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Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, on Friday, the people of Iran head to the polls to make a false choice. Ostensibly participating in a democratic process to select a new President, they are really affirming their existing extremist theocracy. They will be forced to select not the candidate of their choice but the candidates that have been chosen for them by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei--candidates guaranteed to continue the Supreme Leader's policies of political and religious oppression in pursuit of nuclear capability at all costs.
In the United States we are now engaged in a national dialog about how we can best preserve our God-given rights guaranteed to us by our Constitution. We are taking a serious look at the role of government in our lives and revisiting the balance government is striking between security and privacy. But even as we debate these vital issues at home, we should remember those who are denied their liberty in Iran.
Today, in Iran, the economic picture is grim. Forty percent of Iranian citizens now live below the poverty line, almost double the rate in 2005. The rial has lost 50 percent of its value. The official rate of inflation is 32.2 percent. The real rate is considerably higher. The national rate of unemployment is 11.2 percent, and it is as high as 20 percent in certain regions.
Basic freedoms--political, religious, speech, the Internet--are under systematic attack by the regime. Sadly, persecution and oppression are the norm in Iran. Iran's political opposition has been effectively silenced. Key 2009 opposition leaders, such as Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been imprisoned without charge in their own homes for 2 years with locked doors and windows. The list of Presidential candidates has been hand-selected by the Supreme Leader, not by the Iranian people. American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini is right now serving an 8-year sentence in Iran's brutal Evin prison for simply professing his faith.
In January, I was proud to sign a letter, along with 11 other Senators, to Secretary Clinton advocating for Pastor Abedini's release and to Secretary Kerry on February 12, thanking him for his statement in support of Pastor Abedini.
There has been a crackdown on Christians in the lead-up to this election, including the closing of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran and the detention of Pastor Robert Asserian. Iranian Pastor Behnam Irani may face the death penalty for organizing a 300-strong congregation of the Church of Iran. Iran's 100,000-plus Evangelical Christians are suffering brutal oppression right now.
In an imitation of China, Iran is attempting to create a sort of internal Internet that will block access to international news and social media. Since the 2009 uprising, the Supreme Leader has instituted four new entities to restrict Internet freedom: The Supreme Council on Cyberspace, the Committee Charged with Determining Offensive Content, the Cyber Police, and the Cyber Army.
Iran has continued to aggressively expand its influence in the region and beyond. Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism and is increasing its activity. Iran has been so hostile toward the nation of Israel that Prime Minister Netanyahu recently expressed fears of ``another Holocaust'' from Tehran, regardless of any election that may take place. Iran's proxy army, Hezbollah, is supporting Asad's murderous attacks on his own people in Syria.
Today, the United Nations estimated that 93,000 people have been slaughtered in Syria since the uprising began in 2011. Iran's fingerprints are on those murders. Iran is not only expanding its own influence in the region through closer ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but it is also expanding its influence in Latin America. Most troubling, Iran is proceeding undeterred in its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.
In my judgment, there is no greater threat to the national security of the United States than the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and we need to be unequivocal and speak with absolute clarity that the United States will do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.
Unfortunately, the message from the United States has at times seemed muddled. On the one hand, Secretary of State John Kerry has asked Congress to relax sanctions around the Iranian Presidential elections so his diplomatic efforts have a ``window'' to work. On the other hand, the Obama administration recently announced new sanctions on Iran's currency and a new initiative to get communications devices to the Iranian people. But both efforts, however well intentioned, came too late to have any real impact on this election.
Today, the Senate is taking encouraging action. I am pleased the Senate hopes to pass a resolution, S. Res. 154, reaffirming our call for free and fair elections, a resolution I fully support.
The resolution also condemns the widespread human rights violations of the Government of Iran, calls on the Government of Iran to respect its peoples' freedom of expression and association, and expresses our ongoing support to the people of Iran for their calls for a democratic government that upholds freedom, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
The Iranian people may well be confused about where the United States stands, especially after we stood silently by when they took to the streets 4 years ago during the Green Revolution. But it was not always this way. Twenty-six years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall that divided the eastern and western halves of the city. No more important words have been spoken by a leader in modern times.
Today, I ask all Americans to join me in likewise urging the regime in Iran to tear down the walls of political and religious persecution, to relieve the pain of the unnecessary economic hardship, and to renounce the isolation caused by Tehran's aggressive and belligerent policies.
To those right now imprisoned and being persecuted in Iran, I would repeat the words of encouragement President Reagan gave when he knew the tyranny represented by the Berlin Wall would not stand. As President Reagan observed: ``For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth; it cannot withstand freedom.'' That is the very same message we should convey to the people of Iran as they suffer under tyrannical theocracy.
To the Supreme Leader I would say: Stop oppressing your people. Stop persecuting Christians. Stop pursuing nuclear weapons capability. Stop stifling freedom of speech and allow real and free elections. Free the Iranian people.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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