tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN February 26, 2014 2:00pm-4:01pm EST
peaceful program, there would be no reason to hide it. or to hide your capabilities. but iran has consistently hidden it. but there's even more reason to be cempe concerned. in addition to increasing their capacity to enrich and reproce reprocess, iran is also developing long-range missile capabilities. now, a long-range missile, basically a missile that can my from iran, a thousand miles, 1,500 miles, 2,000 miles, 3,000 miles, that costs a lot of money to develop. it takes a lot of time to develop. you don't spend time or money developing those capabilities for purely conventional purposes or for defensive purposes. usually when you undergo those efforts to develop that kind of capability, it's because you want to have the opportunity to one day put a nuclear warhead on one of those rockets. so that's the story of iran. massive expansion in their enrichment and reprocessing
capabilities, secret enrichment programs that they try to hide from the world, the development of long-range missile capabilities, and then you add to it that we're not dealing with the government of belgium here. we're not dealing with the government of japan or south korea or any other responsible government on the planet. we are dealing with a government that actively uses terrorism all over the world as an active element of their foreign policy. they are involved in supporting various terrorist elements around the country, not just in the middle east but open source reporting revealed just a couple of years ago they were involved in a plot to assassinate a foreign ambassador in washington, d.c., here. not in the middle east somewhere. here. they have an active cyber capability designed to attack and disrupt and create acts of terror online. they have been i am implicated,r
example, in the bombing of a jewish center in argentina. there is perhaps few, if any, countries in the world that more actively support terrorism than the government of iran. so this is what we're dealing with here. now, as a result of all of this, the international community, the united nations im-- through the united nations imposed sanctions, and not only did they impose sanctions, they imposed a requirement that they immediately suspend and stop all enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. you can imagine why the neighbors of iran are concerned. it's not just israel that's concerned. ask the saudis, ask the turks, ask any number of other countries in the region. recently, the president and this administration have begun to undertake conversations with iran about this program, and their hope is that we can get iran to a place where we can
lock them in, where they, in exchange for the loosening of these sanctions agree not to do certain things. i don't know of anyone here that would not love to wake up to the news tomorrow that the supreme leader in iran has decided to abandon the reprocessing and enrichment capability and to truly show that all he is interested in is domestic energy for peaceful purposes. the problem is that's not what's happening. what's happening is that the united states, through the state department and this administration, i think de facto has already but if not are on the verge of agreeing to allow iran to keep in place its enrichment and reprocessing capabilities, and i'm going to explain to you why that's a problem. if that capability is still there, if they retain all the
facilities necessary for enrichment and reprocessing, even if they agree to limit to to a certain level for now at any point in time in the future they can ratchet it back up and they can go on to develop a weapon. in fact, the design for a weapon is the easiest part unfortunately of all of this. the hardest part is reaching the technological capability to enrich uranium to a certain point so you can weaponize it. if you allow them to keep all the equipment, all the technology, all the scientists, all that infrastructure in place, then at any point in the future when they decide now it's time for a weapon, they can break out and do that, and i would submit to you that the evidence is strong that that is exactly what their strategy is. i don't think, i know for a fact that the mandate given to those negotiators on behalf of iran and the supreme leader was the
following. do whatever you can to get these sanctions lifted off our shoulders, but do not agree to anything that is irreversible. so put yourself in their position. if you want to retain the option to one day be able to enrich and then build a weapon, you're probably willing to take one step back by agreeing to suspend enrichment only to a certain level in exchange for the lifting of these sanctions, knowing that at some point in two, three or four years when the world is distracted by something else, when something else is going on around the planet, you can then decide to come up with any excuse you want to build a weapon. you know why i know that's their strategy? one of the reasons why i know that's their strategy is that's exactly what the north koreans did. the playbook has already been written. they would engage in these ongoing negotiations on again, off again, all designed to buy time. now, why does a government like
iran need or want a nuclear weapon? and they do. it's pretty extraordinary. number one, because they desire because of deep historical reasons to become the dominant power in the middle east, to drive not just the u.s. but other nations out of the region and diminish everyone's influence at their expense. and the other is because they view a weapon as the ultimate insurance policy. they don't want to be the next moammar qadhafi. they want to be north korea, but they can now act with impunity that they can do anything they want against us or anyone in the world because no one can possibly attack them because they have nuclear weapons. i have heard stories about, well, we'll know, we'll be able to see this happening before it happens and do something about it, but the truth is that you look at pakistan and india, that was a surprise to everybody, particularly the indian capability. it is not outside the realm of the reasonable to believe that at some point one day we will
wake up to the news that iran has detonated a device and proven their capability. in fact, i have zero doubt in my mind that that's where they want to go. now, what i find offensive in this whole conversation is the notion by some in the administration that anyone who feels this way or anyone who has doubts or skepticism about these negotiations is warmongering. i actually think that the failure to impose sanctions now will inevitably place a future president, perhaps even this one, with a very difficult decision to make, and that will be whether to go in and take military action, to stunt or stall their weapons program. because make no mistake, a lot of damage has already been done. a lot of damage has already been done to the sanctions that were already in place. there is already growing evidence that the amount of
revenue coming into iran, the amount of business dealings coming into iran, just simply on all this talk about the interim deal have truly spiked up. you also see it in the comments. the leaders of iran, from the president to the supreme leader to the chief negotiator, they are not just bragging in iran. they are bragging all over the world that they have agreed to nothing, that the west has cap it at a -- capitulated. what we get told at the state department is that's just for domestic consumption. they are saying that to be popular at home and to appease the radicals in iran. by the way, that term radical is an interesting term when applied to iran. all the leaders of iran are radical. it's just degrees of radicalism. but let me get back to the point i was making. we hear these comments that they make in iran bragging about how they won, how they snookered the west, how they agreed to nothing, how everything they were doing before is going to move forward, and we were told
ignore that. they are just saying that for domestic political considerations. that's not true. in fact, the supreme leader himself, the ayatollah has announced that these talks are going to lead to nowhere. he's not going to interfere, but they are going nowhere. this is a transparent effort. all you have to do is open your eyes and see what they're doing here. all they are doing is buying time. all they are doing is looking to relieve as many sanctions as possible without giving up anything they can do in the future or are doing now. we're relying on all sorts for a deal like this to work, you have to rely on all sorts of verification systems, with a government that's made a specialty out of hiding their intentions and their programs in the past. and so the reason why you see this push for sanctions, additional sanctions to be put in place is because at least 59 of us in the senate -- and i suspect many more that haven't lent their names to this effort
yet -- recognize that we cannot afford to be wrong about this because a nuclear iran would be one of the worst developments in the world in a very long time. in addition to being able to hold the region hostage, in addition to now being able to act with impunity -- they don't have a weapon now and they try to assassinate ambassadors in washington, d.c. imagine what they think they can get away with if they do have a weapon. but beyond that, think about the risk it poses to our neighbor -- to our allies in that region and think about this. think about the reaction of other countries in the region to the news. if you're the saudis, you're not going to stand by and watch iran develop a nuclear capability and not have one of your own. so i submit to you that a nuclear iran isn't just one more country joining the nuclear club. it can be as many as two or three nuclear companies eventually joining the nuclear club -- the nuclear weapons club. think about in the most unstable
region of the world a place that's only had conflict, i don't know, for 5,000 years. this is what we're on the verge of here. and if i have any sort of -- look, i appreciate the work that diplomats working in the state department do. there is a role for diplomacy in the world, and the good news is that with most of the countries on this planet, you can negotiate disagreements with, but i think diplomacy also requires you to understand its limitations. it is very difficult to negotiate settlements and agreements with governments and individuals who don't ever feel bound by them, who see them as one-way streets, who see them as tactics and vehicles to buy time, and that's what we're dealing with here. and the other part of it that we forget is that in some parts of the world and with some governments on this planet, the language of diplomacy is viewed as a language of weakness. it becomes an invitation to
become aggressive or miscalculate. i don't know of anyone in this body that's looking to get into another war on conflict -- war or armed conflict. in fact, i don't think that's what americans are all about. if you look at the story of our conflicts that we have been engaged in, almost all of them involved a reluctant nation having to get involved for geopolitical purposes, because we were trying to stem the growth of communism, because we were attacked in pearl harbor. that's not who we are. that's not who we have ever been. americans aren't into that. what we want to do is we want to live happy lives and raise our families in peace. we want to be able to sell things and buy things from other countries. we want a peaceful world that we can partner with for business and culture. but i also think it's important to understand that when you make decisions -- when you make mistakes in foreign policy, they are a lot harder to reverse than when you make them in domestic
policies. if we pass a bad tax bill, you can also come back and pass a new one. if you make a mistake, as this body did, by passing obamacare, you can always come back and repeal it. you make a mistake in domestic policies, you can always come back and reverse it somehow. not the same in foreign policy. once you have a nuclear -- nuclearized, weaponized iran, that's quite difficult to undo. and so is all the things that it will lead to. and let me also say that additional sanctions are no guarantee that they will never get a weapon, but it changes the cost-benefit analysis. it tests their pain threshold economically. it forces them to make a decision about whether they want to continue to be isolated from the world economically and is weaponizing worth it? and i'm telling you that if you put in place, whether it's the interim agreement or a final one that allows them to retain the
capability to enrich in the future, they will build a weapon. that is not a matter of opinion. that is a matter of fact in my mind. and maybe this president won't be here by the time that happens, but someone's going to have to deal with that. and it's not just the president. our country is going to have to deal with that. and i at a minimum want to be on record today as making that point. because if, god forbid, that day should ever come, i want it to be clearly understood that i, along with my colleagues, warned against it. and by the way, i think that this opposition to additional sanctions is part of a pattern of flawed foreign policy decisions on behalf of this administration. one that's largely been built on the false assumption that our problems in the world were caused by an america that was too engaged, too involved, too opinionated, was providing too much leadership and direction, when in fact the opposite now is true.
many of the conflicts that are happening around the world today are the result of the chaos left behind by this administration's unclear foreign policy. many of our allies now openly question -- and i can tell you from my travels privately strongly question whether america's assurances remain viable and whether we can continue to be relied upon in the agreements we've made in the past to provide collective security for ourselves and our allies. and when you leave a vacuum, it's going to be filled. and what it's being filled by right now are some of the most tyrannical governments on the planet. look what's happened with moscow over the last five years. moscow viewed the whole reset strategy of the united states under this president not as an opportunity to engage us but as an opportunity to try to get an upper hand on us. look what's happening in the
asian pacific region, the chinese regional ambitions to drive the u.s. out have grown exponentially as have their capabilities. meanwhile our partners in the region while they welcome the rhetoric of a pivot question we'll have the capability to carry it out. and certainly in the middle east an incoherent foreign policy with regards to syria left open a space in syria, ungoverned space where foreign jihadists have poured into that country and have now basically converted entire parts of syria as the premier operational space for global jihadists to train and operate. and now iran. the situation in iran, to use a cloakial term, is freaking out all the other countries in that region who have no no illusions about who iran truly is. they know exactly who these people are and themb baffled how
the most powerful and informed government on the planet doesn't realize what they realized a long time ago, that you're not dealing with a responsible government here in iran. you are dealing with a nation that openly supports terrorism as a tool of statecraft. that openly as shown their indications they want to develop a nuclear weapons capability so they can become untouchable and the dominant power in that region. and if we don't impose additional sanctions, if we don't put there in place a mechanism for additional sanctions to take place i submit to you by the time this negotiation that's going on with the iranians reaches the end point it will become irrelevant because by this point in time even if you wanted to impose more sanctions it will be impossible to do. because so many other countries will have now reengaged with commercial transactions with
iran. you're not going to be able to put this genie back in the bottle and the ge nie is already halfway out. at a minimum i would ask this -- why can't we vote on it? if we're wrong, debate us on it. but why can't we vote on it? since when has the senate become a place run by one person on a matter of this importance and magnitude? since when has the senate become controlled by one person's opinion? are you telling me the people of florida that i represent do not deserve the right to be represented and heard as much as the people of nevada or any other state here? are you saying that an issue of this importance, one individual should have the power to basically say we will have no debate when 59 members of this body in a place where it's tough to get 51 votes on anything have expressed a strong opinion they
favor this? why can't we have this debate? isn't that what the senate was designed to be, a place where the great issues of our time could be debated and fleshed out before the eyes of the american public and the world? but we're being told consistently we can't have this debate and we're not going to do it. why? why can't we debate this? this is important. its implications will be felt by people long after any of us here are no longer here. i hope more attention is paid to this. and let me just say that i understand the frustration that you file a piece of legislation on veterans and the iran issue comes up. but we are running out of time and this is the only mechanism that exists to have this debate. and i would argue to you that it actually is relevant. because it is our memorial in -- men and women in uniform we're going to turn to when this
thing ends up the way i know it will and ask them to take care of this problem. if in the end these negotiations fail as i tragically have to tell you they are destined to fail, and iran retains the enrichment capability and eventually develops a nuclear weapon, it is the men and women in uniform of these united states, our friends, our brothers, our sisters, and our fathers, who we will is ask as we always do to go solve the problem for us. but if we put in place sanctions that clearly articulate and lay out the price they will have to pay to continue with these ambitions, we may able to delay that and even to prevent it. otherwise that day will come, this piper will be paid, and i hope the price will not be so high. but i fear that that's where
we're headed. on the verge of making an extraordinary geopolitical blunder that will be very difficult to undo or reverse once it's already made. and so all we're asking for is let's have a vote on this. this matters enough to the american people, this matters enough to the safety and the future of our children and future generations. this matters enough to the world. it deserves a full debate and it deserves a vote and if you're against it, you can vote against it. if you're against it, you can debate against it. we want to hear these arguments and your thoughts but why can't we vote on it? it deserves a vote. it's that important. madam president, i yield the floor. mr. cruz: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cruz: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business.
the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cruz: madam president, i rise today to commend the words of my esteemed colleague, the junior senator from florida, who has just spoken powerfully about the threats facing our nation and who on monday evening spoke powerfully on the senate floor about the brutal human rights abuses that have been endemic in communist cuba over the past 50 years and the sad reality that cuba is playing a leading role in the repression of the opposition protests that are currently taking place in venezuela. i would like to commend the sentiments of the gentleman from florida and offer a few additional thoughts of my own on this important topic. brave vens venezuelan protesters persist in crowding the streets in caracas and valencia despite the detention, the torture, even murder of their come
patriots in recent days. but they're not alone. they have been joined by darker figures, representatives of hezbollah, iran, and cuba, all of whom have a vested interest in propping up the increasingly you a theory tehran socialist regime of madura. the appearance of the iranians and the hezbollah agents in venezuela is concerning but it shouldn't be surprising. iran has long maintained one of its largest embassies in caracas where it has been able to exploit the venezuelan financial system to evade the international sanctions that until a few weeks ago were placing a real burden on iran's economy. but now that the administration has eased the sanctions on iran, iran is in a significantly stronger position. not only have they received the
first $500 million in unfrozen assets, but they have also reaped considerable collateral benefits. iranian president rouhani recently tweeted -- quote -- "you are witness to how foreign firms are visiting our country, 117 political delegations have come here." the dutch ambassador to iran tweeted in mid january he participated in -- quote -- "speed date sessions to meet businesses interested in iran." china has emerged as iran's top trading partner, with nonoil trade hitting $13 billion over the past 10 months according to iranian media. and iran has signed a deal to sell iraq arms and ammunition worth $195 million. according to documents seen by reuters. a move that would break the u.n. embargo on weapons sales by
tehran. so what could a reenriched iran offer venezuela? given that the joint plan of action that has enabled this economic detente has done nothing to reverse their nuclear program. the answer is chilling. the long-standing commercial ties between iran and venezuela not to mention their mutual hatred for the united states raises the specter that should iran acquire nuclear weapons technology, it might be inclined to share it with venezuela. which would then act as a surrogate threat to the united states in our own hemisphere. we need to act immediately to reimpose sanctions on iran, to stand unequivocally against iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability. and, madam president, i'm sorry to say there was one reason and one reason only that we have not done so.
and that is the senior senator from nevada is single-handedly blocking the senate from voting on a bipartisan bill on iranian sanctions. given the broad bipartisan support in both chambers, both the senior senator from nevada and the rest of the democratic leadership need to be held accountable for this obstruction, for standing in the way of defending u.s. national security interests and standing in the way of defending our friend and ally, the nation of israel. and as alarming as the increasing collaboration is between iran and venezuela, there is no country that has a greater stake in preserving the status quo in venezuela than communist cuba. over the 15 years of hugo chavez's rule, venezuela and cuba have engaged in a mutually
parasitic relationship in which venezuela has exported free oil to cuba and imported the repressive apparatus of a police state that raoul and fidel castro have nurtured over the last 50 years. following the collapse of the soviet union in 1992, many former soviet satellites have moved toward freedom and prosperity promised by closer ties to the west. some even joining joirng the historic nato alliance. but cuba, tragically, has remained mired in the communist past in no small part because chavez provided the economic life line that sustained the castro brothers' brutal oppression. while some hope that after raoul castro replaced his brother in 2008, a new era of moderation might dawn. the opposite has occurred. despite minor cosmetic reforms,
largely targeted towards beguiling the western media rather than helping the cuban people, the castros have consolidated their control of the island with a significant uptick in human rights abuses. last year i had the opportunity to visit with two cuban dissidents and to interview them to help provide a forum for them to tell their stories. they described the oppression as upanismo following the strategy of russia's president putin appearing on the outside to make kos metic reforms while brutally oppressing the people at home. that's what's happening in cuba. it includes targeting family members of the opposition, brutal attacks and even murder as well as keeping in inexorable control over communications in and out of cuba. an american citizen, alan
gross, was thrown into prison in 2009 for the crime of handing out cell phones to havana's jewish population. alan gross should be repoliced and the united states should be standing and calling for alan gross' release. in a tip to the information age, heavy internet censorship among the most repressive on the planet blankets the island to preempt the spontaneous organization facilitated by social media. first chavez and now maduro have learned the lessons well under the tutelage of the agents from the cuban intelligence services and their work has been on grim display during the protests that have taken place this month. the death toll is now at 13 and climbing as police bullets have taken the lives not only of activists but also of students, of innocent bystanders and even of a beauty queen.
maduro's agents have also borrowed the tried and true castro tradition of sum summariy detaining on petition leaders including leopoldo lopez who organized the protests. but mr. lopez's real crime has been to propose an alternative to the socialist catastrophe in which they have plunged this once-prosperous nation and to suggest that real economic freedom is the only path out of the rampant inflation and chronic shortages that are making life in venezuela intolerable. recent polling by gallop reveals a shift in venezualans attitude toward the economy as the socialist poll continues to suppress growth. in 2012, just a couple of years ago, 22% of the population
thought the economy was getting worse and 41% thought it was getting better. in 2013, those numbers reversed with 62% believing it was getting worse while only 12% believed it was getting better. these numbers suggest there has been a sea change in how a majority of venezualans see their situation. these protests are different and it is little wonder that so many have taken to the streets to demand something better. america should stand with the protesters. america should stand on the side of freedom. america has a tradition for centuries of presenting a clarion voice for freedom because every heart yearns to be free across the globe, and the united states should unapologetically defend freedom. maduro appears to understand the threat of his people demanding
freedom but the unprecedented scale of his crackdown on the protesters has largely been masked from the rest of the world by a heavy veil of internet and media censorship designed to disable the opposition and to mask the scale of that you are suppression from the outside world, ingenious remedies emerged including austin action texas' zillo, a direct messaging service that allows messengers to communicate freely either privately with individuals or over open channels that support hundreds of thousands of users. despite best efforts of the venezualan censors to block access to zillo, the company has developed patchwork to maintain service to the 600,000 venezualans who downloaded the app since the protests began.
zello is a shining example of how we can use our technological advantage to support those fighting for economic and political freedom across the globe, recalling our proud tradition of radio free europe during the cold war. can you imagine, madam president, apps like zello spreading to millions of cubans, millions of iranians, millions of chinese providing them the tools to directly speak out for freedom. but we have other ways of supporting those advocating for a more free and prosperous venezuela such as supporting the sort of liberal economic reforms that mr. lopez has proposed. given the remarkable natural resources that venezuela has enjoyed, it is ridiculous, it is tragic that the economy has been so mismanaged that citizens face a chronic shortage of basic necessities. but this situation is not
inevitable and the united states is uniquely poised to help. for the united states, canada and now mexico, democratic market-ernestod -- market oriented energy production has been begun what we call the energy renaissance and there is no reason venezuela could not reap these benefits if they reverse the socialist policies that destroyed their economy. in this event the united states could help venezuela reach its full energy potential by offering a bilateral investment treaty that would cover the energy sector. such an arrangement would protect american companies eager to invest in venezuela and at the same time modernize facilities and increase production of crude, which i might add, can be refined at the citgo facilities in corpus christi, texas, resulting in gasoline and other refined petroleum products that can be
sold on the open market for the benefit of the venezuela people, not given to cuba to prop up the castros, which is a better deal for the venezualan people? having them receive the benefits of the bounty god has given that country in the open market, receive freedom, receive material blessings? or have instead their oil given to castro to fuel the repressive policies that are inflicting misery on so many millions? this is a dangerous and unsettling moment for venezuela but it is also a moment of great opportunity. almost exactly one year ago the obama administration had a chance to push strongly for reform in venezuela when chavez was on his death bed. instead the obama administration opted not to rock the boat in hopes that chavez's hand-picked
success sore would prove more susceptible to diplomatic outreach, that he might not follow chavez. these hopes apparently evergreen as just yesterday a state department spokeswoman announced that they were open to closer engagement with the maduro regime saying -- quote -- "we have indicated and have indicated for months our openness to develop a more constructive relationship with venezuela." negotiating with tyrants in belize doesn't work. the notion that our state department could at this moment extend yet another olive branch to caracas is exactly backwards. this is the moment to point out that maduro's abuse of his fellow citizens is intolerable to the united states, that if he wants better relations with us he should start by listening to the demands of his own people. he should immediately and unconditionally rehraoez
leopoldo lopez being held at the hostage at the mercy of an authoritarian state. he should lift the cloud of censorship he's using to isolate venezualans from each other and the rest of the world. and the united states should do all it can to help the people of venezuela as they choose a different path, a path of freedom and prosperity that will return this onetime enemy to their traditional role of our partner and friend. that's where the venezualan people want to be. and it is only their brutal leadership that is preventing it. madam president, this is a time for american leadership to speak out in defense of freedom. this is a time for the president of the united states to unequivocally stand against oppression, against totalitarianism and for the desire of the venezualan people to be free and to be prosperous.
the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: i'd like to say something about the iran sanctions legislation that's contained in the alternative bill that senator burr has been the chief architect of, but first i want to speak briefly on what's happening in the ukraine. last year the country's increasingly auto cratic president viktor yanukovych refused to sign a trade agreement with the european union after coming under strong pressure from russian leader vladimir putin. his refusal to sign a trade deal coupled with the government's attacks on civil liberties and growing fears of moscow's efforts to turn ukraine into a puppet state sparked massive street protests in the capital city of kiev. when the government responded with violence, the situation
rapidly spiraled out of control until eventually president yanukovych was expelled from office and forced to flee. it's been almost a decade since ukraine's orange revolution captured the attention and spirits of freedom lovers across the world. now the country is once again at a crossroads. the decisions that are made in the days and weeks that lie ahead will determine whether ukraine is allowed to flourish as a prowestern democracy or whether it is forced to languish in corruption and authoritarianism as a russian satellite. it is time for the president of the united states, the commander in chief, president obama, to remind the world where america stands in the ongoing battle between democracy and dictatorship. it's time for him to rethink the so-called reset policy that has done nothing but emboldened
vladimir putin and discouraged russian human rights activists. and it's time for the president to make absolutely clear that russian meddling into the sovereign affairs of ukraine is absolutely unacceptable. as for putin himself, it's time that people everywhere saw him for what he really is: a brutal thug who epitomizes corruption, repression, and dictatorship. turning to another important issue, and that is what is happening in iran, just a few months ago after mounting sanctions and economic pressures, it appeared that the west had finally gotten the iranian dictatorships attention, and they were literally on the ropes. but then for some reason we chose to let them off the hook and to throw them a lifeline and to give up some of the very best
leverage that we had obtained over the course of years for minor concessions and hollow promises. while the obama administration is still trumpeting the november 2013 iranian nuclear agreement as a diplomatic watershed, i remain deeply skeptical and concerned that we threw a lifeline to the world's leading state sponsor of international terrorism. even though the ayatollahs have shown no real willingness to abandon their decades long quest for a nuclear weapon. and, of course, once iran, if they were to achieve a nuclear weapon, there would be a nuclear arms race in the middle east, dramatically destabilizing that already very volatile region of the world. so given that reality along with iran's well-documented record of duplicity, i join with 58 other
of my senate colleagues, republicans and democrats alike, in sponsoring new sanctions legislation. we've been ably led by the senator from illinois, senator kirk, and other leaders. something called the nuclear weapon-free iran act that would take effect if and only if tehran violated the geneva agreement. in other words, this is a back stop to the negotiations that secretary kerry has had and that the president has pointed to. but, amazingly, the obama administration has taken the very bizarre position that the democrats who are supporting this legislation, this backstop legislation that would do nothing to undermine the negotiations between the secretary of state and other nations in the region, the president is now urging democrats to stop supporting this important piece of backstop legislation, even though a commanding majority of the
united states senate has indicated their support for it. in fact, the president has gone so far as to promise a veto of this legislation if it reaches his desk. and, of course, it is not true, as the president argues, that this legislation would effectively sabotage the geneva deal. in truth and in fact, what it would do is it would provide, as i said, a backstop but reinforce what the president and secretary kerry are so proud of in terms of what they've already negotiated. if iran follows through, then this sanctions legislation would be of little force and effect. so i'm not sure i understand the administration's concern. after all, if the administration thinks that iran will follow through on its geneva commitments, something i'm personally skeptical of, but if the president thinks they'll follow through, then there's
nothing really to worry about. but if the administration believes that iran will fail to honor those commitments, then it never should have made the deal in the first place, a understant should welcome this amendment, this piece of legislation, this backstop legislation that would buttress what they have negotiated. i believe today what i believed for many years: that our only hope for a peaceful resolution of the iranian nuclear crisis is to combine tough sanctions with the credible threat of military action. that's the only thing that will bring the ayatollahs to the table. and that's why we need to vote on new sanctions as soon as possible, preferably this week, to demonstrate that there will be serious consequences if irng fails to up-- if iran fails to uphold the geneva deal or if it tries to delay indefinitely a final agreement. madam president, i yield the
mr. graham: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. grahamr. graham: i'd ask unanims consent to suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. graham i would like to be recognized for ten minutes, if i could. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. graham: thank you. if you could let me know when theton minutes expires, i'd appreciate it. i want to rise today in support of senator burr's alternatives to senator sanders' veterans bill. we're having a contest here about how best to help veterans. there's a lot of bipartisan agreement over the substance of the bill. the real difference is how to pay for t but there's one key difference. in senator burr's alternative,
we had the iranian sanctions bill. i believe it is imperative for this bill, the united states --e united states senate to speak on sanctions against iran before it is too laivment and i hate the fact that we've lost our bipartisan approach to this topic. we've been together for a very long time, as republicans and democrats. we've had 16 rounds of captions since 1987, nine u.n. security resolutions since 2006 demanding the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment and processing activities in cooperation with the iaea. the united nations, the congress in an overwhelming bipartisan fashion has been imposing sanctions and speaking to the threat we all have -- face against the iranian nuclear program. unfortunately, the bipartisanship has come apart in terms of whether or not we should have another vote. the bipartisan bill that would
reauthorize sanctions at the end of the six-month negotiating period, has got 59 cospork cosp, 17 democrats. we believe desperately -- at least i do -- that the sanctions that have been so effect i have in bringing the iranians to the table are literally falling apart. and i will have some evidence to show that. but here's what senator reid, the majority leader, said on november 21, 2013. "i'm a strong supporter of our iran sanctions regime and believe that the current 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 has missed negotiations with the iranians and designed to end their nuclear weapons program. we will 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'm committed to do just that. i will support a bill that would broaden the scope of the current petroleum sanctions, place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the iranian economy, its nuclear ambitions as well as pursue those that divert goods to iran. while i support the administration's diplomatic effort, i believe we need to leave our legislative options open to act on a new bipartisan sanctions bill in december shortly after our return. the challenge of the majority leader was to find a bipartisan bill that could -- could speak to the sanctions. we're able to do that. senator menendez has been absolutely terrific along with senator kirk in making sure that sanctions work, and the obama administration deserves a lot of
credit for keeping the sanctions regime together to keep the iranians at the table, but the interim agreement that has been entered into between the p-5-plus-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 plume-producing reactor that the iranians are building, not just stop its construction but dismantle, take the highly enriched uranium that exists in iran today and remove it out of the country so it can't 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 exists in great number from iran to the international community so it can be controlled, and last but most importantly i think is to dismantle their enrichment capability. if the iranians truly want a peaceful nuclear power program, i am all for that. i don't care if the russians are jointly with us that we build a nuclear power plant in iran to help them with commercial nuclear power.
we just need to control the fuel cycle. there are 15 countries who have nuclear power programs that do not enrich uranium, mexico and canada being two, south korea being another, and the point that i'm trying to make here is that 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 ambition so they took the money and now they have got 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's the only thing between the iranian ayatollahs and nuclear weapons is a bunch of union 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 just need to control the fuel cycle. now, the interim deal has not dismantled any centrifuges, they have unplugged a few but all of them exist, 16,000 to 18,000 of them. and here is what the iranian government has been openly saying about the interim deal. the iceberg of sanctions is melting while our centrifuges are all still working. this is our greatest achievement. this is the head of the iranian nuclear program, nuclear agency. the foreign minister said the white house tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of iran's nuclear program, the interim deal. we are not dismantling any centrifuges, we're not dismantling any equipment. we're simply not producing, not enriching over 5%. pretty clear. this is the president of iran, mr.ary han i. 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 iranian nation's interest. in the geneva agreement, world powers surrender 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 the interconnection between network of centrifuges that have been used to enrich uranium to 20% so that they can enrich only the 5% aid, these interconnections can be removed in a day and connected again in a day, so you're not dismantling anything, you're unplugging it, they can plug it right back in. here is what's happened. this president of iran again, we have struck the first blow to the illegal sanctions in the field of insurance, shipping, the banking system, foodstuffs, medicine, and exports of
petrochemical materials. you're a witness to how foreign firms are visiting our country. 117 political delegations that come here, france, turkey, georgia, ireland, tunisia, kazakhstan, china, indiana why, italy, 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 interrim deal has done nothing in my view to dismantle their nuclear program that is a threat to us and israel. indian oil imports from iran doubled more than a month in january. china has emerged as iran's top trading partner. u.s. aerospace companies are talking about selling them
parts. 13 major international companies have said in recent weeks they aim to re-enter the iranian marketplace over the next several months. the value of their currency has appreciated about 25%. 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's lining up to do business in iran. ladies and gentlemen of the united states senate, 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 six-month period of negotiations time to develop, but at the end of the six months, if we haven't achieved a satisfactory result of dismantling their nuclear program, sanctions will continue at a greater pace. without that threat, without
that friction, we're going to get a very bad outcome here. and the administration says that new sanctions will scuttle the bill and lead to war, i could not disagree more. the lack of threat of sanctions, the dismantling of sanctions, the crumbling of sanctions i think are going to lead to conflict, and i do believe that if this body reinforced that we're 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 our democratic colleagues and the democratic leadership, i'm 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 that we can avoid a conflict with the eye -- iranians. the only way to do that -- i ask for five more minutes.
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 to 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 these negotiations with our nuclear capability intact. if you allow the iranians to enrich uranium, that's the final deal where they still have an enrichment capability theoretically controlled by the u.n. every sunni arab state will want an enrichment program of their own and you have destroyed nonproliferation in the middle east. i will 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're down marching toward armageddon, i fear. the last thing in the world we want to do is allow the iranians
to enrich, telling their allies they can't, that will lead to proliferation of enrichment throughout the middle east, then you're one step away from a weapon. if you had to make a list of countries based on their 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, 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. you 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 don't want a military engagement against the iranians. i just want their nuclear ambitions to end and give them a
nuclear power plant that's controlled to produce power, not to 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 middle east is different. the sunni arabs will not be comfortable with an enrichment capability given to the iranians, and israel will never accept this because it is a threat to the jewish state, unlike any other. so i would urge the body before it's 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 six months. we have 59 cosponsors. if we had a vote, i'm confident we could get an overwhelming vote. it would be the right signal to send to the iranians, and it
would tell the western world slow down. the idea of giving this six months to continue at the pace it's going, it would be impossible to reconstruct sanctions if we don't 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 six months and the damage not be done i don't -- i think is unrealistic. can you 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 that's decisively. so what i hope we can do in a bipartisan fashion is let our allies know 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 don't 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're 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're ready to do what's necessary as a nation as a last resort to use military force, and 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 don't want war with anyone, but if my options are to use military force to stop the iranians from getting a nuclear weapon or not, i'm picking use
of military force because if they get a nuclear weapon, then the whole middle east goes down the wrong road. you would open pandora's box to attack the iranians. they could do some damage to us, but it couldn't last long. they lose, we win. if they get a nuclear capability, we have created a nuclear arms race in the middle east and you will empty pandora's box and you will put israel in an impossible spot. so my colleagues, we have a chance here to turn history around before it's too late, but the way we're 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'm urging the majority leader, if not on this bill, as soon as
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. booze booze thank you, madam president -- mr. boozman: i ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. i stand here in defense of our nation's veterans, the care and services they deserve for the sacrifice that they have committed for our country. my dad served in the air force for over 20 years, and his service and sacrifice is no small part of why i'm a member of the senate veterans' affairs committee, previously the house veterans' affairs committee and requested to be a member of the veterans' affairs committee in both chambers because we made a commitment to take care of those who put their lives on the line for our safety and ideals and i believe in carrying out the promise. my mom would routinely ask me
what have you done for our veterans lately during my days as a member of the house of representatives. i was happy to talk about the programs we promoted, supported and passed, and certainly in a very bipartisan way. there is a long list of accomplishments we can be very, very proud of, from modernizing the g.i. bill so our veterans can get the education that they need, so that they can succeed in life after the military, to helping our veterans pursue the dreams of owning a business, to improving the medical services our srepbz need for their wounds -- our veterans need for their wounds that they suffered while serving our country. unfortunately, problems exist in my arkansas office -- and i think this is true of most congressional offices -- we have a number of dedicated staffers. in fact, we have three dedicated staffers who handle veterans-related issues. they help cut through the red tape of the department of veterans affairs to get the care and attention our veterans
earned. last year more than 40% of the assistance that we provided to arkansans that involve federal agencies focused on veterans' issues. increasing funding doesn't necessarily mean that we'll have better outcomes. take, for instance, the claims backlog. this is a huge problem impacting hundreds of thousands of veterans nationwide. even some of the simplest claims are stuck in the process. since 2009, the number of claims pending for over a year has grown despite a 40% increase in v.a. posts budget. the most recent statistics from little rock v.a. regional office show 7,663 total claims pending. nearly 54% have been in the process for more than 125 days. the regional office averages nearly 217 days to complete a
claim. thanks to the hard work and commitment of arkansans who work at the v.a. we are making progress on the backlog at the little rock office but there is still work to be done for our veterans. like the retired lieutenant colonel in arkansas eligible for benefits he earned for service in the military, he's not receiving correct pay. the defense finance and accounting service approved his paperwork in august and sent it to v.a.. it's been six months and still no decision has been made. this is an easy case and it simply shouldn't take that long. retired command sergeant major richard green lives in sherwood and has already received his retirement benefits, but he filed for benefits for his wife the month after they married in october 2012. it took 16 months to process that paperwork, much longer than he was used to during active military service when this sort of paperwork was fixed within one or two paychecks.
every part of the claims process is overwhelmed and bogged down. paul cutt from fort smith, arkansas, had been working on his v.a. appeal since 2009. he was happy to get part of it approved in 2013 after four years of waiting. months later he's still waiting for his grading to get updated and see the actual benefits from that decision. and the widows are not exempt either. one arkansasians has been working on her claim since 2005. still awaiting a decision on appeal. nine years is certainly unacceptable. instead of fixing the existing challenges our veterans are facing through fully implementing what we've committed ourselves to, the increasing accountability, improving efficiency, some of my colleagues think the best way to tackle this is by expanding programs and increasing
responsibility of v.a. the problem is we're putting more people on a system that is clearly overwhelmed and needs improvement. this isn't the fault of v.a., which i believe is fully committed to meeting all of the demands that our veterans and quoncongress expect interest th. the v.a. can only do so much and as the number of veterans and the complicated needs increase, we must not pile on additional responsibilities that overwhelm the agency. i think a recent, you know, with the announcement of senator hagel in the sense that we're going to have this potentially significant drawdown on the military, many of those individuals will come into the v.a. system. while the bill before us in the senate has worthwhile programs that i support and have championed, we shouldn't expect a massive mandate imoache mandan v.a. to change the outcomes experienced.
we need a measured approach to chaiption, they must be done over time, and include oversight to make sure that veterans are receiving the attention they deserve in a timely manner. and with that, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. pryor: thank you, madam president. it's great too see my colleague from arkansas here on the floor. one of the things we know about senator boozman and arkansas is that he really tries hard to help our veterans. so i want to thank him for his public service and for focusing on our men and women whether they're in uniform now or who have served this country. madam president, you all have noticed in the last few weeks that i've talked quite a bit about veterans. we've had the veterans retirement cost-of-living fix and a few other things that have brought me to the floor to talk about this very, very important group of people.
in my state of arkansas, we have nearly 255,000 veterans. they have put on the uniform, they've served their country, they've put their lives on hold for our country, and they deserve to return home to a country that is going to honor the commitments that we've made to them and a country that'll keep the promises that we've made. that's why i have been very supportive here in the senate for these individuals, especially in the context of what we're talking about tairktstoday,the comprehensive s health and benefits and military retirement pay restoration act, that's s. 1982. a lot of senators are trying to work on this bill and get it in a posture where it can pass the senate. this is a commonsense bill, covers a broad range of topics
that are important to our veterans. i know that a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes. i think sometimes when the american people either come and visit the senate or when they tune into c-span2, they sometimes ian empty chamber. you don't always know what's going on in the back rooms here and in the hallways and folks trying to work through a number of important issues. that's what's happening with this bill. you know, i have an important provision in this bill, madam president, and it's a measure that i've actually been working on for a while. i think it's going to have broad support on both sides of the aisle as well as a number of military organizations around the country, and it's called the honor america's guard and reserve retirees act. and it's kind of a long nairnlg but it's a very, very simple premise. basically, what we're talking about here is under current law,
as it exists today, the military definition of a "veteran" applies to -- aplierks i shoul-- --applies, i should say, only to service members who have served under title 10 orders. this means that many of our service members, particularly -- most specifi specifically our nl guard members, who have not been deployed under proper orders are falling short of this established criteria. to put this in perspective, i recently received a letter from an arkansas veteran named vincent. vincent is from arkansas, he served for more than 20 years in the national guard, he's protected our families from natural disasters, things like hurricane katrina. he served our country to protect
our borders in "operation jump-start." he served our nation in "operation desert shield" and "desert storm" and in "iraqi freedom." yet he still doesn't meet the military definition of a veteran of the armed services. now, vincent is the only one affected by this. there are 300,000 arkansans -- excuse me, 300,000 national gad and reserve service members -- national guard and reserve service members across the country that fall in the same sat egory. my bill would fix this. it would amend the military definition of "veteran" to give guard and reserve retirees with 20 years of service the honor of being called a veteran. and it is an honor. it would allow these service members to salute when the star spangled banner is played, to march in a veterans parade and
to be recognized as veterans by other veterans. it's also -- and i know members of this chamber will ask this question and they should. this is a cost-neutral bill. there's no cost with this. it's simple. it's cost-neutral, and it is an overdue recognition of these individual service members who have served bravely for our country. it's time that we pass this bill so that vincent and hundreds of thousands of others can receive the honor that they deserve. with that, madam president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: