WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a chief architect of Iran sanctions legislation, applauded the passage today by the Senate of new, tough economic sanctions. The amendment, which is attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, was authored by Menendez, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and was passed overwhelmingly by a 94-0 vote.
These additional sanctions, which build on current U.S. sanctions Menendez and Kirk authored to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons capacity, require the cessation of sales to, and transactions with, Iranian sectors that support proliferation: energy, shipping, ship-building and port sectors as well as with anyone on our specially designated nationals list.
"With today's overwhelmingly bi-partisan action, we underscore our serious commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability," said Menendez. "Yes, our current sanctions are having a demonstrable affect on the Iranian economy, but Iran is still working just as hard to develop nuclear weapons. That's why it's imperative for us to remain vigilant and adapt our policies to tighten the economic noose. I applaud my colleagues in the United States Senate for joining us in sending a clear message to Iran: you can't just try to wait us out. The waiting game is over and, in the end, one way or the other, Iran will not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon with which to threaten the United States, Israel, the region, and the world."
In addition to Senators Menendez, Kirk, and Lieberman, the amendment was co-sponsored by seven additional Senators: Blumenthal (D-CT), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Gillibrand (D-NY), Manchin (D-W.VA), Murray (D-WA), Schumer (D-NY).
For more details about the Menendez-Kirk-Lieberman Iran Sanctions amendment, CLICK HERE.
For video of Senator Menendez urging colleagues to pass the amendment last night on Senate floor, CLICK HERE.
Menendez's floor remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
M. President, Iran has set its sights on achieving nuclear weapons capability.
This would not be in the national security interest of the United States because tens-of-thousands of our troops would be in harm's way if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon.
It would not be in our national security interest because we would be obligated to ensure that the Straits of Hormuz remain open and accessible and we would be obligated -- under our NATO agreements -- to respond should a Shabab missile be launched against one of our allies.
And it is not in our national security interest because the last thing we need is a nuclear arms race in a tinderbox of the world where Turkey and Saudi Arabia would feel obligated to follow suit if Iran were to become a nuclear power.
For all of these reasons, this would not be in the national security interest of the United States.
That achievement would jeopardize U.S. national security interests, would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel, and would result in a regional nuclear arms race that would further destabilize the region.
The news out of Iran is dire.
Just this week, the Director of the IAEA told the press that Iran has not slowed its enrichment activities.
The IAEA also suspects that Iran has conducted live tests of conventional explosives that could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon at Parchin military base -- a facility the Iranians have denied access to by the IAEA.
Between May and August of this year, Iran doubled the number of centrifuges at its fortified Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to protect it against strikes.
Iran now has 2,140 centrifuges for enriching uranium and continues to enrich to 20 percent.
Iran claims it needs this higher-grade uranium for its "peaceful nuclear program."
But a country with peaceful ambitions doesn't enrich uranium in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. It doesn't refuse to disclose its operations. It doesn't hide them inside a mountain. A peaceful nation doesn't breach the international inspections regime compelled by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And a peaceful nation is not one that pursues weaponization of missiles that can reach countries far beyond its borders.
The sanctions that passed by this body last December are having a significant impact:
The Iranian currency, the Rial, has lost much of its value and Iran's oil exports have dropped to a new daily low of 860,000 barrels per day, which is over 1 MILLION barrels of oil PER DAY less than a year ago.
Through our sanctions and the combined effort of the EU, we've forced the Iranians back to the negotiating table.
By passing these additional measures - requiring the cessation of sales to- and transactions with- Iranian sectors that support proliferation -energy, shipping, ship-building and port sectors as well as with anyone on our specially designated national list -- we will send a message to Iran that the time for confidence building measures is over and we do not want the Iranian regime simply to believe they can tough-out the sanctions.
This sends a clear message that toughing-it-out won't work and it will only get worse. If Iran is serious about wanting to reach a diplomatic solution, then it must quickly and fully implement UN Security Council resolutions.
It must stop enriching uranium, permit removal from its territory of enriched uranium, close the Fordow enrichment facility, and submit to a robust inspections regime that includes inspections of the Parchin military facility.
M. President, clearly sanctions are not the goal. They are only a means to a clear end - in this case preventing Iran from becoming the next nuclear state and an existential threat to our ally Israel.
Let me highlight the major provisions of this amendment:
First, this amendment designates Iran's energy, port, shipping, and ship-building sectors as entities of proliferation because of the role they play in supporting and funding Iran's obvious proliferation activities. With the exception of permissible petroleum transactions - under the existing sanction regimen -- from countries that have significantly reduced their purchases of oil from Iran - these sectors will now be off limits. We will sanction any transactions with these sectors and we will block the property -- and any third party -- that engages in transactions with them.
Second, we impose sanctions on persons selling or supplying a defined list of commodities to Iran - commodities that are relevant to Iran's ship-building and nuclear sectors such as graphite, aluminum, steel, metallurgical-coal and software for integrating industrial processes. We also prevent Iran from circumventing sanctions on its Central Bank by receiving payment in precious metals.
Third, we designate the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) entity and its President as human rights abusers for their broadcasting of forced televised confessions and show trials -- thereby blocking their assets and preventing others from doing business with the IRIB.
To address concerns about access to humanitarian goods in Iran - a very real and serious concern -- we have provided for exceptions for the provision and sale to Iran of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices and other humanitarian goods. And we have imposed new human rights sanctions on those in Iran who are engaged in corruption or the diversion of resources related to these goods and that are preventing them for reaching the Iranian people.
M. President. The window is closing. The time for the waiting game is over.
Yes, our sanctions are having a demonstrable affect on the Iranian economy, but Iran is still working just as hard to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran has to decide what it will do.
Will it continue down the path to proliferation and risk further crushing economic sanctions? Or will it end the madness and negotiate a responsible end to its nuclear ambition.
The waiting game is over and, in the end, one way or the other, Iran will not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon with which to threaten the United States, Israel, the region, and the world.
Thank you, M. President, and with that I yield the floor.