Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014—Motion to Proceedby Senator Lindsey Graham
Posted on 2014-02-26
GRAHAM. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I would like to be recognized for 10 minutes, if I could.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, thank you. If the Presiding Officer would let me know when the 10 minutes expire, I would appreciate it.
I wish to rise in support of Senator Burr's alternative to Senator Sanders' veterans bill. We are having a contest here about how best to help veterans. There is a lot of bipartisan agreement over the substance of the bill. The real difference is how to pay for it, but there is one key difference. In Senator Burr's alternative, we have the Iranian sanctions bill. I believe it is imperative for this body, the Senate, to speak on sanctions against Iran before it is too late. I hate the fact that we have lost our bipartisan approach to this topic.
We have been together for a very long time as Republicans and Democrats. We have had 16 rounds of sanctions since 1987, 9 U.N. Security Council resolutions since 2006 demanding the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and full cooperation with the IAEA.
The United Nations, the Congress, in an overwhelming bipartisan fashion, have been imposing sanctions in speaking to the threat we all face from the Iranian nuclear program. Unfortunately, the bipartisanship has come apart in terms of whether we should have another vote. The bipartisan bill that would reauthorize sanctions at the end of the 6-month negotiating period has 59 cosponsors, 17 Democrats.
We believe desperately--at least I do--that the sanctions that have been so effective in bringing the Iranians to the table are literally falling apart, and I will have some evidence to show that.
But here is what Senator Reid, the majority leader, said on November 21, 2013: I am a strong supporter of our Iran sanctions regime and believe that the current [[Page S1157]] sanctions have brought Iran to the negotiating table.
I believe we must do everything possible to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability, which would threaten Israel and the national security of our great country.
The Obama administration is in the midst of negotiations with the Iranians that are designed to end their nuclear weapons program. We all strongly support these negotiations and hope they will succeed, and we want them to produce the strongest possible agreement.
However, we are also aware of the possibility the Iranians could keep negotiations from succeeding. I hope that won't happen, but the Senate must be prepared to move forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill when the Senate returns after the Thanksgiving recess. I am committed to do just that.
I will support a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions, place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the Iranian economy that support its nuclear ambitions, as well as pursue those that divert goods to Iran.
While I support the administration's diplomatic efforts, I believe we need to leave our legislative options open to act on a new bipartisan sanctions bill in December, shortly after we return.
The challenge of the majority leader was to find a bipartisan bill that could speak anew to sanctions. We are able to do that. Senator Menendez has been absolutely terrific, along with Senator Kirk, in making sure that sanctions have worked. The Obama administration deserves a lot of credit for keeping the sanctions regime together and getting Iranians to the table.
But the interim agreement that has been entered into between the P5+1 and the Iranians quite frankly is well short of what we need. My goal, and I think the body's goal--at least I hope--would be to dismantle the plutonium-producing reactor that the Iranians are building; not just stop its construction, but dismantle it; take the highly enriched uranium that exists in Iran today and move it out of the country so it cannot be used for a dirty bomb or any other purposes.
This is what the U.N. resolutions have called for, removing the highly enriched uranium that exists in great number from Iran to the international community so it can be controlled; and, last but most importantly is to dismantle their enrichment capability. If the Iranians truly want a peaceful nuclear power program, I am all for that. I do not care if the Russians are jointly with us, that we build a nuclear powerplant in Iran to help them with commercial nuclear power. We just need to control the fuel cycle. There are 15 countries that have nuclear power programs that do not enrich uranium, Mexico and Canada being two, South Korea being another.
The point I am trying to make here is if you leave enrichment capability intact in Iran, the only thing preventing their abuse of that capability would be a bunch of U.N. inspectors. We tried this with North Korea. We provided foreign aid and economic aid and food assistance to control their nuclear ambitions. Well, they took the money and now they have nuclear weapons. The U.N. failed to stop the desire of the North Koreans to develop a nuclear weapon.
That type of approach is not going to work in Iran. Israel is not going to allow their fate to be determined by a bunch of U.N. inspectors. If that is the only thing between the Iranian ayatollahs and nuclear weapons is a bunch of U.N. inspectors, Israel will not stand for that, nor should we.
So when the Iranians demand the right to enrich, that tells you all you need to know about their ambitions. If they want a peaceful nuclear power program, they certainly can have it. We need to control the fuel cycle.
The interim deal has not dismantled any centrifuges. They have unplugged a few, but all of them exist, the 16,000 to 18,000 of them. Here is what the Iranian Government has been openly saying about the interim deal: The iceberg of sanctions is melting while our centrifuges are also still working. This is our greatest achievement.
This is the head of the Iranian nuclear agency. The Foreign Minister said: The White House tries to portray it is basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. We are not dismantling any centrifuges, we're not dismantling any equipment, we're simply not producing, not enriching over 5 percent.
Pretty clear. This is the President of Iran, Mr. Rouhani, on CNN.
So there will be no destruction of centrifuges--of existing centrifuges? No. No, not at all.
Another statement, another tweet: Our relationship with the world is based on Iran's nation's interest. In Geneva agreement, world powers surrendered to Iran's national will.
You could say this is all bluster for domestic consumption. But just keep listening to what I have to tell you. The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister said of the interconnections between networks of centrifuges that have been used to enrich uranium to 20 percent, so that they can enrich only to 5 percent: ``These interconnections can be removed in a day and connected again in a day.'' So you are not dismantling anything. You are unplugging it. They can plug it right back in. Here is what has happened, the President of Iran again: We have struck the first blow to the illegal sanctions, in the fields of insurance, shipping, the banking system, foodstuffs and medicine and exports of petrochemical materials.
You are witness to how foreign firms are visiting our country; 117 political delegations have come here: France, Turkey, Georgia, Ireland, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, China, Italy, India, Austria, and Sweden.
The French Chamber of Commerce hosted a delegation to Iran after the interim deal. The International Monetary Fund says the Iranian economy could turn around due to the interim agreement. Prospects for 2014 and 2015 have improved with the agreement. They are getting a stronger economy. The interim deal has done nothing, in my view, to dismantle their nuclear program that is a threat to us and Israel.
India's oil imports from Iran more than doubled in January from a month earlier. China has emerged as Iran's top trading partner, with nonoil trade hitting $13 billion over the past 10 months. U.S. aerospace companies are talking about selling them parts. Thirteen major international companies have said in recent weeks they aim to reenter the Iranian marketplace over the next several months.
The value of their currency has appreciated about 25 percent. Inflation has been reduced substantially. In other words, the interim deal is beginning to revive the Iranian economy that was crippled by sanctions. The international community is lining up to do business in Iran. The sanctions against Iran are crumbling before our eyes, and the Iranians are openly bragging about this.
The only way to turn this around is to pass another piece of legislation that says, we will give the 6-month period of negotiations time to develop, but at the end of the 6 months, if we have not achieved a satisfactory result of dismantling their nuclear program, the sanctions will continue at a greater pace.
Without that threat, without that friction, we are going to get a very bad outcome here. The administration says that new sanctions will scuttle the deal and lead to war. I could not disagree more. The lack of threat of sanctions, the dismantling of sanctions, the crumbling of sanctions is going to lead to conflict. I do believe that if this body reinforced that we were serious about sanctions until the program gets to where the world thinks it should be, then we would be reinforcing our negotiating position.
So to my Democratic colleagues and Democratic leadership, I am urging you, please, to let this bipartisan bill go forward, if not in the Burr alternative, bring it up as a separate piece of legislation. Let's act now while we still can. I am hopeful we can avoid a conflict with the Iranians. But the only way to do that--I ask unanimous consent for 5 more minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GRAHAM. The only way to do that is to make the Iranians understand that they are never going to have prosperity and peace until they comply with the will of the international community, which is give them a peaceful nuclear power program, not a weapons capability. Rather than us bending to their will, they need to bend to ours, simply because a disaster is in the making if Iran comes out of this negotiation with their nuclear capability intact.
If you allow the Iranians to enrich uranium, that is the final deal, where they still have an enrichment capability, theoretically controlled by the [[Page S1158]] U.N., every Sunni Arab state will want an enrichment program of their own, and you have destroyed nonproliferation in the Mideast.
I say again, if this final agreement allows enrichment at any level by the Iranians, Sunni Arab states are going to go down the same road. Then we are marching toward Armageddon, I fear. The last thing in the world we want to do is allow the Iranians to enrich, telling our allies they cannot. That will lead to proliferation of enrichment throughout the Mideast, and you are one step away from a weapon.
If you had to make a list of countries based on the behavior that you should not trust with enriching uranium, Iran would be at the top. For the last 30 years they have sown destruction throughout the world, a state sponsor of terrorism. They have killed our troops in Iraq; they are supplying weapons to the enemies of Israel; they have been up to just generally no good. Why in the world we would give them this capability I cannot envision.
So the sanctions are crumbling. We see it before our eyes. The threat of military force against the regime I think has been diminished after the debacle in Syria. Do you really think the Iranians believe after the Syrian debacle that we mean it when we say we would use military force as a last resort? I do not want a military engagement against the Iranians. I just want their nuclear ambitions to end and give them a nuclear powerplant that is controlled to produce power and not make a bomb.
The Israelis will not live under the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. They will not allow this program to stay intact, unlike North Korea, where the South Koreans and the Japanese did not feel they needed a nuclear program to counter the North Koreans.
The Mideast is different. The Sunni Arabs will not be comfortable with an enrichment capability given to the Iranians. Israel will never accept this, because it is a threat to the Jewish state unlike any other. So I will urge the body, before it is too late, to take the earliest opportunity to pass the bipartisan legislation that would reimpose sanctions if the agreement does not reach a satisfactory conclusion in the next 6 months.
We have 59 cosponsors. If we had a vote, I am confident we could get an overwhelming vote. It would be the right thing to send to the Iranians. It would tell the Western World: Slow down. The idea of giving this 6 months to continue at the pace it is going, it would be impossible to reconstruct sanctions if we do not do it now. Six months from now, if the deal falls apart, President Obama says he would impose sanctions in 24 hours. By then, the regime will have been broken. Western Europe will have been basically out of the game; they have a different view of this than we do. So the idea you can wait for 6 months and the damage not be done, I think is unrealistic. You can see where the world is headed. Sanctions as a viable control device seems to be in everybody's rearview mirror unless the Congress acts, and acts decisively.
What I hope we can do, in a bipartisan fashion, is let our allies and the Iranians know that sanctions are going to be in place as long as the nuclear threat continues to exist. I hope the President will reinforce to the Iranians: Whatever problem I had in Syria, I do not have with you.
I hope the Congress could send a message to the Iranians that we do not want a conflict, but we see your nuclear ambitions as a threat to our way of life. While we may be confused about what to do in Syria, we are not confused about the Iranian nuclear program. We want a peaceful resolution. Sanctions have to be in place until we get the right answer. But if everything else fails, then we are ready to do what is necessary as a nation as a last resort to use military force. I say that understanding the consequences of military force. It would not be a pleasant task. But in a war between us and Iran, we win, they lose. They have a small navy, a small air force. I do not want war with anyone. But if my options are to use military force to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon, I am picking use of military force. Because if they get a nuclear weapon, then the whole Mideast goes down the wrong road. You would open Pandora's box to attack the Iranians. They could do some damage to us, but it would not last long. They lose, we win. If they get a nuclear capability, you have created a nuclear arms race in the Mideast and you will empty Pandora's box and put Israel in an impossible spot.
So, my colleagues, we have a chance here to turn history around before it is too late. But the way we are moving regarding this negotiation with Iran and the outcome, I have never been more worried about. I do not want to allow the last best chance to stop the Iranian nuclear program to be lost through inaction.
If we misread where Iran is actually going, it will be a mistake for the ages.
I am urging the majority leader, if not on this bill, as soon as possible, to allow the bipartisan Iranian sanction legislation to come to the floor for debate and a vote. I think it can change history before it is too late.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.