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Public Statements

Expressing Support For Iranians Who Embrace Democracy

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PAUL. Madam Speaker, I rise in reluctant opposition to H. Res 560, which condemns the Iranian government for its recent actions during the unrest in that country. While I never condone violence, much less the violence that governments are only too willing to mete out to their own citizens, I am always very cautious about ``condemning'' the actions of governments overseas. As an elected member of the United States House of Representatives, I have always questioned our constitutional authority to sit in judgment of the actions of foreign governments of which we are not representatives. I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little. And we know very little beyond limited press reports about what is happening in Iran.

Of course I do not support attempts by foreign governments to suppress the democratic aspirations of their people, but when is the last time we condemned Saudi Arabia or Egypt or the many other countries where unlike in Iran there is no opportunity to exercise any substantial vote on political leadership? It seems our criticism is selective and applied when there are political points to be made. I have admired President Obama's cautious approach to the situation in Iran and I would have preferred that we in the House had acted similarly.

I adhere to the foreign policy of our Founders, who advised that we not interfere in the internal affairs of countries overseas. I believe that is the best policy for the United States, for our national security and for our prosperity. I urge my colleagues to reject this and all similar meddling resolutions.

Madam Speaker, I urge you to support H.R. 560, expressing support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law and for other purposes. The only effective way to achieve lasting peace and prosperity in the region, along with bringing about reforms in Iran's polity, is to assist the Iranian people in their quest to achieve political, social, and religious liberty. Every government can be judged with the way in which it treats its ethnic and religious minorities, and the current Iranian government gets a failing grade for its treatment of its many and diverse minorities. It is not our position as the United States to determine the outcome of the recent Iranian elections, but as a leader in the international community, we have a responsibility to ensure that the people of Iran have the opportunity to have fair and free elections.

Yet with the results of the recent election, there was no chance for Iranian citizens to participate in democracy. On June 12, 2009 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was ostensibly re-elected to his second term as President, as a result of the tenth Presidential elections in Iran, held and calculated on June 13, 2009. Subject to official results released by Iran's election headquarters, out of a total of 39,165,191 ballots cast in the presidential election, Ahmadinejad allegedly won 24,527,516 votes, which accounts for approximately 62.6 percent of the votes, while his opponent and former Prime Minister of Iran Mir-Hossein Mousavi purportedly secured only 13,216,411 (37.4 percent) of the votes. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced that he envisions Ahmadinejad as president in the next five years, a comment interpreted as indicating support for Ahmadinejad's reelection.

Just 48 hours after Iranian officials announced incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide 62.6% victory, the situation in Tehran and in regions throughout the country broke out in a wave of violent protests in response to what the people of Iran knew to be a rigged poll.

Yet despite the large-scale civil unrest in response to the rigged elections, the outstretched arm of the Ayatollah extends beyond Tehran. Whereas the size of the crowds protesting reached to more than 1 million people united in outrage at the absence of a fair and free electoral process. Despite the government ban that has been placed on all public gatherings with the purpose of voicing opposition to the outcome of the Iranian presidential elections, the people of Iran have publicly expressed their dissent. Iranians throughout the country have defied Interior Ministry warnings broadcast. Violence has spilled on to the streets of Tehran. To date, 7 Iranians have been killed in violent political unrest. Beyond Tehran, Iranians living in the rural regions are feeling the Ayatollah's pressures to cease all public expression of their discontent with the outcome of the elections. The Iranian people living in the region of Mashad are currently confined to their homes in order to prevent them protesting in the streets. All foreign journalists have now been quarantined and/or made to leave the country.

Following the results of the June l2th Iranian election, President Obama released a statement in reaction to then elections in Iran, stating ``I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television,'' Obama said in Washington. ``I can't state definitively one way or another what happened with respect to the election. But what I can say is that there appears to be a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged and so committed to democracy who now feel betrayed.''

Given the absence of fair and free elections, coupled with the government's poor record for transparency and accountability, we have deep cause for concern about the opportunity for free choices and democratic participation for the people of Iran. Despite intensified inspections since 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inability, to verify that Iran's nuclear program is not designed to develop a nuclear weapon is cause for great concern. While Iran states that the intention of its nuclear program is for electricity generation which it feels is vital to its energy security, U.S. officials challenge this justification by stating that ``Iran's vast gas resources make a nuclear energy program unnecessary.''

Establishing a diplomatic dialogue with the Government of Iran and deepening relationships with the Iranian people will only help foster greater understanding between the people of Iran and the people of the United States and would enhance the stability the security of the Persian Gulf region. Furthering President Obama's approach toward continued engagement will reduce the increased threat of the proliferation or use of nuclear weapons in the region, while advancing other U.S. foreign policy objectives in the region. The significance of establishing and sustaining diplomatic relations with Iran cannot be over-emphasized. Avoidance and military intervention cannot be the means through which we resolve this looming crisis.

In conclusion, we must condemn Iran for the absence of fair and free Presidential elections and urge Iran to provide its people with the opportunity to engage in a Democratic election process, by demanding new elections, and ensure that all votes are fairly counted. I look forward to further meaningful discussion and a new foreign policy strategy with regard to Iran when the people of Iran are able to participate in a fair and democratic electoral process.

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