Joseph Lieberman, junior Senator from Connecticut on calls for a military attack to rid Iran of the Mullah tyranny.

by Joseph I. Lieberman, UNITED STATES SENATOR for The International Chronicles

There is no national security challenge that confronts our country in the world today that is more serious and pressing than that posed by the Iranian regime.

As you know, all evidence suggests that the Iranian government is secretly pursuing a military nuclear weapons capability. Most recently, in September 2009, the existence of a covert uranium enrichment plant, built into a mountain outside the city of Qom, was revealed. The secret construction of this facility, whose size, configuration, and location are inconsistent with a peaceful energy program, fits into a broader pattern of deception and concealment by the Iranian regime about its nuclear activities that stretches back over two decades.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are all the more alarming and unacceptable because of the Iranian government's longstanding support for terrorism. According to the U.S. Department of State, Iran is the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world today, providing weapons, training, and funding to extremist groups across the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian Territories, and even elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Iran has given extensive support to militias that are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers, as well as countless innocent Iraqis. Taken together, Iran's support of terrorist groups and its pursuit of nuclear weapons makes it one of the most dangerous regimes in the world today.

Some have argued that we can learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, just as we learned to live with nuclear weapons in the hands of the Soviet Union. According to this view, the same policies of containment and deterrence that served us so well during the Cold War can be adapted to deal with a nuclear Iran. I strongly disagree.

To begin with, Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would do catastrophic harm to the global nonproliferation regime. A nuclear-armed Iran would likely provoke other states in the region and beyond to pursue their own atomic arsenals, unleashing a cascade of proliferation. Let there be no doubt: the more proliferated the Middle East, the more likely a nuclear weapon will someday fall into the hands of terrorists.

In addition, a nuclear-armed Iran would greatly embolden its terrorist proxies and destroy any hope for peace in the Middle East. Indeed, consider how the balance of power and the prospects for peace in the Middle East would change if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons and its extremist allies could then attack moderate Arab regimes, Israel, and us under the protection of Tehran's nuclear umbrella.

Finally, I believe we must also take very seriously the violent words of the Iranian regime. I know there are some who dismiss Iran's rulers when they lead crowds in chanting "Death to America" or when they call for Israel to be wiped off the map. However, if we accept that counsel, it would be at our grave peril. On the contrary, we know from history that zealots frequently say what they mean and mean what they say. We should take Iran's fanatical leadership seriously.
For the past year, President Obama has made a good faith effort to resolve our outstanding problems with Iran through diplomacy. At the same time, the President has repeatedly said that our patience with Iran is not unlimited, establishing a deadline of December 2009 for "serious movement" by the Iranians. Unfortunately, rather than seizing President Obama's historic offer, the Iranian government has chosen to spurn it.

Now that this deadline has passed, I believe that it is imperative to put into action the President's pledge of increased, meaningful pressure against the Iranian government - what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called "crippling sanctions." It is my belief that the current leadership of Iran will only consider stepping back from the nuclear brink when they are convinced that, if they fail to do so, there will be consequences so severe that the continuity of their regime will be threatened.

With the goal of giving President Obama the authority to impose precisely these kinds of sanctions, in April 2009 I introduced the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (S. 908), together with my colleagues, Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Our legislation would amend the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act to allow the President to impose new economic sanctions on firms that are involved in the export of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to the Islamic Republic of Iran. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on imported gasoline as leverage in our nuclear standoff. However, under current law, his authority to do so is uncertain. Our legislation would eliminate this ambiguity and enable the President to tell companies involved in this trade that they must choose between doing business with Iran or doing business with America.

I am pleased to report that more than three-fourths of the Senate agreed to cosponsor our legislation. I am especially encouraged that this vast bipartisan coalition included both some of the most liberal and most conservative members of the Senate - a reflection of the fact that, when it comes to the threat posed by Iran, there is no room for partisan politics.

I am also a cosponsor of the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act (S. 1065), which was introduced by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Robert Casey (D-PA). This legislation would authorize state and local governments to direct divestiture from, and prevent investment in, companies with investments of $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector.

Key provisions of both S. 908 and S. 1065 were incorporated into the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (S. 2799), which was introduced by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. In October 2009, the Senate Banking Committee unanimously passed this strong package of sanctions against the government of Iran; and, on January 28, 2010, the Senate unanimously adopted this important bill. The legislation will now be sent to a House-Senate conference committee, before being sent back to each House of Congress for final passage. I will be working assiduously in the weeks ahead to ensure that we send this bill to the President for his signature as quickly as possible.

I also strongly believe that we must make human rights a central component of our policy toward Iran. The fact is, the people of Iran deserve better than the regime that currently rules them. The thuggish and undemocratic character of the Iranian government has become especially clear in the wake of the country's patently fraudulent June 12, 2009, election. I have been inspired by the courage of countless Iranians who have repeatedly taken to the streets in peaceful protest of their regime, which has responded with senseless brutality and bloodshed. I believe that America has a moral obligation to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran as they demand the freedom, civil liberties, and rule of law that are the universal rights of people everywhere and denounce the human rights abuses that are being perpetrated against them.

For this reason, in the wake of the Iranian election, I joined with my colleagues, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE), as well as others, in introducing the Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act. This legislation is designed to strengthen the ability of the Iranian people to get access to news and information and to overcome the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian regime. In July 2009, this legislation was unanimously adopted as an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which the President subsequently signed into law (P.L. 111-84). The VOICE Act will help the Iranian people stay one step ahead of their regime in getting access to unfiltered information and safely exercising freedom of speech, assembly, and expression online.

It is for this reason that I am proud to have joined several of my colleagues in the Senate to introduce S.Res. 193, which condemns the violent actions of the Iranian regime and its militias against its own citizens following Iran's election. On June 16, 2009, the Senate unanimously passed this resolution. In December, I joined several colleagues to introduce another resolution, S.Res. 386, calling attention to human rights abuses in Iran and condemning the Iranian regime's assault on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly.

In the weeks ahead, I will also be working to ensure that targeted sanctions against members of the Iranian regime who have been responsible for human rights abuses since the June election become part of the comprehensive sanctions legislation that is now in a House-Senate conference.

History has shown time and again that when a regime tyrannizes its own citizens, ultimately it will fail and freedom will prevail. Standing in solidarity with the people of Iran is, to my mind, both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative. I am determined to do everything in my power to help the Iranian people as they demand their fundamental rights and a government that is worthy of their great civilization and to ensure that the tyrannical, fanatical regime that currently rules Iran is not allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

Joseph Lieberman is the junior United States Senator from Connecticut. First elected to the Senate in 1988, Lieberman was elected to a fourth term  on November 7, 2006. In the 2000 United States presidential election, Lieberman was the Democratic nominee for Vice President, running with presidential nominee Al Gore, becoming the first Jewish candidate on a major  American political party presidential ticket.   


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published this page in The Attic 2012-03-26 03:29:00 -0400