Remarks by Senator Mark Kirk
American Jewish Committee
November 28, 2011
Before I get to the focus of my remarks, I’d be remiss not to say a few words about the first set of parliamentary elections held in Egypt today.
As Americans, we support freedom, democracy and human rights for all peoples. But as Gaza taught us in 2006, free elections do not by themselves make a democracy.
According to public polling and sources on the ground, the decision to force a swift move toward elections before secular parties had time to build up their capacities likely handed a victory to the Muslim Brotherhood and more radical Islamist elements of Egyptian society.
How big a victory and what it means going forward we will have to wait to find out. But rest assured, if a radical Islamic government rises in Egypt – one that disavows the Camp David Peace Accords and no longer acts as a stable strategic partner in the Middle East – we will look back on this day as the turning point in a tragic and preventable strategic nightmare.
September 30, 1938. The House of Commons. “The path which leads to appeasement is long and bristles with obstacles. The question of Czechoslovakia is the latest and perhaps the most dangerous. Now that we have got past it, I feel that it may be possible to make further progress along the road to sanity.”
The same day. 10 Downing Street. “My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”
Ladies and gentlemen – it’s 1938 – and we cannot afford to go home and sleep quietly in our beds any longer.
When the Iranian regime murdered a young woman named Neda on the streets of Tehran, the American people took notice. The horrifying pictures we saw on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter opened a window into the brutal dictatorship that is the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Neda was murdered for exercising her basic human and political rights. But she was not alone.
Over the last two and a half years, the Iranian government brutally clamped down on Iranians protesting a stolen presidential election…executing hundreds and jailing countless more for daring to express their views, practice their religions and exercise their basic freedoms.
We know about the suffering and persecution of Iranian Baha’is. Over the last few years, the Iranian government registered the names and whereabouts of every Baha’i family…expelled all Baha’is from universities… prohibited Baha’i citizens from obtaining business licenses...and jailed Baha’i community leaders.
Navid Khanjani, 23, is a student human rights activist who stood up for the rights of people of the Baha'i faith in universities. Navid faces a 12-year prison sentence simply for saying that Baha’is should continue their studies.
Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki, 25, was among the first and youngest bloggers to challenge the regime's policy of Internet censorship. Today, Hossein languishes in Iran’s infamous Evin prison serving a 15-year sentence.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, 47, is a lawyer, women's rights activist and mother of two. Her legal defense of human rights activists like Shirin Ebadi landed her an 11-year prison sentence of her own.
In its 2010 report on human rights in Iran, the State Department wrote: “Security forces under the government's control committed acts of politically motivated violence and repression, including torture, beatings, and rape…Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, often holding them incommunicado. Authorities held political prisoners and continued to crack down on women's rights activists, ethnic minority rights activists, student activists, and religious minorities.”
It’s 1938 – and we cannot afford to go home and sleep quietly in our beds any longer.
Every President since Ronald Reagan designated Iran as a state-sponsor of terror.
Iranian agents are responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan – with Iranian shipments continuing to flow across the borders to arm and equip the enemies of freedom.
In Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, Iran supplies terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas with advanced missiles and rockets – and the training and funding they need to threaten the security of the State of Israel.
And, most recently, in a clear signal that the tentacles of Iranian terror have reached American soil, Iran tried to launch a plot to blow up a Washington, DC restaurant in order to kill dozens of Americans along with the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.
It’s 1938 – and we cannot afford to go home and sleep quietly in our beds any longer.
Earlier this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency – the UN’s independent nuclear watchdog – reported to the Security Council that the Islamic Republic of Iran is engaging in activities “highly relevant to a nuclear weapons program.”
These activities include –
The Shahab-3, based on the North Korean Nodong missile, can target US military bases in the Middle East and our allies in Israel.
- efforts to procure nuclear-related equipment and materials;
- an undeclared nuclear material production line;
- work on an indigenous design for a nuclear weapon and testing of components;
- and, perhaps most important, efforts to work to integrate a new payload into the re-entry vehicle of the Shahab-3 missile – a payload that the IAEA assesses would only be used to accommodate a nuclear warhead.
The IAEA report goes on.
As of November 1st, Iran had produced 4,922 kg of low enriched uranium – enough to make four nuclear weapons if enriched to weapons grade.
And in late October, Iran transferred low-enriched uranium from its Natanz enrichment facility to a new, secretly built facility at Fordow. After receiving three different Design Information Questionnaires from the Iranians, IAEA inspectors found three active centrifuge cascades already installed with plans to install a fourth to be used for the production of enriched uranium at nearly 20 percent. The IAEA has asked Iran to clarify the circumstances that led to the Fordow facility’s construction – with great concerns that the plant was built to provide Iran with a nuclear weapons breakout capability.
I don’t know what the word is for “smoking gun” in Farsi, but clearly the United Nations – not known for speaking clearly on many topics – is now telling us one thing for certain: the Islamic Republic of Iran is designing and moving toward building nuclear weapons.
President Ahmadinejad says he wants to wipe Israel off the map – well, my friends – the overwhelming evidence suggests he is working to build the capability to do just that.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s 1938 – and we cannot afford to go home and sleep quietly in our beds any longer.
Like Israel, the United States and Europe cannot accept an Iran with nuclear weapons.
As the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it’s quite likely that the Iranian regime would transfer its nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. And we can be sure that an Iranian bomb would set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East – from Saudi Arabia to Egypt.
An Iran with nuclear weapons would not only threaten the future existence of the State of Israel, it would pose a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States and of freedom-loving nations around the world.
We cannot let Iran get the bomb.
No longer can we delude ourselves that a policy based on mutual respect with a brutal dictatorship will yield results. No longer can we allow our calls for action to be pacified by symbolic designations and meaningless sanctions.
God knows America does not want another war in the Middle East. But if a military conflict is to be avoided, we can no longer sit by and nod our heads as the U.S. Administration lectures us on the long-term benefits of incrementalism.
In his 1938 book, While England Slept, Winston Churchill wrote: “I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf.”
My friend, we cannot go home and sleep quietly, and let the free world descend into a dark gulf once again.
The time has come to impose crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic – starting with the collapse of its Central Bank.
The Central Bank of Iran – or Bank Merkazi – is the primary bankroller of Iran’s global terror network, its nuclear program and other illicit activities.
According to the Treasury Department, the CBI “assisted designated Iranian banks by transferring billions of dollars to these banks in 2011. In mid-2011, the CBI transferred several billion dollars to designated banks, including Saderat, Mellat, EDBI and Melli, through a variety of payment schemes. In making these transfers, the CBI attempted to evade sanctions by minimizing the direct involvement of large international banks with both CBI and designated Iranian banks.”
In August, 92 Senators – Republicans and Democrats – signed the Kirk-Schumer letter to President Obama urging him to impose crippling sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. Nearly four months later, this Administration has failed to act. And so, we will.
Later this week, over the objections of this White House, I will call for a vote in the United States Senate on my bipartisan amendment to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. I need your help. I need you stand with me now to make sure this amendment passes and arrives on the President’s desk for his signature by the end of the year.
It’s 1938. Time is not on our side. Let’s tell the world that we will not go home – we will not go to sleep quietly – not tonight or any night – not until the people of Iran can express their views and practice their religions without the fear of persecution – not until Iran ends its sponsorship of terrorism around the world – and certainly not until Iran abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.