IRAN; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 86
(Senate - May 22, 2019)

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[Pages S3041-S3042]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, many of us are increasingly concerned that, 
since President Trump's reckless decision to abandon the multilateral 
nuclear agreement with Iran, which by all accounts Iran had been 
complying with, the administration has been on a collision course that 
could draw us into a war with Iran. Although the President insists that 
is not what he wants, he is known to change his mind on a whim, and the 
statements and actions of others in his administration, including some 
who were vocal proponents of the unnecessary and costly war in Iraq, 
leave little doubt that they favor a policy of regime change.
  We all deplore Iran's support for terrorism, its ballistic missile 
program, its horrific violations of human rights, and its constant 
outpouring of hateful

[[Page S3042]]

anti-American, anti-Israel rhetoric, but a war with Iran would be far 
worse, and no one can be certain how it would end. As tensions 
increase, a misunderstanding or provocative act by either Iran or the 
United States could quickly trigger retaliatory strikes that spiral out 
of control, drawing us, our allies, and our adversaries into protracted 
hostilities. Rather than risk that potentially disastrous result, the 
administration should be partnering with our European and Middle 
Eastern allies on a strategy of negotiations to reduce regional 
tensions. In that regard, I ask unanimous consent that a recent op-ed 
in ``The Guardian'' by Peter Westmacott, former British Ambassador to 
the United States, be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                   [From the Guardian, May 21, 2019]

        To Defuse This Crisis the US Must Start Talking to Iran

                         (By Peter Westmacott)

       As Washington raises the stakes, the risk of a 
     misunderstanding is high--and it could lead to a new conflict 
     in the Middle East.
       Washington's foreign policy hawks--and by extension for the 
     rest of us. Donald Trump says he doesn't want a war with 
     Iran, but his national security adviser, JJohn Bolton, has 
     despatched warships and bombers to the region while the US 
     secretary of state Mike Pompeo has been sharing worrying 
     intelligence about Iranian intentions with close allies and 
     congressional leaders.
       What's going on? It's now a year since Trump tore up the 
     nuclear deal with Iran negotiated in 2015 by the Obama 
     administration along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, 
     China and the EU. Since then, egged on by Israel and the Gulf 
     states, he has announced new sanctions, despite Iran's full 
     compliance with the terms of the deal, and tried bullying the 
     Europeans and others into applying US sanctions in order to 
     deny Iranians the economic benefits they were promised.
       After a year of waiting to see if the other signatories 
     would make the deal work without US cooperation, the Iranians 
     announced earlier this month that they would no longer fully 
     comply with the uranium and heavy water restrictions of the 
     agreement--and that, unless the Europeans could help with oil 
     and banking within 60 days, more drastic measures would 
     follow. Western governments sometimes forget that the Iranian 
     government is not a monolithic entity, and that the officials 
     they are used to dealing with, such as president Hassan 
     Rouhani and foreign minister Javad Zarif, are under constant 
     pressure from hardliners who point to the lack of any return 
     on the investment Iran made four years ago.
       Since Trump pulled the plug, the Europeans have been 
     working on a scheme to allow some forms of trade with Iran to 
     continue independently of the US. Its effects have been 
     limited, leading the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to 
     convince himself--wrongly--that the Europeans were only ever 
     playing good cop to Washington's bad cop. As US sanctions 
     continue to damage the Iranian economy, Trump says he is 
     still interested in some kind of grand bargain. Tehran should 
     call me, the president says, perhaps not realising that there 
     would be huge political consequences for anyone who did.
       But outside the US, the impression has grown that the hawks 
     in the Trump administration are more interested in regime 
     change than in policy change--and by military action if 
     necessary. There are shades here of Iraq 2003, when the 
     George W Bush administration was desperate to prove that 
     Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It is 
     nonsense to claim, as Pompeo did last month, that ``there is 
     a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-
     Qaida. Period. Full stop''. Al-Qaida's roots are in Sunni, 
     Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, and it hates Shia Iran almost as much 
     as it hates the US and its allies.
       The Europeans have never disagreed about the nature or 
     extent of Iran's destabilising activity in the region. But 
     they don't buy the regime change argument, knowing from 
     experience that outside pressure is more likely to strengthen 
     rather than weaken the hardliners. They also still believe 
     that the best way to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons 
     is to stick with the deal.
       There is now a real risk of the world finding itself with 
     another Middle Eastern conflict on its hands, by accident or 
     miscalculation. What can be done? As many of us have been 
     saying to Iranian officials for some time, they should help 
     others to stand up for the nuclear deal by moderating Iran's 
     behaviour in the region: stop supplying sophisticated 
     weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon; and stop supplying missiles 
     to the Houthi militia in Yemen that perpetuate the horrific 
     civil war. Iran could use its influence over President Bashar 
     al-Assad to press him to avoid further bloodshed in Syria. 
     And it could end the imprisonment and abuse of dual nationals 
     and other Iranian citizens on specious grounds.
       Some suggest that current tensions may be partly the result 
     of misunderstandings between Tehran and Washington. That 
     wouldn't be surprising, given the long history of distrust 
     and the absence of diplomatic relations between the two 
     countries for 4o years. But it serves as a reminder that some 
     form of direct communication is essential: both sides should 
     move quickly to activate private channels.
       Back in 1987--when the UN security council was trying to 
     stop the Iran-Iraq war Saddam had started (with western 
     encouragement) seven years earlier--the council passed a 
     resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and a 
     withdrawal to international borders. It didn't manage to stop 
     Saddam launching another, ultimately unsuccessful offensive. 
     But tucked away in paragraph eight was a request to the 
     secretary general ``to examine, in consultation with Iran and 
     Iraq and with other states in the region, measures to enhance 
     the security of the region''.
       That resolution is still valid. Why not look again at the 
     idea of all the regional powers, under UN auspices, coming 
     together with a view to lowering tensions? A recent OpEd in 
     the New York Times by Abdulaziz Sager, a Saudi Arabian 
     academic, and Hussein Moussavian, a former Iranian nuclear 
     negotiator, argues that the time for the region's two big 
     rivals to sit down and try to bury the hatchet might just 
     might have come. So much is at stake that it's surely worth a