their most basic, fundamental human rights, civil liberties, by whom? By an oppressive Iranian regime, which uses a sham process and candidates handpicked by the ruling apparatus. Real reform, real democracy were never an option.

The regime relies on so-called elections to provide them with a veneer of legitimacy, but that facade has been shattered by Iran, in Iran, by the protestors that took to the streets this week.

The brutal nature of the Iranian regime is well documented. The State Department's Human Rights Record of 2008 noted, "Iran's poor human rights record worsened and it continued to commit numerous serious violations." The government severely limited citizens' right to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections using smear tactics and fear and intimidation to try to squelch the revolt that is obviously taking place and the Iranians' people call for freedom and democracy.

And if you look beyond what just happened this week, it was only the most recent demonstration of the brutality of that regime and its true authoritarian nature and we must also recognize that the Iranian regime is not just a threat to its own people, but indeed, it presents a threat to the security interests and to global peace and security through its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability, through its pursuit of chemical and biological weapons program and its pursuit of longer range missiles and by being a state sponsorship of global violence Islamic extremists acts.

But we are here today to focus on the hope of the individual Iranians who have been robbed of a better future for almost 30 years by a regime which offers nothing, but more misery and malaise. So we stand here today with the Iranian people and their struggle for freedom and I'm so pleased that we had Congressman Mike Pence's resolution before us today. I'd like to turn to him so he can begin a series of remarks or Eric -- Eric Cantor our beloved Whip. Eric Cantor has been speaking on behalf of the Iranian people to freely choose their leaders for many years and has been a strong voice for freedom and democracy worldwide.

Eric Cantor.

REP. CANTOR: Thanks, Ileana, and thank you for your leadership on these issues and we are here in group unified, really, as a House to, number one, salute the leadership of Mike Pence and helping bring this resolution forward with the gentleman from California, Howard Berman. But I'm joined today also with Congressman Darrell Issa, Tom Price from Georgia, the Ranking Member from the Armed Services Buck McKeon, the Ranking Member from the House Select Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, Dana Rohrabacher and, of course, the champion for human rights and freedom and that is Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

We are here because when America hears the call for freedom, we ought to answer and all of us believe that America has a moral responsibility to speak out on behalf of the Iranian people. Make no mistake about it; the regime in charge is the one that turns on and off the spigot of democracy, an alleged democracy.

So no matter who comes out on top in that election and they have announced Mr. Ahmadinejad, make no mistake about who is in charge and we've seen the brutality of that regime on the streets of Tehran on our television screens over the last several days, it gives us all great cause for alarm and that is why we are calling on our allies across the world, as well as urging President Obama to speak out strongly on behalf of freedom. We can make a difference for the Iranian people.

And with that, I want to turn it over to Chairman Mike Pence who has been the primary sponsor of the resolution just passed overwhelmingly on the House floor.

Mike?

REP. PENCE: I want to thank all of my colleagues here gathered here, but most especially I want to thank our Republican Whip Eric Cantor who led the effort in so many ways over the last week on behalf -- giving the American people an opportunity through their elected representatives to be heard on the question of freedom in Iran.

I also want to commend the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee for her leadership and her yeoman's work in bringing this resolution so expeditiously to the floor.

Let me also say surrounded by a group of Republicans, how grateful I am to Congressman Howard Berman for his bipartisan spirit and good faith manner in which he negotiated this resolution and assisted in bringing it to the floor.

Today, in the wake of so-called elections in Iran and on an overwhelming and near-unanimous, bipartisan basis, the American people have spoken through this Congress to condemn the violence and suppression of a free and independent press in Iran and as Americans have done throughout our history, this Congress today on behalf of the American people has spoken a word of heartfelt support to all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law.

Now, some observers say that America should remain silent in the wake of the extraordinary violence and repression that has dominated the airwaves of the world emanating from Iran for the last week, but I say from my heart, the American cause is freedom and in this cause, the American people will never be silent.

The Iranian regime would do well to remember those words of the late Ronald Reagan who said in his first inaugural address, "No arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

"

On behalf of the moral courage of men and women in Iran who have taken to the streets of their country, risking their liberty and even their lives on behalf of freedom, this Congress in overwhelming bipartisan fashion today expresses our support and I am deeply humbled to have been a part of it.

REP. ISSA: Young people today are not going to appreciate what Chairman Howard Berman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mike Pence have done, but in bringing this resolution to the floor and saying in every way possible, this is no different than Tiananmen Square, this is no different than men and women throwing themselves and often dying trying to get over the Berlin Wall. This is no different than those scenes of the last people trying to go to freedom as Vietnam, South Vietnam fell. This is, in fact, the aspirations of a people to have greater freedom.

Now, many people including the administration will call this, at times, an internal affair. Some might even say, well, it was an election, this is just the minority not being willing to accept the outcome. But minority rights, whether it's one man standing in front of a tank at Tiananmen Square or hundreds and thousands going to the streets to protest the lack of any rights for women, the lack of basic education that once was plentiful in Iran being pulled back. That kind of minority demand is no different than when they went on strike in Gdansk, in Poland and although we had no direct ability to affect it, we supported that.

That's what America is about is looking for the side whose rights are not being upheld and weighing in in favor of saying to the majority, those with all the power in Iran that they must find a way to give the rights to those people whose aspirations are legitimate and consistent with American values.

Thank you.

REP. PRICE: Thank you so much.

My name is Tom Price, I represent the 6th District of Georgia and I'm privileged to chair the Republican Study Committee this year, this Congress.

I stand with men and women who understand that liberty is enduring and that tyranny is temporary. The United States is a beacon of freedom to the dark corners of the world.

If you think about history, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the gulag, Lech Walesa in Poland, once they gained their freedom, they talked about the uplifting affect of the words coming from the United States defending their liberty and defending their freedom. Now, should be no different. We stand with the defenders of liberty and freedom in Iran and we will not allow them to be silenced.

REP. ROHRABACHER: Well, I'm not in the leadership and I guess I'm here because I was a speechwriter for President Reagan and I have a memory, a very vivid memory of those people who attacked Ronald Reagan because he was strong in his rhetoric and was forcefully an advocate for freedom and never hesitated to condemn oppression and oppressors throughout the world and I remember very well the pressure on him to tone down the rhetoric. It was coming inside his administration, as well as outside and having been one of his speechwriters, I was there on the frontline trying to back up the president's desire to make sure that America stayed true to what our founding fathers wanted us to be, the beacon of hope to the world.

Our founding fathers didn't want us to intervene everywhere in the world, but at the very least, they wanted us to stand for the principles of liberty and justice that they were sacrificing so much for and there's been so much sacrifice over the history of our country. We betray our founding fathers when we refrain from speaking up for justice and liberty and the struggle that's going on in different countries and nowhere, nowhere is that more true than in the struggles on the streets in Tehran.

These people suffer under a mullah dictatorship. We should unapologetically be on the side of those people in Iran who want democracy and freedom because that will lead to peace between our peoples, as well as freedom. This is what happened with Reagan in the Cold War. He ignored those who said don't be so, quote, "belligerent," but we needed to be belligerent to tyrants in order to speak positively and be on the side of those people who long for freedom and what happened? The Cold War ended when we actually gave that message to both the tyrants and the people who were suffering behind the Iron Curtain.

Perhaps with a strong stand, we can encourage the people of Tehran by letting them know the American people are on their side and maybe we can dismay the mullah dictatorship and that it will, too, pass away just as communism did. What a gift to the world that would be simply for staying true to our principles as Americans.

REP. HOEKSTRA: Sitting on the Intelligence Committee, we recognize that this is a very, very complex world. Foreign policy is very, very hard. How do we move and how do we see change in the world towards freedom?

So even though foreign policy is complex and is hard, this decision to speak out on behalf of the oppressed people in Iran should not be. This should be a very easy decision for the leadership of America, for the public in America, to stand alongside of the people in Iran who are fighting for a larger voice for freedom and opportunity against a tyrannical regime.

This is the natural place for the American people to be. It is the natural place for this Congress to be, and I applaud our leadership, I applaud the leadership on the Democratic side of the aisle to enable this Congress and for America to firmly establish and plant itself in a complex and a difficult world, but to plant ourselves squarely on the side of freedom and democracy.

So thank you.

REP. DIAZ-BALART: The Ayatollah Khamenei is the dictator in Iran and he overstepped in this farcical election, imposing, once again, his puppet president Ahmadinejad and the others who aspire to the public presidency are upset, so division occurred in the dictatorship and the Iranian people, heroically, are utilizing this moment of division in the dictatorship to demonstrate for freedom and against the dictatorship.

So the issue is not who deserves to be the puppet president, but rather that the Iranian people deserve to be free.

The President of the United States has been silent and confused. The Congress of the United States, consistent with the traditions and the values of the American people has been clear and today it has spoken. We stand with the heroic people of Iran against the dictatorship and the people will prevail.

Thank you.

REP. CANTOR: Questions?

Q (Off mike) -- situation in Iran and what led up to this?

REP. PENCE: Well, let me say when I approached just a couple of nights ago, I approached Chairman Howard Berman on the floor of the day that I filed my version of the resolution and asked him to take a look at it and the centerpiece for me was and I think for all of us was, it was important for the people of the United States of America to have the opportunity to express support to the people of Iran who are demonstrating on behalf of freedom and to that extent, this resolution was virtually unchanged.

I was amenable in the course of our discussions about the factual elements, the so-called whereas clauses that they might be susceptible to being used for propaganda purposes by the regime in Tehran and we had no interest in that. Our interest here, our purpose from the outset was to give the American people an opportunity to condemn the violence, condemn the repression of a free and independent press, and ultimately, to speak a word of support to the brave men and women on the streets of Tehran and I'm very pleased by the fact that that remain intact.

Q (Off mike.) Where do you go from here?

REP. PENCE: Well, let me say, I'm very encouraged with the news that we learned just this morning that Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman have offered this identical resolution in the United States Senate. I think we would all -- given the near unanimous adoption of this resolution by the House of Representatives and we would certainly urge our colleagues in the Senate to take the measure up just as expeditiously as the House of Representatives has done, but I think the objective here was for the Congress to give the American people an opportunity to be heard, but I would certainly join and I'll yield to our Whip, I would certainly renew my belief as Eric has also stated that I respectfully disagree with the position that the administration has taken.

I don't believe that having the President of the United States express a word of unqualified support to the brave men and women who are risking their liberty and their lives on behalf of freedom on the streets of Iran would constitute meddling. A thought is that when Ronald Reagan went before the Brandenburg Gate, he did not say, Mr. Gorbachev, that wall was none of our business. He said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall," and at the same time, also, engaged the regime of the Soviet Union to much great effect.

REP. CANTOR: Let me just follow up briefly on this as to where to go with Iran. I think that we have been very clear, obviously, we do not support the decision of this administration to engage with a terrorist regime, I mean, obviously, when you have a regime that conducts itself the way it has over the last week on display for the world to see, brutalizing and killing people because they're standing up for their rights, it calls into question the ability for us as a country, as a civilized world leader to trust anything that this regime may represent.

So we would, I believe, come down on the side of trying to promote, bring forward, the Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, to go ahead and if this administration is going to engage with the terrorist regime in Tehran, let's at least go in and say, look, you know, we want results out of those engagements and the results can only come if the regime itself feels the pressure of the world community that its actions are unacceptable.

Thank you very much.


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