Committee News


Ros-Lehtinen Statement at Hearing on Iran Sanctions Implementation

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement at a hearing this morning entitled “Implementing Tougher Sanctions on Iran: A Progress Report”:

“With respect to Iran, the U.S. must have one vital objective: To stop the regime’s pursuit of nuclear and other unconventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them, its sponsorship of terrorism, and other activities that threaten Americans, our interests, and our allies.

“However, since the 1990s, U.S. and international efforts to stop the growing Iranian threat have been half-hearted at best, with results to match.

“The problem is not that a tough approach has failed, but that it has yet to be fully tried. The sanctions were not fully implemented or enforced. Then, the focus was, not on measures the U.S. could easily take, but instead on persuading the so-called ‘international community’ to act collectively—meaning agreeing to the lowest common denominator while continuing to cultivate ties with the regime in Tehran.

“Russia, of course, has a long record of cooperation with Iran on missiles and on nuclear matters, particularly its construction of the Bushehr reactor, which is scheduled to come on-line in January.

“To secure Russian cooperation, the current and previous administrations have resorted to a series of concessions to Moscow. What did we buy at so great a price? Tacit support for UN sanctions and ‘assurances’ that Russia will wrap-up its investments in Iran’s energy sector and that Russia will not, at this time, proceed with its sale of advanced missiles to Iran.

“Of course, despite all our concessions, Russia has offered a nuclear cooperation agreement and advanced missiles to the Syrian regime.

“China is another key ally and protector of Iran that has made clear that it will prevent significant pressure on Tehran. Chinese companies are eagerly expanding their trade with, and investment in, Iran, many taking advantage of opportunities created by Western and other companies which are curtailing or severing their ties.

“Recent reports indicate China has actively facilitated North Korea’s providing Iran with advanced missiles and ingredients for chemical weapons, in violation of UN Security Council sanctions.

“But support for Iran comes from other places as well.

“Determined to demonstrate its growing distance from the U.S., Turkey has publicly embraced Tehran, increased its economic cooperation, signed a major gas pipeline deal, and tried to undermine U.S. efforts to stop the Iranian threat, including voting against UN Security Council Resolution 1929. Turkey recently prevented NATO from designating Iran as a missile threat to be countered with a proposed anti-missile shield, despite Tehran’s expanding missile capabilities.

“Armenia is expanding financial, trade, transport, and energy cooperation with Iran.

“Unfortunately, securing effective action by one administration after another has been an uphill battle. For over 14 years since the passage of the Iran Sanctions Act, only one determination of sanctionable activity had ever been made, and the resulting penalties were immediately waived.

“Efforts to strengthen existing laws were opposed by each administration, citing a reluctance to tie the President’s hands or ‘upset’ other countries who want to keep doing business with Tehran.

“This past June, after a long, hard-fought struggle, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) was enacted. Although weaker than some of us had hoped, this law could represent a major step forward, especially through its energy, refined petroleum, and financial sanctions.

“This Congressionally-driven effort has led some countries, including the EU, Japan, Australia, and South Korea, to finally impose their own, albeit more limited sanctions on Tehran.

“On the financial front, the actions taken by foreign governments to sever their ties with Iranian financial institutions and other Iranian entities designated as involved in Iranian proliferation and sponsorship of terrorism is encouraging.

“Under Secretary Levey, let me again thank you and your team at Treasury for your pivotal role in these developments and your years of dedication in acting against the Iranian regime and its enablers.

“I am, however, concerned that history may be repeating itself regarding the State Department’s implementation efforts. For example, the law requires the Administration to investigate, upon receiving credible evidence, suspected sanctionable foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector.

“The U.S. has known for years about Chinese energy investments in Iran, but only this past September did the Administration initiate investigations of sanctionable activity yet State still refuses to publicly disclose whether Chinese companies are among the targets.

“The State Department has issued one determination under CISADA – just one – imposing the minimum number of sanctions on NICO, an Iranian subsidiary, for its role in Iran’s petroleum sector.

“Likewise, the Administration has listed and sanctioned just 8 Iranian regime officials responsible for human rights abuses.

“We’ve wasted enough time – 14 years. No more waivers, exceptions, excuses. We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.

“We must ensure that the tools we have are used to their maximum effectiveness, and look for new means of compelling Iran to cease activities that threaten our security, our interests, and our allies.

“I’m not just referring to its nuclear pursuit but also to its state-sponsorship of terrorism. Of particular interest is Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, which: has threatened violence if, as expected, its operatives are indicted for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri; has amassed an arsenal of about 50,000 rockets; participates in and has veto power over the current Lebanese government.

“I would ask Under Secretary Burns what the U.S. is doing to address this situation before it becomes a full-blown crisis and Hezbollah takes over completely? Given the push by some for continued military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, what does the Administration expect the LAF response to be in such a crisis?

“I welcome the witnesses’ statements and thank the Chairman for the time.”