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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, first I appreciate where we are. This is a bipartisan amendment. It is an amendment with Senator Kirk and Senator Lieberman. It is a continuing perfection of sanctions as it relates to Iran that has been unanimously passed by this body approximately a year ago last December. Iran has set its sights on achieving nuclear weapons capability and this would not be in the national security interests of the United States because we have tens of thousands of our troops who would be in harm's way if Iran had nuclear weapons.

It would also not be in our national security interests because we clearly have to ensure that the Straits of Hormuz remain open and accessible and we would be obligated under our NATO agreements to respond should a Shabab missile be launched against one of our allies. Of course a Shabab missile is an Iranian missile that has the type of flight and capability to do so.

It is not in our national security interests because the last thing we need is a nuclear arms race in the tinderbox of the world where countries, for example, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia would feel obligated to follow suit if Iran were to become a nuclear power.

For all of those reasons among others, it would not be in the national security interests of the United States. That achievement would jeopardize U.S. national security interests, pose an existential threat to the state of Israel, and would result in a nuclear arms race that would further destabilize the region.

The news out of Iran is dire. Just this week the Director of the International Atomic Energy Administration told the press Iran has not slowed its enrichment activities. The International Atomic Energy Administration also suspects that Iran has conducted live tests of conventional explosives that could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon at the Parchin military base--a facility the Iranians have denied access to by the International Atomic Energy Administration.

Between May and August of this year, Iran doubled the number of centrifuges at its fortified Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to protect it against strikes. Iran now has over 2,140 centrifuges for enriching uranium and it continues to enrich to 20 percent. Iran claims it needs this higher grade uranium for its peaceful nuclear program, but a country with peaceful ambitions doesn't enrich uranium in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. It doesn't refuse to disclose its operations. It doesn't hide them inside a mountain. A peaceful nation doesn't breach the international inspections regime compelled by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and a peaceful nation is not one that pursues weaponization of missiles that can reach countries far beyond its borders.

The sanctions passed by this body unanimously last December are having a significant impact. The Iranian currency, the rial, has lost much of its value, and Iran's oil exports have dropped to a new daily low of 860,000 barrels per day, which is over 1 million barrels of oil per day less than 1 year ago.

Through our sanctions and the combined effort of the European Union, we have forced the Iranians back to the negotiating table. By passing these additional measures--requiring the cessation of sales to and transactions within Iranian sectors that support proliferation, including energy, shipping, shipbuilding, and port sectors, as well as anyone on our specially designated national list--we will send a message to Iran that the time for confidence-building measures is over. We do not want the Iranian regime simply to believe they can toughen out the sanctions. This sends a clear message that toughening it out will not work and it will only get worse.

If Iran is serious about wanting to reach a diplomatic solution, then it must quickly and fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions. It must stop enriching uranium, permit removal from its territory of enriched uranium, close the Fordow enrichment facility, and submit to a robust inspections regime that includes inspections of the Parchin military facility.

Clearly, sanctions are not the ultimate goal. They are only a means to a clear end, in this case preventing Iran from becoming the next nuclear state and an existential threat to our ally, the State of Israel. Let me highlight the major provisions of this amendment.

First, this amendment designates Iran's energy, port, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors as entities of proliferation because of the role they play in supporting and funding Iran's obvious proliferation activities. With the exception of permissible petroleum transactions under the existing sanctions regime from countries that have significantly reduced their purchases of oil from Iran, these sectors will now be off limits. We will sanction any transactions with these sectors and we will block the property--and any third party--that engages in transactions with them.

Second, we impose sanctions on persons selling or supplying a defined list of commodities to Iran--commodities that are relevant to Iran's shipbuilding and nuclear sectors such as graphite, aluminum, steel, metallurgical coal, and software for integrating industrial processes. We also will prevent Iran from circumventing sanctions on its Central Bank that this Congress and the President signed by receiving payments in precious metals.

Third, we designate the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting entity and its President as human rights abusers for their broadcasting of forced television confessions and show trials, thereby blocking their assets and preventing others from doing business with the IRIB.

To address concerns about access to humanitarian goods in Iran, which is a very real and serious concern, we have provided for exceptions for the provision and sale to Iran of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, and other humanitarian goods. We have imposed new human rights sanctions on those in Iran who are engaged in corruption or the diversion of resources related to these goods and that are preventing them from reaching the Iranian people.

Our message is clear. The window is closing. The time for the waiting game is over. Yes, our sanctions are having a demonstrable effect on the Iranian economy, but Iran is still working just as hard to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has to decide what it will do. Will it continue down the path to proliferation and risk further crushing economic sanctions or will it end the madness and negotiate a responsible end to its nuclear ambition? The waiting game is over and, in the end, one way or the other, Iran will not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon that could threaten the national interests and security interests of the United States, Israel, the region, and the world.

I wish to thank Senator Kirk, whom we have worked with on this issue for quite some time, as well as Senator Lieberman, Senator Casey, and many others who have shared their interests and their views, and we have tried to incorporate those views. I hope that tomorrow when we cast a vote, it will be the type of unanimous vote this Senate passed nearly 1 year ago, that ultimately sends a very clear message to the Iranians that if they seek to evade, if they seek to avoid, if they think they can wait out the process, they are wrong. That is, in essence, what we are doing through this amendment. It is, in essence, why we believe it is so critical to move forward, to send a very clear message to the Iranians.

This is about the national security of the United States. It is the existential challenge to the State of Israel, our ally, and it is the best of a bipartisan effort that we have seen in this Senate.

With that, I look forward to tomorrow's vote.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


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