A picture of Senator Robert Menendez
Robert M.
Democrat NJ

About Sen. Robert
  • Student Success Act—Conference Report—Continued

    by Senator Robert Menendez

    Posted on 2015-12-08

    submit to reddit

    Read More about Student Success Act--Conference Report--Continued

    MENENDEZ. Madam President, I rise to talk about an issue that while we are riveted in our attention, yes, about a good education bill--which I intend to support--and about the challenge of ISIL and terrorism both abroad and at home, I am concerned that in the midst of all of those challenges, Iran is well on its way to once again defy the international community in a way that I think is incredibly dangerous.

    We are told that Iran is to be considered a trustworthy member of the international community and that we should be able to count on it to abide by the international commitments they have made and by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

    On October 11 of this year, Iran tested a precision-guided, long- range ballistic missile in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and now Iran has carried out a new medium-range ballistic missile test in breach of two U.N. Security Council resolutions. We are told by Western intelligence that test was held November 21. The first one was October 11; now a second one on November 21 near Chabahar, a port city in southeast Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan Province near the border with Pakistan. The launch took place from a known missile test site along the Gulf of Oman. The missile, which is known as a Ghadr- 110, has a range of anywhere between 1,800 and 2,000 kilometers or about 1,200 miles and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

    The missile fired in November is an improved version of the Shahab-3 and is similar to the precision-guided missile tested by Iran on October 10, which elicited strong condemnation by members of the U.N. Security Council, but those condemnations were in word but not in actions--because what has happened as a result of Iran violating the U.N. Security Council resolutions as it relates to missile testing? Absolutely nothing.

    At the Security Council we are still debating how to respond to Iran's last test in October, and I truly believe actions speak louder than words. American and U.N. actions demonstrate to me that with no activity that is visible to anyone as it relates to finding some consequence for Iran violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iran can support terror, Iran can develop its nuclear program, Iran can foment sectarian conflict across the Middle East, it can support Assad in its deadly regime against its people, it can test ballistic missiles, it can tell Iraq not to accept U.S. special forces in our fight against ISIL, and yet it will be rewarded with a multimillion- dollar sanctions relief this coming year. Something is wrong because the silence is so deafening.

    In October of this year after Iran launched its first missile test in violation of Security Council resolutions, I wrote to the Secretary of State. I wish to read excerpts of that letter because they are still more poignant today in view of the second test that has taken place against international will.

    I said: Dear Mr. Secretary, The recent test launch of a precision-guided, long-range ballistic missile by Iran was a violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1929. . . . As we discussed during your July 23 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, [that resolution] stipulates that Iran [[Page S8472]] cannot presently engage in activities related to ballistic missiles.

    But, with the October 11 launch, Iran has done so--on several levels--whether it is through research, development, planning, concealing or launching this reportedly new technology. And as some of my colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have pointed out in separate correspondence to you, Iran's violations of UNSCR 1929 have become common. The Iranian regime is drawing a line in the sand that demonstrates [I believe] with malice that it will only selectively meet its obligations with respect to internationally sanctioned weapons programs. What meaningful steps will the Administration take to respond to the latest Iranian provocations? As Iran is prone to do, [I view] this is a test of American commitment and resolve, which, I believe, must be met with a decisive response in the language that Iran understands--for every action there is a consequence.

    I went on in that letter to say: I write to recommend to you that you use the Administration's discretionary authority to tighten the full range of sanctions available to you to penalize Iran for violating UNSCR 1929. From your responses at the July 23 [Senate Foreign Relations Committee] hearing, I understand that tightening sanctions for non-nuclear related infractions would not violate the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, even if it were presently in its full implementation phase.

    Which it is not.

    The Administration should also encourage P5+1 partners to respond with similar measures. Does the Administration plan to use its current authority to tighten available sanctions against Iran? Iran is not only testing the Administration, it is also testing our international partners. The launch, coordinated on the same day that Iran's Parliament approved the general outline of the Iran Nuclear Agreement should send a clear signal to the United States, the P5+1, and the United Nations Security Council that Iran's nuclear program and its weapons programs are linked--and that the Iranian regime has every intention of maintaining this status quo. The Administration should lead the P5+1 and the UNSC to respond swiftly, decisively, and unapologetically.

    The series of test launches of Iranian ballistic missiles that have led us to this point are part of a larger weapons development program, that when taken together with Iran's history of deception, its opaque nuclear capabilities, past violations of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, its fiery rhetoric, destabilizing activities throughout the region, and well-documented malign intent, requires a strong international response.

    And particularly, I note: The time to act was then and now again-- certainly now--before Iran can exploit U.N. Security Council resolution 2231 because that particular resolution failed to incorporate the same mandatory language that U.N. Security Council resolution 1929 has.

    In 1929, the world said: You cannot conduct ballistic missile tests and work on the development of ballistic missiles. When we struck the deal with Iran, we went through a different language where we strongly called upon Iran not to do so for the next 8 years. But strongly calling upon a country--from the Security Council--not to do something is not prohibiting those threatening activities.

    We do have sanctions that are in place and a Security Council resolution that is in place, because the deal has not gone into full effect until implementation takes place, where Iran is already violating the international will as expressed by those Security Council resolutions.

    I would argue that in addition to the fact that they are defying the will of the international community as it relates to their missile weapons program--which can carry a nuclear warhead--I think they are testing the will of the international community when it comes to the question of how serious we will be about violations of the nuclear agreement. And the sooner that we are stronger in our response to their violations of the Security Council resolutions on missile technology and the missile weapons systems, the sooner they will understand we will not allow them to ultimately violate the agreement we struck with them as it relates to their nuclear program, and if they do, there are serious consequences.

    Iran has tested the world. I have followed Iran since I first was in the House of Representatives and it came to my knowledge that the United States was sending voluntary contributions to the International Atomic Energy Agency above and beyond our membership dues. When I inquired as to what it was for, it ended up that it was to help the IAEA, help Iran create operational capacity at the Bushehr nuclear facility. Well, that wasn't in the national interests of the United States and certainly not in the national and security interests of our ally the State of Israel. I led a successful drive to stop those voluntary contributions in the House.

    From that day, in the beginning of my House career, I followed Iran, because I said: Why does a country that has such huge--I think it is the fourth largest--oil reserves--and right up there as relates to gas reserves--need nuclear power for domestic energy consumption? It doesn't. I have followed Iran since then, and I have seen that by testing the international community's will at every step of the way, they advanced their nuclear program to where it came to the point-- almost like our too-big-to-fail banks--well, this was too big to stop, so we tried to manage it. Now they are testing the world as it relates to their missile technology and missile weapons program. Again, we see a lack of response.

    My letter to the Secretary of State on October 19--also, separate from that, there was a series of letters from other colleagues about the same issue--has not been responded to. We are going on 2 months since this action took place, and there is silence. As a matter of fact, the only things I have read are press reports about the latest violation, but I haven't seen the administration say a word about it.

    So as the Iranians get the sense that they can go ahead and violate the international will as expressed through Security Council resolutions and face no consequence as a result thereof, then based upon history we are going to face an Iran that is going to test the international community as it relates to its commitments in the Iran nuclear program. If we do not send a strong message now, we are only inviting attempts to violate that agreement.

    I am very much of the belief that once you violate international agreements, you have to have a consequence just on that basis. When we were having the great debate about the Iran deal, we were told that this is just about the nuclear program; that human rights violations, weapons violations, and violations in terms of their activities to destabilize the region and their hegemonic interests--that we are going to push back on all of those things. Well, I haven't seen that. I haven't seen that. And that, to me, invites a great risk.

    So I urge the administration to act decisively, to pursue both in the Security Council and apart from the Security Council, with our P5+1 allies, sanctionable items that can be outside of the nuclear portfolio, that can send a very strong message to Iran that ``Don't think you can get away with these types of actions and have no consequence.'' Secondly, I seriously believe this is another example of why the Iran sanctions act, which I helped author and which was passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and expires this coming year, needs to be reauthorized, because if there is a belief that there will be no sanctions in place as a result of any violations that take place, what are we snapping back to? What are we snapping back to? I believe there is nothing wrong with at least having those sanctions reauthorized and the Iranians having an understanding that if they violate the agreement, there are sanctions to snap back to.

    What they are doing in their violations of the Security Council resolutions as it relates to missile weapons programs is already a bellwether of what I believe their actions will be if we cannot ultimately meet the test of their challenge. And they are testing us. This is the same Iran that I saw for years test the international will, being told they cannot advance their nuclear program, to the point that it got to such an extent that we struck a deal. That is the risk we face here.

    So I look forward to pursuing a robust response to Iran. For all of my colleagues who supported the agreement, this is actually something we should be in chorus together on to ensure that Iran has a very clear message that ``We intend to push back on you. You cannot violate the international law.'' By doing so, hopefully we will see the performance of an agreement that is supposed to control their nuclear program in a way that does not risk the world security. That is what is at stake in this regard.

    [[Page S8473]] I will close by simply saying that if you pass by the Archives Building, over its portal there is this statement: ``What is past is prologue.'' I hope that statement isn't a reality as we face the challenge of an Iran that feels strongly within the region, that creates greater instability through its support of Hezbollah, that supports Assad and continues a civil war in which thousands and thousands are dying, creating the rise of ISIS at the end of the day by a state that is virtually a failed state at this point in time and putting undue influence on its neighbor, Iraq, a country for which we have shed so many lives and national treasure. Something is wrong in that equation, and I hope my colleagues will wake up to it and will join us in an effort to try to make sure we push back in a way that is not only appropriate and within the international order but necessary if we truly do not want Iran to achieve nuclear power for nuclear weapons.

    Madam President, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

  • submit to reddit
  • Register your constituent account to respond

    Constituent Register