Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), always a friend to her sizable Iranian-American constituency, delivered the following speech yesterday on the floor of the House of Representatives.
At first glance, it might appear that Rep. Woolsey is uncharacteristically harsh when talking about how to deal with Iran. But I read this as a sign that the strongest supporters of direct diplomacy are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness. There is a lot riding on our outreach to Iran. And now that it is no longer a question of if we talk to Iran but when we talk, we need to make sure we do it right. It is because of members of Congress like Rep. Woolsey that the threat of war has abated, now we have the responsibility to make sure the diplomatic approach we supported so strongly can actually produce results.
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD HOUSE PAGE H2809 Feb. 25, 2009Back to top
IT’S TIME TO TALK TO IRAN
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak about the urgent need for the United States to begin direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program.
Time is of the essence. The United Nations reported last week that Iran has more enriched uranium than the world knew and is now capable of building an atomic bomb if it continues with its enrichment program. Iran also recently put a satellite into orbit showing that it has the ballistic missile capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon against an enemy.
The Iranians insist that their nuclear program is for peaceful domestic purposes only, but their nuclear program has raised fears in the Middle East and made that region an even more unstable and dangerous place.
Mr. Speaker, Iran’s advanced nuclear program shows that the Bush administration’s policy of refusing to talk was a dismal failure. It called Iran part of the “Axis of Evil.” Then for nearly 8 years the Bush administration’s approach consisted of saber-rattling and threats of war, and look where that’s gotten us. Absolutely nowhere.
As someone who strongly opposes nuclear proliferation, I urge that we launch a vigorous diplomatic effort aimed at getting Iran to behave more responsibly. We must begin that effort immediately before their nuclear program gets even more advanced. In the days ahead, we can look for every possible opening to begin face-to-face talks.
This diplomatic effort must include a strong partnership with the international community. The U.N. Security Council, for example, has demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program. So we must work with the members of the Council to put peaceful pressure on Iran to do just that.
I think that President Obama described the situation best last August when he said, “My job as President would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran and that we have mobilized the world community to go after their program in a very serious way.”
So, Mr. Speaker, the President followed up on that, as we know, on his first day in office. In an interview with an Arabic language television station, he said, “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.” This received a positive response from President Ahmadinejad, who said that Iran was ready for “talks based on mutual respect.” Who knows what he really meant, but I think we should take him up on this, call his bluff. Let’s test him to see if he was serious. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, “We won’t know what we’re capable of achieving with Iran until we’re actually there working on it.”
Mr. Speaker, Iran is currently suffering from tough economic times, high inflation and international isolation. It is also threatening its people miserably. We could take advantage of Iran’s problems by offering incentives and help with their problems if they agree to pull the plug on their nuclear ambitions.
During the past administration, there was a great deal of talk about bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, but we all know that would have led us into another disastrous war in the Middle East, and thank heavens we did not do that. But refusing to engage with Iran hasn’t worked so far. It’s time for a new policy that stresses international cooperation, conflict resolution, and humanitarian assistance.
With President Obama’s leadership and willingness to talk and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s abilities, we can push the restart button, the restart button on our relations with Iran. We must now seize every single opportunity to do so because it appears time might be running out.