(House of Representatives - November 19, 2013)

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[Page H7193]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, in an era of violence in the Middle 
East, tragedy in Syria, and turmoil in Egypt, there is some very 
encouraging news surrounding Iran.
  The most important signal may have been the election of Hassan 
Rouhani as President of Iran who is by no means a moderate by anyone's 
stretch of the imagination except in the context of Iran. He was the 
choice of the Iranian people for change, for a different path to reduce 
the collision course with the United States and the crippling sanctions 
we have imposed. His foreign minister, Mohammad Zarif, is an able and 
experienced diplomat with strong relationships with the people who have 
dealt with him for years both in the United States and Iran.
  I am encouraged by the reports in the news and in the opinion pages 
which point out something I have long argued on the floor of this 
House: the convergence of interests between the United States and Iran.
  People forget the key role that the United States played in the 
emergence of the modern state of Iran, of the constitutional revolution 
beginning in 1905, where American influence was profoundly felt. 
Unfortunately, for the last 60 years, we have serially mismanaged our 
relationship with Iran.
  How would we have felt if a foreign power worked to overthrow our 
democratically elected government and install a dictator? That is 
exactly what the United States and Great Britain did in 1953 and how 
the Shah returned to power.
  It is amazing that the majority of Iranians still has positive 
feelings towards the United States, which they do. People forget the 
alignment of interests between the United States and Iran after 9/11 
that led them to help us deal with post-Taliban Afghanistan. In the 
capitals of some of our supposed allies in the Middle East, people were 
cheering on that tragedy. On 9/11, people in Tehran were standing in 
solidarity with Americans. This, of course, was before George Bush 
recklessly included them in his infamous ``axis of evil'' 
pronouncement. The Iranian people are distinct from the Arabs and are 
proud of their Persian heritage, stretching back thousands of years.
  Iran is an important part of any ultimate solution in stabilizing 
Iraq and in resolving the Syrian conflict. Yes, they have advanced 
nuclear development, and we rightly should be deeply concerned with 
their pursuit of nuclear weapons. That is why one of the Obama 
administration's greatest foreign policy triumphs has been to marshal 
support of the world for this stringent, comprehensive regime of 
sanctions. It has made a huge difference--driving down the value of 
their currency, depleting their foreign reserves, and creating extreme 
inflationary pressures on their economy.
  Now is the time to see if a solution can be developed. It is 
decidedly not the time to ratchet up sanctions even further. Nothing 
would undercut the more moderate forces in Iran, and more pressure 
could be very counterproductive because we are at risk of sanctions 
fatigue by our partners. Other countries that do not share our same 
policy positions and deep hostility towards the Iranians have gone 
along with sanctions. To expect that countries like China, India, and 
Russia are going to follow us with even more extreme sanctions and turn 
their backs on the progress is questionable at best. At worst, it would 
end up losing support for the sanctions regime we have now, would 
strengthen the hand of the hard-liners who do hate America, and would 
set back long-term prospects for peace, not just for Iran, but for 
Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East.
  Most experts I have encountered feel Iran could have built a nuclear 
bomb years ago, but they didn't. Recently, they have slowed the pace of 
their nuclear activities and have been open to proposals unthinkable a 
year ago. The rush to undercut the process is shortsighted, 
counterproductive, and it risks accelerating the development of Iranian 
nuclear weapons.
  Now is the time to accelerate diplomacy, not to walk away. It is 
decidedly not the time for the United States Congress to throw a monkey 
wrench in the diplomatic procedures and to ratchet up sanctions. We can 
always reimpose sanctions, but may not be able to recreate this 
diplomatic opportunity.