WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Every Member in this chamber understands the deep danger inherent in a nuclear Iran. That danger includes a new nuclear arms race, as Iran’s regional rivals scramble to build competing arsenals, plunging the Middle East into an even greater instability and the world into a new era of proliferation. The danger includes, as well, a ‘nuclear umbrella’ for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah—terrorists who may take advantage of their state sponsor’s protection to stage more brazen and deadly attacks, especially on our ally Israel. And the danger includes, on a more basic level, a new era of fear for all those in range of Iran’s missiles—fear that could equal or surpass what we ourselves experienced during the worst days of the Cold War.
“And all of those consequences, Mr. Speaker, will be felt even if Iran’s missiles remained on the launch pad, or if its nuclear weapons remained buried. Could we imagine those weapons being used? We would be foolish not to, as long as those weapons are in the hands of a regime whose president denies the Holocaust, stokes hatred, and openly threatens neighbors. In the months since last summer’s election, we have seen the character of the Iranian regime more clearly than ever: we have seen it in dissent silenced, in opposition leaders threatened and jailed, in peaceful protestors beaten and shot for the crime of demanding that their votes be counted. We have seen a regime founded on violence, and on violent disregard for the opinion of its people and the world.
“Even so, our administration has—correctly, in my view—pursued a policy of engagement with Tehran. That engagement reversed years of diplomatic silence that did little to slow Iran’s growing nuclear program. It showed the world our patience and our commitment to addressing this common threat through diplomacy. And it gauged Tehran’s honest willingness to resolve the crisis at the negotiating table.
“America’s policy of engagement always came with a time limit—time for Tehran to negotiate in good faith, or to show that it was only using talk as cover for continuing enrichment of uranium. Sadly, time is running short, and there is still no diplomatic agreement; the enrichment continues, and the threat continues to grow. The past months have brought revelations of secret Iranian nuclear facilities, a lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and a refusal to comply with Security Council demands to suspend enrichment. Just today, the Washington Post reported that ‘Iran has…learned how to make virtually every bolt and switch in a nuclear weapon, according to assessments by U.N. nuclear officials…as well as Western and Middle Eastern intelligence analysts and weapons experts.’
“That is why this is the right time to bring strong economic pressure to bear on the Iranian regime. This bill was designed by Chairman Berman and his committee to target Iran’s economy at one of its weakest points—by penalizing companies that help Iran import or produce refined petroleum products. Even though it is an oil producer, Iran imports a great deal of the refined petroleum that powers its economy, so these sanctions will increase the high cost of Iran’s self-imposed isolation from the international community. They are also a proportional response, because they are exclusively tied to Iran’s nuclear program.
“We should never take sanctions like these lightly. Even as we stand with the protestors facing down repression at the hands of their own government, we understand that these sanctions will affect the lives of many ordinary Iranians for the worse. But we know that economic pressure has worked before to alter the behavior of outlaw regimes, especially when such pressure is widely supported by the international community. We know that these sanctions are our best tool against the nuclear proliferation that risks the security of millions in the Middle East. And we know that Tehran can choose, at any point, to negotiate in good faith, abandon its aggressive nuclear pursuit, and rejoin the community of nations.
“We shouldn’t hope for a change of heart from that regime, but we can hope for a change of behavior: a cold understanding that, as long as Iran builds the capacity to catastrophically attack its neighbors, its economy will suffer deeply. These sanctions have the power to force that choice. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, which clearly serves American and international security.”