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Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in strong support of H.R. 3783, the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012.

I would like to thank the sponsor of this legislation, Mr. Duncan, and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for their leadership on this issue.

This bill makes available $1 million of Andean counternarcotics funding for the State Department to generate an assessment of the challenge posed to our country by Iran's presence and hostile activity in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a strategy to address whatever threats we may face from the Iranian regime.

Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, its continued support for international terrorism, and its abuse of basic human rights require the United States to maintain extreme vigilance in monitoring and countering its threats around the world. Though our goal has not yet been realized, thanks to the leadership of Congress and the Obama administration, more pressure has been placed on the Iranian regime than ever before. While Iran's behavior poses a clear and obvious danger to its own people, its neighbors, and to our ally Israel, its presence closer to our shores also deserves watchful attention.

The Foreign Affairs Committee has heard significant testimony on this issue from both the administration and private sources. In my capacity of first as chairman and now as ranking member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I think there is ample evidence that Iran is up to no good in the Western Hemisphere.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly and defiantly signaled to the U.S. in his six trips to our hemisphere that he is trolling for friends. Although it seems what Iran actually places on the table of the countries he visits is a stack of unmet promises, it is important that the U.S. Government remain vigilant and dig much deeper into the nature and effectiveness of these Iranian regime actions.

None of this occurs in a vacuum. Iran was complicit in the horrific bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and of the AMIA Jewish Community Center, also in Buenos Aires, which I have visited on numerous occasions. This happened in the first half of the 1990s, so it can easily be said that the first terrorist attacks on Latin American soil happened with Iran in control. We also have evidence of Iran's increasing willingness to conduct an attack on U.S. soil, such as the discovery this year of a twisted Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador here in Washington.

We must be alert to any Iranian attempts to circumvent sanctions and stand against efforts to curry favor with our neighbors to loosen those sanctions. We should continue to monitor intelligence links and watch the Iranian diplomatic corps, given its historical involvement in nefarious acts. We should keep a close eye on financial transactions; the chaotic nexus of drug money and terrorism in this region, in particular, deserves serious notice.

Finally, it is important to express that my support for this legislation is not in any way an indication that the Obama administration has not taken this issue seriously. The President has himself stated that his administration will continue to monitor Iran's activities in the Western Hemisphere closely, and I have personally engaged enough administration officials to be persuaded that they understand the gravity of the situation and are giving it the attention it deserves.

Still, we must be particularly vigilant toward the relationship between Iran and Venezuela, given the opacity of the ties between the regimes governing each country and the anti-American bombast of their leaders. However, there are some positive notes in our region. I would like to extend my appreciation to Brazil, the largest democracy in the hemisphere outside of the United States, which, under President Rousseff, has significantly cooled its relationship with Iran and has cast important votes in the U.N. Human Rights Council critical of the Iranian regime.

Today's polarization and bluster in Washington on so many issues can have the effect of making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. We cannot let that happen here. The stakes are too high. So, with this legislation, we provide both a strong signal to the administration to continue to monitor this situation closely as well as the resources to look across U.S. agency efforts and enforcement capabilities to make sure they are in lockstep.

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.


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