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Public Statements

Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, And Divestment Act Of 2010--Conference Report

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRAHAM. I take the floor today in support of the conference report that has been agreed to by the conferees regarding Iran sanctions. I wish to compliment Senators Dodd, Shelby, Lugar, Kerry, Lieberman and others who were involved in negotiating this compromise.

The Iranian sanctions bill will give the President tools he does not have today that will allow us as a nation to be more forceful when it comes to trying to alter Iranian behavior. I think most people in this body see the Iranian regime up to no good, that the Iranian regime has been oppressing its own people, and they present a great threat in terms of the region and the world at large. They are one of the greatest sponsors of terrorism of any nation in the world. This sanctions legislation, which is bipartisan, will allow the President more tools. It will prevent access to foreign exchange in the United States. It will prevent access to our banking system by people who do business with Iran in unhealthy ways, and it will prevent the purchase of property in the United States in case the Iranians are looking for a place to put their money. We are going to take our banks and our real estate off the table so they cannot use us to profit from their brutal behavior.

It gives the ability to the President to waive these sanctions when it comes to countries that are cooperating with us. The whole goal of this legislation is to empower the administration and our Nation with tools that would create a downside for the Iranian Government to continue to try to develop a nuclear weapon and support terrorist organizations.

I am hopeful this will have some deterrent effect. The United Nations is beginning to act. The European Union, Russia, and China seem to be more helpful to the Obama administration. Anything we can do to help, we will. The idea of trying to get Iran to change its behavior through internal cooperation is a worthy idea to pursue. I hope it works.

Senator Schumer and I offered legislation not long ago that would prohibit companies that do business with the Iranian regime in the area empowering the regime in terms of technology to interfere with the Internet and stop the people of Iran from communicating with each other. That made it into the bill. I want to thank the conferees. What Senator Schumer and I came up with months ago, right after the massacre of the students by the Iranian regime, one of the things that led to this people's revolt in Iran, was the ability to Tweeter and talk to each other, use the Internet. The Iranian regime has been trying to suppress the ability of the Iranian people to talk to each other, and we created legislation that told the international community: Any company that empowers this regime to suppress the free flow of information among the Iranian people would lose business when it came to American business. That made it in the bill. I hope that will help.

The Iranian people have had a very difficult time. The election, as seen by the Iranian people and the world at large, of Ahmadinejad has been, quite frankly, a fraud and a joke. About a year ago, a little over a year ago, a young lady captured international attention and the hearts and minds of the world--I think her name was Neda--who was killed in the streets of Tehran. She was a beautiful young girl who had taken to the streets to try to defy this regime's oppressive behavior.

So as we look at the world here in the middle of June regarding Iran, there is a lot of hope I have that the Iranian people have turned the corner in terms of what they want for their future. We need to be their partner in a constructive way. It is one thing to empower the people, it is another thing to empower the regime that oppresses the people. Some of the sanctions we are proposing would make life difficult for the every-day Iranian, but I think they would welcome that, if it would give them the ability to weaken the regime they no longer tolerate or support.

The sanctions route with Russia and China has potential. If the world will speak with one voice and support President Obama in terms of making the consequences that the Iranian nuclear program is a support of terrorism unacceptable economically, including refined petroleum products, it would be good for the world at large.

Our friends in Israel are very concerned, as they should be, about the way Iran is moving toward supporting Hezbollah and Hamas and other organizations that are bent on the destruction of Israel. A nuclear weapon in the hands of this regime would be a nightmare for the world at large, but it would be horrible for the State of Israel. It is my hope we can avoid that. I hope sanctions work. However, the world must understand that sanctions is a tool to change behavior. It is worthy of our time to try to change behavior with these sanctions.

What is unacceptable is to practice a policy of containment, to accept a nuclear-armed Iran and hope that we contain it. To me that is a folly. That is a scenario that would lead to the unthinkable. If Iran ever does acquire a nuclear weapon, you are not going to contain it. You are going to have a Mideast where other people want a nuclear weapon to hedge their bets against Iran. You will have a world where a regime has a nuclear weapon and could be no better friend of the terrorists than Iran. I think President Clinton, when I was in Israel with him, spoke well of this.

He talked about his biggest fear if Iran got a nuclear weapon. It would not be so much an attack against Israel or our allies as would be it falling into the hands of a terrorist organization that would use it against Israel or our allies. I think President Clinton is correct in being worried about that.

So this is a good day. We cannot agree on much here in Congress. We are in a pretty partisan environment right now. I hope that will pass one day. But when it comes to Iranian sanctions, we came together as a body. We are giving tools to the administration to hopefully change the behavior of this regime. I am proud of our colleagues who negotiated this deal with the House. I am hopeful it will help.

I will conclude with one final thought: Whatever tools it takes to change the behavior of the Iranian Government we need to keep on the table, and the best tool is a peaceful tool. But if military force is ever required to change Iranian behavior, I hope that will be at least considered as the last option, not the first option. I hope we never go down that road. But it may be a road you have to explore if all this fails.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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