WARM IN WINTER AND COOL IN SUMMER ACT--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - July 24, 2008)
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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, this is an unusual day in the Senate. I have been in this body for a while. I have never seen the floor so crowded. I have sought, since early morning, to find a little floor time and have waited more than an hour at the present time, past the time I was scheduled to speak. I am glad to listen.
I am beginning, on my consideration of the pending legislation, the energy speculation bill, to note what is happening on the Senate floor. There has been a lot of talk, a lot of talk in the Senate for the last 4 days, and really no action--only one vote on Tuesday morning on a procedural matter to invoke cloture to proceed to the consideration of the bill. What has happened? We have been talking a great deal but not considering anything which would advance an energy policy for the United States.
We are engaged in a process which is a little difficult to understand, but I think it is important for the American people to know what is happening. A procedure has been utilized recently--the past couple of decades--where the majority leader exercises his rights as leader to take a procedural step which precludes anybody from offering amendments to the bill.
This is an opportunity. The Senate Chamber is empty, which it is frequently, certainly past 7 o'clock on a Thursday evening, but it is very hard to convey this information so that people would understand why no action is being taken in the Senate. There is no doubt that it is a do-nothing Senate and has been for some time as a result of political gridlock. That is why the ratings of the Senate have plummeted.
We have a situation which really started to percolate back in 1992, and it has been a practice of both Democrats and Republicans. Customarily--really invariably--when there is political blame in this body, it is attributable to both political parties. You can divide it right down the center aisle, and it is evenly split. But this procedure to preclude amendments is of fairly recent origin.
In the 101st Congress of 1989 to 1990, where Senator Mitchell was the leader, he did not use this procedure on any occasion. But by the 103rd Congress, 1993 to 1994, Senator Mitchell employed it on nine occasions. Then it was picked up in the Republican tenure of Senator Lott in the 106th Congress, in 1999 to 2000, when Senator Lott used it nine times. Then, in the 109th Congress, 2005 to 2006, Senator Frist, the majority leader, used it nine times. In this Congress, the 110th, 2007 and partly through 2008, Senator Reid has used it 13 times.
What does this mean so that it can be understood by the American people who have such a vital interest in having the Senate function? Let me illustrate it with a bill on climate change which was called up in June of this year.
As soon as the bill was called up, Senator Reid exercised his rights as leader to get first recognition. In the Senate, Senators are recognized in terms of who first seeks recognition, but in case of a tie it goes to the leader. He then offers an amendment and then another amendment so that procedurally no other of the 99 Senators can offer any amendment.
The global warming bill was a very important bill. There has been a demand to deal with this issue which poses great threats to our environment. There was legislation pending, legislation which Senator Bingaman and I had introduced, the Bingaman-Specter bill, legislation introduced by Senator Lieberman and Senator Warner on a very complex subject.
Early in the week of June 2, I came to the floor and spoke about some amendments which I wanted to offer. I wanted to offer an amendment on emission caps. I wanted to offer another amendment on cost-containment safety valve--a price cap. I wanted to offer a third amendment on energy-intensive manufacturing competitiveness and a fourth amendment on steel process gas emissions. Of course, that was only one Senator, at the beginning of what I wanted to have considered. But I was foreclosed from offering any of those amendments by the procedure which Senator Reid used to fill the tree.
Then Senator Reid moved for what is called cloture; that means to cut off debate in order to proceed to final passage of the bill.
I wanted to consider the global warming issue, but I certainly was not about to agree to cutting off debate and proceeding to final passage before I or others had had an opportunity to offer amendments.
Now, what happens as a result? The result is that Republicans complain about what Senator Reid has done on precluding amendments, and Senator Reid complains about it being another Republican filibuster in response to the Republican's inability to offer amendments.
So there is finger-pointing. That is what we are really good at these days. And the American people do not understand anything except that nothing is being done. Now, we have had consideration this week on a bill called the energy speculation bill. We all wonder why the cost of oil has gone through the roof, causing gasoline prices of more than $4 a gallon.
There is no doubt about the anguish and difficulties that the American people are suffering as a result of these costs, of these prices. And there is concern about the speculators who may be involved. Maybe they are. There are some indicators that part of the problem is caused by speculation.
Well, we haven't dealt with the issue in a logical, factual way; that is, for Senators to come to the floor and address the substance of the bill which is pending or offer amendments to modify the bill which is pending.
Now, Senator Reid, the majority leader, has followed the same course of action. He has filed cloture. We are going to have a cloture vote tomorrow. It takes 60 votes for cloture to cut off debate. It will not happen. When the motion for cloture fails, Senator Reid is going to go to his podium over there, and he is going to blast the Republicans for shutting down the bill at a time when the American people need relief, at a time when the American people need a decision as to what the speculators are doing.
I want to offer an amendment on bringing OPEC within our antitrust laws; something that I have been pushing for years. Right now, the OPEC combine has an exemption under our antitrust laws. The OPEC nations get into a room, they decide how much the production is going to be, they limit supply, and the price of oil goes up.
They have what is called sovereign immunity. Well, they ought not to have it. The Congress of the United States has the authority to change that. We can bring them within our antitrust laws so that the Attorney General can take action against them.
They are subject to jurisdiction in the United States because they do business here, and they have a lot of assets here. If we brought OPEC within our antitrust laws, you would see a change in their policy. They have argued for a long time--Saudi Arabia--that they cannot have any greater production. But about a month ago, when there were some signs of change in our consumption of oil, some fear that their preeminent position in their monopoly was in some jeopardy, somehow they increased their production.
If they increase their production, if the supply goes up, prices will come down--the inexorable law of supply and demand, one of the few laws that works.
So here we are, with an enormously serious problem with what is happening with the issue of oil prices and gasoline prices, and here we have a bill on the floor which addresses an issue of grave concern to the American people, and my hands are tied. My hands are tied with 99 other Senators because procedurally we are blocked.
Then the next move is going to be to invoke cloture. It is not going to be invoked. Debate is not going to be cut off; 60 votes will not be received. Then the majority leader will remove the bill from the floor, and he is going to blame Republicans for obstructing, and the American people are not going to have any opportunity to understand what went on, except for the few who were watching on C-SPAN.
I made this speech during the consideration of the global warming bill. There was not a word in the newspapers about it. Why? Well, it is too complicated. It is too arcane. It is too ``inside the beltway.'' But until the American people understand it and send a message to Washington that they are not going to tolerate it, we are going to have to continue to have this gridlock.
When the shoe was on the other foot and Republicans controlled the Senate, during the time when Senator Frist was the majority leader, he invoked this procedure on nine occasions. Senator Reid and the Democrats were very unhappy about it, as well as Senator Durbin and Senator Dodd.
This is what Senator Dodd had to say about it:
This chamber historically is the place where debate occurs.
And what Senator Dodd is referring to is that the Senate, unlike the House of Representatives, Senators have been able to offer any amendment on any subject at any time. And that is one of the great beauties about the Senate because any one of us can bring up an issue and call the attention of the American people to it, and with sufficient public backing, sufficient newspaper coverage, radio, TV, a little broader than C-SPAN2, there can be some action. But that has been foreclosed.
Senator Dodd was very emphatic about it back on May 11, 2006, when the Republican leader, Senator First, had filled the tree. Senator Dodd had this to say:
To basically lock out any amendments that might be offered to this proposal runs contrary to the very essence of this body. When the amendment tree has been entirely filled--
He called it filling the tree when the procedure is used--
when the amendment tree has been entirely filled, obviously we are dealing with a process that ought not to be. The Senate ought to be a place where we can offer amendments, have healthy debate over a reasonable time, and then come to closure on the subject matter.
Well, what did Senator Reid have to say about this subject on March 2, 2006, when we were debating the PATRIOT Act? Senator Reid said:
Do not fill the tree. That is a bad way, in my opinion, to run this Senate.
What did Senator Reid have to say about the subject on February 28, 2006, on the PATRIOT Act reauthorization, speaking about filling the tree.
This is a very bad practice. It runs against the basic nature of the Senate. The hallmark of the Senate is free speech and open debate.
What did Senator Durbin have to say about it, the assistant majority leader for the Democrats, on May 11, 2006, when the Republican majority leader had filled the tree and precluded amendments?
The Republican majority brings a bill to the Senate, fills the tree so no amendments can be offered, and then files cloture which stops debate; we cannot offer amendments.
So Senator Durbin outlines it as I did: The Republican majority leader fills the tree and then files cloture. Well, cloture was not adopted, and then these important issues are not considered and the American people wonder what is going on.
Well, I have taken a little longer to explain the subject, but it is very hard to get it across. I am going to keep trying. I have acted within the Senate to try to get the rule changed. A year and a half ago, I filed a rule amendment to try to get the rule changed. On February 15, 2007, I introduced S. Res. 83, and so far, I have not been able to get an answer from the chairman of the Rules Committee about what action she intends to take.
I might say to my colleague from Washington that I have been waiting an hour. I have limited time. But I am always a little wary when I see a colleague waiting. But there are some other subjects I want to talk about, so I want to give you some advance notice.
May the record show that Senator Murray has graciously given me a hand signal, sort of like the Patriots used in the Jets game, a hand signal, understanding that I am going to talk a little more. I will try to be brief, but there are some subjects I do want to address.
I am very encouraged by what the administration has done as noted in the Washington Post within the past few days. The President has sent his first high-level emissary to sit down with Iran and has agreed for the first time to set a time horizon for withdrawing troops from Iraq and has authorized the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to join the North Korean diplomats at the Six Party talks about ending that country's nuclear weapons program.
I would urge the President, in the course of these talks, to exercise flexibility in the dealings with Iran. There is no doubt that on the international scene the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon is the most serious international threat there is in the world today. No doubt about that. It is intolerable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon when its President talks about wiping Israel off the face of the Earth. And when Iran flouts international law by supporting international terrorists, no doubt about the threat that would pose.
It has been my urging of the administration that the United States not impose a precondition on the talks. The object of the talks is to stop Iran from continuing to process nuclear weapons and to abandon their effort to get nuclear weapons. They should stop their activities on processing uranium.
It seems to me where the object of the talks is to stop Iran from processing nuclear materials, that ought not to be a precondition of the talks. It is very difficult to go to a sovereign nation, it seems to me, and say: Before we begin the talks, we want you to have a freeze on processing nuclear materials, which is the object of our talks.
We have to approach anybody in any situation with a certain amount of dignity, with a certain amount of understanding about the other person's position, if we are to find some way to solve the problem. The administration talks about a freeze for freeze, but the freezes are very different. The freeze demanded by Iran is for them to stop a process which they have been engaged in, which they have asserted they have a right to as a sovereign nation. We don't like what they are doing. If they become a sufficient threat under the U.N. charter, article 51, there are circumstances where the threat is sufficiently imminent to take preemptive action. We all hope we never get to that stage. But until you have that situation, they are a sovereign nation, and they are engaging in activities which sovereign nations do.
The freeze we are offering is a freeze to not impose sanctions to take negative action against Iran. It is the projection of the six powers, led by the United States, that we have suggestions to make to Iran on a package of economic, political, a variety of incentives to stop Iran from processing nuclear material. It seems to me the best way to get on with it is to start to discuss with Iran what we have to offer specifically, to see if what we have to offer will be sufficient on the talks or to engage in the discussions and in the negotiations. We do know that notwithstanding the grave difficulties in dealing with North Korea, that when the United States was willing to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea, we made some progress. We thought the North Korean leadership was impossible, but we were able to work through it.
Similarly, in dealing with Libya and Qadhafi, we were able to work out an arrangement where Libya, Qadhafi, stopped the development of nuclear weapons. Qadhafi is the greatest terrorist in the history of the world; with very heavy competition, the greatest terrorist in the history of the world. He blew up Pan Am 103. It was proved that he did it. He made reparations to the passengers. He blew up a discotheque in Germany, killed American soldiers. Yet through discussions, through talks, he has been brought back into the so-called family of nations. Libya has a seat on the Security Council. It is hard for me, frankly, to understand how we have gone that far with Libya, but that goes to show how far we can go.
As these talks proceed, it would be my hope the United States would show flexibility. When the Secretary of State talks about their having 2 weeks to respond, I don't think that is the way negotiators deal in putting on time limits. Iran responded, apparently, according to the media reports, with a long written statement which was not understandable. But they have quite a number of points which they want to make. I have had the opportunity, and have discussed this on the Senate floor at some length, of having a number of discussions with the current Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. and the previous two Ambassadors. There are people from Iran whom you can talk to in a sensible way. But a demand on a precondition that they stop processing nuclear material, which is the object of the talks, seems to me to be totally counterproductive.
I have raised these issues at some considerable length over the course of the past year and a half, going back to an appropriations hearing on February 27, 2007, when Secretary of State Rice was before the committee, posing the issue with her as to why the precondition. I had an extensive discussion with her, similarly, with Secretary of Defense Gates, in hearings before the Department of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. It is worth noting that when Secretary of Defense Gates was on the Commission evaluating United States-Iranian relations, he was a party to recommending discussions with Iran. These discussions, these lines of questioning and responses are lengthy.
I ask unanimous consent that the full text of the statement be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Statement of Senator Arlen Specter, U.S.-Iranian Relations
Mr. President. I have sought recognition to compliment President Bush and Secretary Rice on their initiative to dispatch Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns to meet directly with Iranian officials this past weekend in Geneva, Switzerland.
On Saturday, July 19, Secretary Burns joined representatives of Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the European Union in negotiations with Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, over Iran's nuclear program. This was one of the highest level meetings between a representative of the U.S. and Iran since the American Embassy was seized in Tehran in 1979, and represents the highest level of American engagement with Tehran during the Bush administration's tenure.
The meeting followed a June 12, 2008 letter from Secretary Rice, European Union foreign minister Javier Solana, and the foreign ministers of China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom to Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki outlining a new set of incentives to encourage Iran to stop enriching uranium. The letter proposed that the six world powers ``will refrain from any new action in the Security Council,'' while Iran ``will refrain from any new nuclear activity, including the installation of any new centrifuges.'' The formula was called ``freeze-for-freeze.'' The letter and accompanying proposal was notable in that it concentrated on incentives rather than proposing new punitive measures.
I spoke with Secretary Burns this week who briefed me on the meeting. While I will not detail our conversation, I commended Secretary Burns for his efforts.
The Administration has long held they would not sit down with the Iranians prior to them agreeing to suspend their nuclear activities. The meeting this weekend at Geneva's City Hall represents a welcomed flexibility in that policy--a flexibility I strongly support and hope will continue.
I have consistently, both publically and privately, urged President Bush, Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates, for the U.S. to have direct talks with the Iranians without preconditions.
During the May 20, 2008 hearing before the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I made the following statement: ``I would like to focus on the future and most specifically on Iran and on the critical issue of talks with Iran and whether talking with Iran is really feasible. We have seen our talks with North Korea bear fruition. We have seen the talks with Libya--Qadhafi--bear fruition. Qadhafi, arguably the worst terrorist in the history of the world in a very tough competition with Pan Am 103 and the bombing of the Berlin discotheque, and yet he has given up his nuclear weapons.'' I further stated, ``We have seen the president's comment about appeasement of terrorists, but if we do not have dialogue with Iran, at least in one man's opinion, we're missing a great opportunity to avoid a future conflict.''
This hearing afforded me the opportunity to engage Secretary Gates on the matter. It is important to note that Secretary Gates, prior to his tenure at the Department of Defense, co-chaired a Council on Foreign Relations task force which concluded, ``it is in the interests of the United States to engage selectively with Iran to promote regional stability, dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, preserve reliable energy supplies, reduce the threat of terror, and address the `democracy deficit' that pervades the Middle East as a whole.'' When asked about dialogue and Iran in a questionnaire submitted by members of the Armed Services Committee, Secretary Gates responded that, ``no option that could potentially benefit U.S. policy should be off the table'' and noted that ``in the worst days of the cold war the U.S. maintained a dialogue with the Soviet Union and China.''
Picking up on Secretary Gates' comments about the Soviet Union, I discussed the applicability to Iran:
``Secretary Gates, we have seen that President Reagan identified the Soviet Union as the `evil empire' and shortly thereafter engaged in direct bilateral negotiations and very, very successfully. As noted before, we have seen President Bush authorize bilateral talks with North Korea, as well as multilateral talks, which produced results. As noted with Libya, on Gadhafi, the talks have produced very positive results. I note that there have been three rounds of bilateral talks where United States Ambassador Crocker has had direct contact with Iranian Ambassador Qomi. So we are not really saying, in practice, that we will not talk to them. The question is to what extent will we talk? I'm very much encouraged, Mr. Secretary, by the statement you made on May 14th of this year that, ``We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them. If there is to be a discussion then they need something too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander with them not feeling that they need anything from us.''
Continuing with Secretary Gates, I said, ``Now the position taken by the Secretary of State has been `we won't talk to Iran unless, as a precondition, they stop enriching Uranium.' It seems to me that it is unrealistic to try to have discussions but to say to the opposite party, `as a precondition to discussions we want the principal concession that we're after.' Do you think it made sense to insist on a concession like stopping enriching Uranium, which is what our ultimate objective is, before we even sit down and talk to them on a broader range of issues?''
I further questioned, ``Isn't it sensible to engage in discussion with somebody to try to find out what it is they are after? We sit apart from them and we speculate. We have all of these learned op-ed pieces and speeches made and we're searching for leverage. But wouldn't it make sense to talk to the Iranians and try to find out what they need as at least one step on the process? We only have one government to deal with. Let me put it to you very bluntly, Mr. Secretary: is President Bush correct when he says that it is appeasement to talk to Iran?''
Secretary Gates responded, ``Well, I don't know--I don't know exactly what the president said. I believe he said it was appeasement to talk to terrorists, to negotiate with terrorists .....''
I interjected, ``He said in his May 15 address to the members of the Knesset he said, `some seem to believe that we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals.' He does not say specifically Iran, but I think the inference is unmistakable in light of the entire policy of the administration.''
I concluded by telling Secretary Gates, ``I've had an opportunity to talk to the President about it directly, and I believe he needs to hear more from people like you than people like me, but from both of us and that it's not appeasement and that the analogy to Neville Chamberlain is wrong. We've only got one government to deal with there, and they were receptive in 2003. I've had a chance to talk to the last three Iranian ambassadors to the U.N. and I think there is an opportunity for dialogue. I think we have to be a little courageous about it and take a chance because the alternatives are very, very, very bleak.''
A month prior to my engagement with Secretary Gates, I posed a similar question to Secretary Rice during the April 9, 2008 Foreign Operations Subcommittee hearing:
I told Secretary Rice, ``I want to visit with you a couple of subjects that you and I have talked about extensively both on and off the record, and that is the Iranian issue and later the Syrian issue. We have talked about the initiative of 2003, which has been confirmed by a number of people in the administration, on Iran's effort to initiate bilateral talks with the United States. And I have discussed this with you urging you to do so. We all know that among the many pressing problems the United States faces, none is more important than our relation with Iran and the threat of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. And the multilateral talks and the sanctions in the United Nations are very, very important. But I would again take up and urge the bilateral talks. You were successful on the bilateral talks with North Korea in structuring an agreement. There had to be multilateral talks with China involved and Japan and South Korea and other nations. But Madam Secretary, in the waning days of the administration, in light of the intensity of the problems, why not use the approach taken in North Korea and engage Iran in bilateral talks to try to find some way of coming together with them on the critical issue of their building a nuclear weapon?''
Secretary Rice responded, ``Senator, I think we've made clear that we don't have a problem with the idea of talking to the Iranians. I said at one point in a recent speech that we don't have any permanent enemies, so we don't--''
I told Secretary Rice I was referring to dialogue, ``but without preconditions.''
Secretary Rice replied, ``But I think the problem of doing this, and we do talk with North Korea bilaterally but, of course, in the context of a six-party framework, and we have a six-party framework really for Iran. The reason that the precondition is there--and it's not just an American precondition, it is one that the Europeans set well before we entered this six-party arrangement some two years ago--it's to not allow the Iranians to continue to improve their capabilities while using negotiations as a cover. They have only one thing to do, which is to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing efforts, and then everybody will talk to them. And I've been clear that we're prepared to talk to them about anything, not just about their nuclear.''
I followed up with Secretary Rice, ``They don't need talks to have a cover to proceed with whatever it is they're doing. They're proceeding with that now. I've had some experience. I haven't been secretary of State and I haven't been in the State Department, but I've been on this committee--subcommittee for 28 years and chaired the Intelligence Committee, talked to many foreign leaders, and frankly, I think it's insulting to go to another person or another country and say we're not going to talk to you unless you agree to something in advance. What we want them to do is stop enriching uranium. That's the object of the talks. How can we insist on their agreeing to the object that we want as a precondition to having the talks?''
Secretary Rice replied, ``Well, Senator, we've not told them that we--the talks would be in fact about how to get Iran civil nuclear energy and a whole host of other trade and political benefits, by the way, because the package that the six parties have put forward is actually very favorable to Iran. But they do need to stop--suspend until those talks can begin and those talks can have some substance. They need to stop doing what they're doing, because to allow them to just continue to do it, to say well, we're in negotiations while they continue to do it, I think sends the wrong signal to them and frankly would erode our ability to continue the kind of efforts at sanctions that we're also engaged in.''
On February 27, 2007, I questioned Secretary Rice when she appeared before the Appropriations Committee. I stated that, ``It would be my hope, as you know from our correspondence in the past and our discussion, that there would be more intense one on one negotiations with the Iranians. ..... And the most famous illustration is President Nixon going to China--used really as an example. If that can be done, that's the way to do it.'' While Undersecretary Burns' recent meeting is not of the same magnitude, it still represents a step in the right direction and perhaps is the initial building block or stepping stone to enhanced bilateral discussions.
Perhaps one of the best opportunities to engage in serious dialogue with Iran came during 2003. Press reports have suggested the existence a document that was passed to the United States through the Swiss Ambassador to Iran and later rejected by the Administration. The document laid out issues for the U.S. and Iran to discuss and parameters for dialogue.
Knowledge of the memorandum existed in the State Department and the National Security Council. However, according to Michael Hirsh of the Washington Post, the memorandum ``was ignored.''
During my May 20, 2008 questioning of Secretary Gates, he appeared to allude to the fact that the U.S. may have missed an opportunity following the 2003 memorandum. I asked Secretary Gates, ``Mr. Secretary, we had leverage in 2003 when we were successful in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the record is pretty clear that we wasted an opportunity to respond to their initiatives.'' Secretary Gates stated, ``I think it was one of the things [Khatami's tenure as President] that created perhaps an opportunity that may or may not have been lost in 2003 and 2004.''
While I believe it is clear that an opportunity to engage Iran was lost in 2003, I agree with Secretary Gates that we need to find ways to generate leverage in dealing with Iran and need to continue to work on a resolution. One proposal which I find promising is the Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Iran's civil nuclear program. It would provide Tehran with the nuclear power it claims is the sole intention of its nuclear program, but would prevent Iran from turning the lowly enriched uranium needed for civil nuclear reactors to the highly enriched uranium needed for nuclear weapons.
During the April 9, 2008 Foreign Operations Subcommittee hearing I raised this issue with Secretary Rice, ``Let me move to another subject, and that is President Putin's proposal to have the Russians enrich their uranium. ..... To what extent has the Putin proposal been pressed? In a sense, if we join with Putin and they refuse what is really a good offer to have somebody else enrich their uranium so they have it for peaceful purposes, but there is a check on using it for military purposes--why hasn't that worked?''
Secretary Rice responded, ``Well, we are fully supportive of it, and the president just told President Putin that again at Shchuchye, that he is fully supportive of the Russian proposal. And in fact, not only did President Putin himself put that proposal to the Iranians when he was in Tehran, his foreign minister went back within a few days and put the same proposition to the Iranians, which makes people suspicious, Senator, that this is not about civil nuclear power but rather about the development of the capabilities for a nuclear weapon ..... Not only did we support the Russians in making their offer, but when the Russians decided to go ahead and shift the fuel for Bushehr saying to the Iranians now that we've shipped the fuel, you certainly have no reason to enrich, we supported that effort too. So I think this really speaks to the intentions of the Iranians.''
I concurred with Secretary Rice, but urged her to press this idea at the highest levels: ``My suggestion would be to try to elevate it. It's been in the media and the press a little, but not very much. So if we could elevate that, I think you'd really put Iran on the spot that they deserve to be on.'' Secretary Rice responded favorably to the suggestion: ``It's a very good idea, Senator. We'll try to do that.''
I have engaged senior Administration officials in meetings, phone conversations and via letters on the Iranian issue. On January 14, 2007, I met Secretary Rice in her office and urged her to undertake an aggressive diplomatic initiative in the Middle East and to engage all regional actors including Iran. One month later during her February 27, 2007 testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, she announced an initiative to enhance regional engagement. When I spoke to Secretary Rice via phone on August 14, 2007, she indicated there had been no significant movement on this front. After learning of the lackluster progress, I wrote to Secretary Rice that, ``The U.S. should be willing to engage in dialogue with those whom we consider to be our enemies in order to advance our goals of peace and security. As I have expressed to you in the past, I believe that talks with people--even our most ardent adversaries--hold the potential to yield positive results.''
On September 10, 2007, I wrote a six page letter to Secretary Rice in which I noted, ``Terrorism, military nuclear capabilities, energy security, and the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma are all major issues confronting the U.S. and indeed the world. These challenges cannot be confronted without engaging Iran .....''
In a March 28, 2007 letter to Secretary Rice, I wrote ``In my view, a renewed focus on dialogue with North Korea and recent participation of the U.S. in an international conference attended by Iran and Syria, hold open the possibility of easing the tensions that exist in our relationship with those countries through diplomacy....... On a carefully selective basis, I believe dialogue should be pursued with our adversaries.''
On August 1, 2007, I stated on the Senate floor, ``While we can't be sure that dialogue will succeed, we can be sure that without dialogue there will be failure.''
As the clock runs out on this administration, I urge it to push for resolution of this matter through direct, bilateral, unconditional negotiations with Tehran. The recent talks in Geneva were significant, but I continue to believe that bilateral negotiations may aid in resolving this issue of tremendous importance.
I yield the floor.
Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, there is one further subject I wish to discuss. This will be not relatively brief, but brief. That is a discussion which is pending between Syria and Israel with Turkey acting as an intermediary. It would be my hope and suggestion to the President that he extend the flexibility which he is now showing as to Iran and North Korea and Iraq to assist in the Israeli-Syrian negotiations. The United States was instrumental in negotiations back in 1995, when Prime Minister Rabin almost came to terms with Syria on the Golan Heights. It is a very difficult subject that I don't believe anybody should tell Israel or suggest to Israel or in any way pressure Israel as to what to do about the Golan Heights. It is a decision Israel has to make for itself on their security. But it is a different world than it was in 1967, when Israel took the Golan Heights. Now we have a world of rockets, and security matters are entirely different.
Again, the United States participated extensively in the Syrian-Israeli talks in the year 2000. I have made many trips to Syria since 1984. I got to know President Hafez al-Asad and traveled to the Middle East extensively and recommended to a number of Israeli Prime Ministers the desirability of my view--at least in one man's opinion--to have the negotiations. Right now there is a unique opportunity which could impact on Lebanon. Syria is opening an embassy in Lebanon, treating Lebanon as a sovereign nation which is quite a shift. Syria has enormous influence on Hezbollah. It is a very complex subject in Lebanon, with Hezbollah having significant power in the government, a veto in their Parliament. Syria has considerable influence with Hamas. If the circumstances were right, there is a great opportunity to separate Syria from Iran, a great opportunity to get some assistance with Syria on some major problems. It is unknowable whether that can happen. But I do believe dialog is the way. It would be my hope the President would show he still has muscle. He is going to be in the White House for 6 months. What he has done with respect to North Korea and Iran and Iraq shows he is not taking his last 6 months with a view that there are things he can accomplish. I refer to an extensive article I have written on this subject which summarizes a good many of my activities and views in the Washington Quarterly for 2006-2007.
I thank my colleague from Washington for her patience, if, in fact, she has been patient. It is always difficult with Senators having the right to speak. But it took me more than an hour to get the floor after waiting most of the day. As usual, Senator Murray is gracious and nodding in the affirmative. I thank her and the Chair.
I yield the floor.
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