Statement ● Foreign Affairs
For Immediate Release: 
February 28, 2014
Contact Info: 

Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon on the efforts to prevent a nuclear armed Iran.  Below are his remarks and a link to the video:

Click here to watch the video.

"Mr. Speaker, I rise today mindful of the words of President Kennedy, who urged us never to negotiate out of fear, but never to fear to negotiate.

“While rooted deeply in the Cold War’s tense climate, where nuclear war loomed over us all like a Sword of Damocles, his admonition is as relevant today as it was then.

“Today, we face a starkly different world – a world in which the chief threat to democracy, freedom, and prosperity is not a rival state superpower but a complex and dangerous nexus of terrorism, instability, and autocracy.  America has not shied away from the challenges this new reality presents.  We have taken the fight against terrorism to al-Qaeda and its allies wherever they hide, and we have continued to promote peace, democracy, and individual freedom.  And, together with our allies in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, we have worked carefully and with determination to confront one of the most dangerous threats to global security and stability in our day: the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.

“The extremist regime in Tehran is at the heart of the instability that is undermining America’s interests across the region.  Those interests are the safety of our troops stationed in the region, regional stability and prosperity, the prevention of an arms race that could spiral out of control, ensuring that weapons of mass destruction do not end up in the terrorists’ hands, the protection of trade routes and resources that fuel economies across the world, and safeguarding our ally Israel.

“Iran continues to be the leading state sponsor of terrorism directed against America and our allies, supporting Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.  As Syria’s civil war has grown more deadly, Iran remains a primary backer of Syria’s dictator, Hafez al-Assad, who has gassed his own people and continues to target civilians.  Secretary Kerry said just last week that Iran, along with Russia, has actively been working to subvert the negotiations aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria and moving the country toward a peaceful transition of power.  And Iran’s leaders continue to vilify Israel and its people, calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state – something Israel, America, and the world will never tolerate.

“Let it be absolutely clear, Mr. Speaker: the United States will always stand by our ally Israel.  And let it be even clearer to Iran and to the world: America and its allies will never accept a nuclear-armed Iran.

“A nuclear weapon would give Iran the ability to carry out its threats against Israel.  It would destabilize the Middle East.  It would put American troops and our European allies at risk of catastrophic attack.

“That is why, Mr. Speaker, President Obama and Congress have worked together to enact the toughest sanctions regime in history – and bring our allies together to enforce those sanctions.  The employment of sanctions to compel Iran’s compliance with international norms has been a bipartisan goal going back several Congresses and several administrations – Republican and Democratic.  That is because America’s policy with regard to Iran, as President Obama has forcefully and repeatedly emphasized, is not containment but prevention.

“We have made it clear to Ayatollah Khamenei – and those who conspire with him to spread terror and use it as an instrument of statecraft – that we will use every necessary asset at our disposal to deny Iran a nuclear weapon.  While the military option remains on the table – as President Obama and Secretary Kerry have made absolutely clear – we now have an opportunity to achieve our goals without resorting to the force of arms.

“That is the most desirable alternative.  It is our duty and obligation to seize that opportunity.  

“America is great, Mr. Speaker, not only because of our military might but because of our moral might – our unwavering commitment to the power of human freedom and dignity that overcame Communism and will overcome the terror and tyranny facing the world today.

“Kennedy was right, Mr. Speaker: we must never negotiate out of fear.  And we are not.  But neither should we fear to negotiate.  And we are.  And our objective is clear.

“The Iranian regime did not resume negotiations last year because it somehow had a change of heart. Iran altered its approach because the sanctions passed by Congress, enforced by the Administration, and supported by our allies are having a profound effect on the Iranian economy.  And, of course, because the Iranian people, in electing President Rouhani, signaled a desire to stop the confrontation with the West, which was undermining their economic well-being.  The Joint Plan of Action that was signed in November of last year is a result of those sanctions and that election.

“But, the authors of the policies pursued by Iran over the last four decades, the mullahs, remain.  Iran agreed to the Joint Plan of Action not because it wanted to give up its nuclear ambitions, as they have said, but because it concluded that its national interests were better served by temporarily halting its progress towards a nuclear weapons capability in return for sanctions relief. 

“But that interim agreement is only a first step.  It makes important progress, but it does not provide the comprehensive, long-term assurance we need that Iran has abandoned and will not again pursue its goal of a nuclear weapon.  Only a comprehensive, verifiable agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon will meet our and our allies’ international security objectives.

“Given Iran’s history of deception and denial, any agreement must include reliable, independent, intrusive, and unfettered verification that Iran is abiding by its commitments and that such a verification regime remains permanently in place.  Mr. Speaker, Ronald Reagan’s admonition ‘to verify’ is doubly essential in light of there being no basis ‘to trust’ and that the consequences of breach are too catastrophic.

“Among the commitments Iran must meet has to be the end of its pursuit of nuclear weapons and compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s robust and effective certification activities. 

“Mr. Speaker, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737 states – and I quote:  ‘…Iran shall without further delay suspend the following proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities: all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the I.A.E.A.; and work on all heavy water-related projects, including the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water, to be verified by the I.A.E.A.’  This is the international community, acting through the United Nations, speaking – not only ourselves.

“Mr. Speaker, the world has a responsibility to ensure that these goals are attained.  But let there never be any doubt that, should diplomacy fail, and all of us hope that will not be the case, but if it does, our military is – as Secretary Kerry said last week – ‘ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.’

“When Iran’s leaders issue threats, we ought to remember the lessons of the twentieth century, when the threats of tyrants and terrorists were neither effectively responded to nor heeded.  History teaches us that the only way to change the behavior of regimes that threaten regional or global peace and stability is to stand up to them and hold them accountable.  That is exactly what the United States and our allies are now doing.

“In my view, Iran came to the negotiating table and signed the Joint Plan of Action in the hope that it might gain extended sanctions relief without having to give up the path to a nuclear weapon fully, irrevocably, and verifiably.

“It is past time that we make it clear to the Iranians that the only path to regaining its economic footings is to comply fully with the Joint Plan of Action and quickly conclude a long term, comprehensive agreement, which assures compliance with U.N. Security Council requirements and elimination of nuclear arms capability.  Until that objective, Mr. Speaker, is met, there must be no doubt that all relevant sanctions will remain in effect and be fully enforced.

“Mr. Speaker, I commend the Administration – particularly the President, Secretary Kerry, and my dear friend Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. I commend them for the steps it has taken to enforce these sanctions and penalize those who seek to violate them.  It ought to be clear to nations and companies around the world that Iran is not open for business.

“There must also be no doubt that, if Iran violates its current commitments or fails to reach an acceptable final agreement, the temporary sanctions relief will be canceled, all sanctions will be restored, and the Congress will act to put additional sanctions in place.  It will either comply with U.N. Security Council and I.A.E.A. determinations and foreclose any pathway to a nuclear weapon or it will face economic decline and increasingly painful consequences.

“That is not our objective – for Iran or for the Iranian people.  The United States does not seek war.  But we will not take any option off the table to prevent Iran from acquiring the most dangerous implements of war.  While I remain skeptical, I support the administration’s effort to achieve a diplomatic resolution to this threat to our national security and to global security. 

“Mr. Speaker, these talks are a test – a critical test.  But they are also an opportunity for Iran, for the P5+1 nations, and for all the world to seek a peaceful resolution of this critical situation that confronts the international community. Until now, Iran has failed every test and has refused to negotiate in good faith, ignoring the will of the international community – and, I would add, the best interests of the Iranian people.

“We must see whether, this time, the pressure of sanctions means that Iran is serious about reaching an agreement to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure permanently and with ongoing verification, abandon its sponsorship of international terrorism, respect the rights of its citizens, and determine to be a positive participant to the community of nations – or, on the other hand, if it continues to follow the path of international outlier: fomenting instability and terror in its region and around the world.

“Mr. Speaker, the Iranian people are the inheritors of a great history and culture.  They have given much to the world, including a long tradition of art, culture, science, innovations, and math.  They are a people for whom we rightfully have great respect.  But, we cannot, must not, will not, allow their leaders to continue to put the world at risk.

“Mr. Speaker, I support President Obama and his Administration’s efforts to resolve this dangerous confrontation through the ongoing negotiations.  As I have said, we pray for their success.  The fruits of that success will be sanctions relief for Iran and its people.

“If it continues, however, its path of delay and deception, and continues to sow unrest and tyranny throughout the Middle East, Iran will only exacerbate its economic isolation.  Mr. Speaker, I support the Administration’s conviction that the failure to achieve the expressed objectives of the P5+1 is not an option.

“Our finest hours as a country, as a democracy, have always been when the free and democratic nations of the world came together with courage and resolve to protect and preserve international security and freedom.  And our greatest strength has always been our willingness to negotiate – in this case with a determination to attain an agreement that is fair, but with a conviction that it must assure that Iran does not attain a nuclear weapons capability now or in the future.

“Mr. Speaker, the time is short, the consequences are profound, and success is our only option.”