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Keith E.
Democrat MN 5

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  • Iran Negotiations

    by Representative Keith Ellison

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    ELLISON. Mr. Speaker, for 34 years, the United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations. Iran has escalated its nuclear weapons program and hostile rhetoric.

    The United States has upped sanctions and threats of military force. There can be little doubt that, when our diplomats and politicians say all options are on the table, we mean military force.

    And yet, today, under the leadership of President Obama, we have an opportunity to change all that, to avoid the prospect of war or a nuclear-armed Iran. We have a chance to set a new course, a new path. Instead of the collision course, we have an off-ramp, an off-ramp to peace, diplomacy and international cooperation; and we must take it.

    This is our best opportunity in 30 years to advance the interests of the United States vis-a-vis Iran. It is our best chance to make sure that the Middle East is as free and safe as possible of nuclear weapons.

    The Iranian people defied the odds and elected a moderate President, Hassan Rouhani. President Rouhani has condemned the inflammatory rhetoric of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has promised to improve Iran's relationship to the West.

    Now, instead of moving forward toward the brink of war, the United States and Iran are negotiating, talking; and this is a good thing. This is the way countries should pursue their interests. This is the way to avoid war.

    Through diplomacy, the United States and its allies have frozen Iran's nuclear program for the first time in more than a decade. The agreement imposes daily inspections to ensure Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon, and Iran has made agreements to move this process forward.

    Ending our decades-long cold war with Iran isn't going to happen overnight; but through robust, sustained diplomacy, we may prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and disastrous war and spare thousands of our children and theirs from a horrible situation.

    We cannot achieve these goals if Congress undermines these negotiations, and I have supported sanctions in the past. In fact, I have a very good friend and constituent who is in the Chamber today who has supported sanctions. She was born and raised in Iran, is very concerned about the human rights situation there, and has informed me over the years about the best position that I might take. And she also says now is not the time to hit the accelerator; it is the time to let diplomacy work.

    These sanctions would undermine the confidence of our international partners, including the P5+1. China, Russia, the United States, Germany, and France are all part of this negotiation with Iran. And if we up sanctions while we have claimed that we want to work with them to have a reduction in nuclear weaponry in Iran, they may well see this as a break and a breach of faith with them, which could set us all back.

    It has not been easy to get Iran, Russia, and China to the table. We have them there. Let's not lose this chance.

    New sanctions stand to kill any hope for diplomacy. Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, has said that if Congress imposes new sanctions, ``the entire deal is dead.'' Is that what we want? New sanctions will not increase our negotiating power. If they would, the White House certainly would have told us so. In fact, the White House has warned that new sanctions will undermine negotiations.

    Negotiations over the next 6 months are the only way to guarantee that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon and will set itself on a path to rejoin the world of nations. And this could well improve the human rights situation in Iran, as it has no justification for the police state which denies human rights.

    Congress should give diplomats space to do their jobs. Undercutting diplomacy with new sanctions would put our country on the path to war.

    The choice is clear. We can try to negotiate a deal that prevents an Iranian nuclear weapon and avoids a nuclear conflict, or we can dismiss this opportunity, pile on more sanctions, derail diplomacy, and continue toward war.

    Americans don't want another war. The best way to honor our men and women in uniform is to avoid unnecessary war. My son is Active Duty military. I am speaking from a personal place as well.

    Americans support a negotiated deal with Iran by a 2-1 ratio; 68 percent say Congress should not take action that would block an agreement.

    Passing any punitive measures, including a sense of Congress tying the President's hands, is a mistake. It will not help; and if Congress wants to help, we should set up a people-to-people exchange. We should set up a Congress-to-Congress exchange and move forward.

    Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members are reminded not to make reference to occupants of the gallery.

    [[Page H7697]] The Chair will remind all persons in the gallery that they are here as guests of the House and that any manifestation of approval or disapproval of the proceedings is in violation of the rules of House.


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