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Public Statements

Air Force Structure

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, last August Congress enacted, with broad bipartisan support, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, a comprehensive sanctions bill I coauthored. That legislation, blending various measures introduced by my colleagues with new ideas developed by the Banking Committee, imposed a range of tough new sanctions on the Government of Iran and those who do business with it. This was done to tighten further the squeeze on Iran's major revenue sources, and force its leaders finally to come clean on Iran's illicit nuclear program. The third major piece of Iran sanctions legislation to be enacted in the last 2 years, it followed the Banking Committee's Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act in July of 2010, and the sanctions imposed on Iran's oil purchases 1 year ago. Those combined sanctions have had a powerful effect on Iran's economy, reducing its oil revenues by up to $5 billion per month, and causing the value of its currency to plummet.

The Defense Authorization conference report being considered today includes a set of additional measures aimed at Iran which broaden and deepen U.S. sanctions against its shipping, energy, shipbuilding and military sectors, and those who deal with entities in these sectors. They also require new sanctions against those supplying Iran certain strategic materials, and expand the sanctions net to those who provide Iran certain financial or insurance services.

All of these new sanctions, and those provided for in our legislation in August which will come online soon, will be implemented at a sensitive time, as the U.S. and our P5+1 allies prepare for what President Obama has described as a renewed push to develop a negotiated solution to this problem. The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is the most pressing foreign policy challenge we face, and we must continue to do all we can--politically, economically, and diplomatically--to avoid that result. In the coming months, it will become clear whether Iran will be willing finally to change course, and agree to the terms of the international community to bring an end to its illicit nuclear program, allow for intrusive international inspections of its nuclear sites and activities, and stop its continued support for terrorism and abuses of human rights. Given Iran's track record, there is considerable reason to be skeptical. But the President continues to press to resolve these issues diplomatically if possible, and if that can be done it is obviously preferable to any military alternative. Isolated diplomatically, economically, and otherwise, Iran must understand that the patience of the international community is fast running out. Iran's leaders can end the repression against their people, come clean on their nuclear program, suspend enrichment, and stop supporting terrorists around the globe, or they can continue to face sustained multilateral economic and diplomatic pressure and deepen their international isolation.

Let me say a final word about the process. The new measures contained in this bill were offered as a Senate floor amendment, and did not come through the Banking Committee. My view has always been that any innovative legislative ideas that may help force Iran to engage in successful negotiations are worthy of serious consideration. Even so, in negotiating these provisions in a hurried conference committee process, procedural objections raised by House Ways and Means Committee majority staff because of the way the new provisions were offered prompted them to insist on inserting certain exceptions related to import restrictions on certain goods. While I regret that these exceptions were added by the conferees, and think they may need to be addressed in future legislation, they cannot be allowed to weaken or undermine implementation of these sanctions or of the broader sanctions regime already in place. Our staff worked hard, on a bipartisan basis, to ensure that the final version preserves all of the President's very powerful sanctions tools provided for under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and does not undermine that authority in any way. I am concerned that as we forward on sanctions an approach which is inattentive to these existing authorities might actually unintentionally undermine them.

As we all recognize, economic sanctions are not an end--they are a means to an end--to apply enough pressure to secure agreement from Iran's leaders to fully, completely and verifiably abandon their illicit nuclear activities. The Banking Committee will continue to assertively oversee the President's implementation of the comprehensive sanctions regime, and do all we can to provide all the tools he needs to resolve these issues with Iran.

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