U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following remarks earlier today at a briefing examining Iranian proliferation activities as well as Iran's efforts to expand its influence and operations in the Western Hemisphere. The Committee was briefed by Mr. Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Mr. Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, and Ms. Danielle Pletka, Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies for the American Enterprise Institute.
Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"Earlier this year, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that Iran has become increasingly willing to attack the United States and American interests overseas. We saw this chilling revelation demonstrated late last year, when American agents foiled an Iranian-commissioned plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil. The Iranian regime is also believed to have been behind the attacks against Israeli embassies in India and Georgia that took place earlier this year.
"The regime's growing alliances with Chavez, Ortega, Morales, Castro, and Correa have the potential to destabilize our Western Hemisphere. These alliances can pose an immediate threat by giving Iran--directly through the IRGC, or via its proxies like Hezbollah--a platform in the region to carry out attacks against the U.S., our interests, and our allies. Media reports have indicated an increased presence of Iran's IRGC Quds Force in these countries and Iranian intelligence agents surfacing throughout the region. The fact that the military arm of a state sponsor of terrorism has its operatives within multiple countries in our Hemisphere is certainly cause for alarm and merits Congressional focus.
"From a nuclear perspective, we have mounting evidence that the Iranian regime is working on technology with nuclear weapons applications, such as triggering. And just this week, we saw images of an explosives containment chamber at an Iranian nuclear facility that the regime still refuses to open up to inspection. Some of us believe that these latest rounds of negotiations are just a means for the regime to buy time to continue enrichment and nuclear development without the resource constraints that would come from additional sanctions and other measures.
"We need to learn the lessons from our experience in North Korea, where we went through round after round of talks and concessions followed, inevitably, by another provocative action after another from the North Korean regime.
"Late last year, the House passed the Iran Threat Reduction Act, H.R. 1905, and the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act, H.R. 2105, which include new, sweeping, crippling sanctions against Iran. We are still waiting for the Senate to take up these measures so we can bring them to the President's desk.
"But with each day that passes, the Iranian regime gets closer and closer to the "zone of immunity', after which point the regime could decide at any time to assembly the capacity and build nuclear weapons, and we would probably not be able to stop them.
"I look forward to our distinguished briefers' in-depth perspectives on the Iranian threat and potential courses of action to address it."