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Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013--Continued--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Madam President, I thank my colleague Senator Hoeven for his leadership on this issue, for his dedication to this cause, his perseverance and persistence in support of democracy.

This resolution, in fact, is all about democracy in a land that has been deprived of it for far too long. Unless Americans think this cause of democracy is far removed and inconsequential to their lives, Americans know elections have consequences. In this instance, the consequences have ramifications across the world because it is the authoritarian, undemocratic regime of Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons without regard to the well-being of its people.

If it does not answer to its people, if it is undemocratic and authoritarian, it can continue to pursue this nonsensical, thoughtless, lawless course of seeking to arm itself with nuclear weapons. That is bad not only for the Iranian people but for the American people and for the people of the world.

I rise today in support of the Hoeven-Blumenthal resolution calling for free and fair elections in Iran and condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its ongoing violation of human rights.

On June 14, Iran will hold what looks to be yet another round of elections that are not fair, not free, and certainly not democratic--a sham, a charade that demeans even the pretense of democracy. On June 14 Iranians will elect a new president, but they will do so in an environment filled with systematic fraud and manipulation. They will be faced with a ballot hand-selected by the Supreme Leader, because he and his aides have prohibited literally hundreds of candidates from running. They have accepted only eight candidates for this election.

They are doing so in a country with severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly and without media freedom. We ought to note and, as my colleague Senator Hoeven says so well, remind the world that the real power in Iran continues to rest with the Supreme Leader who controls foreign policy and defense and can veto any decision made by the President or the Parliament. The Supreme Leader has been in power since 1989. He has never been subject to an election or popular referendum of any kind. That is why Senator Hoeven and I are again offering this resolution supporting political reform and freedom in Iran, and strongly siding with the Iranian people on behalf of the American people in the struggle for democracy. I thank Senator Hoeven and so many of my colleagues who worked with us before when we sponsored a similar resolution last year condemning the 2012 elections which were neither free nor fair.

We rise again to speak this truth to power. The Iranian people are denied basic and fundamental universal human rights and continue to suffer a repressive leadership that denies the validity of their views. As a global leader on human rights and a beacon to the world on democratic values, this body has an obligation to stand with the people of Iran and demand accountability from their leaders.

Other countries around the world are struggling for democracy, and our ally in the Middle East, Israel, exemplifies it as a shining model. I am reminded of how many people in that region are denied rights and freedoms. But we should reaffirm at every opportunity our commitment to democracy and urge the Iranian Government to hold free elections, end arbitrary detentions, stop harassing people who fight for basic rights and freedoms, and reform their political process.

I also want to commend President Obama for tightening sanctions on Iran's currency and auto industry, which should prevent the government from procuring some equipment used in nuclear programs. I support continuing efforts to show Iran that we are serious when we say they must halt their nuclear weapons development program. People look to the United States for democracy and freedom. They watch what we do and what we say on this floor of the greatest deliberative body in the world.

We must be unequivocal and remind the world how important it is to stand with the people of Iran, which is what the Hoeven-Blumenthal resolution does. I thank again my colleague Senator Hoeven.

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

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