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From the Desk of Congressman Gary Ackerman: July 2, 2010

House/Senate Pass Iran Sanctions Bill

United States Congressman Gary Ackerman hailed House and Senate passage of legislation he helped to craft that imposes crippling new sanctions on Iran. The measure, passed by the Senate this afternoon and the House last week is now expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

Ackerman, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, played a key role in shaping the legislation as a member of the House-Senate conference committee that reconciled differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The panel produced the final version of the legislation that both chambers approved today.

The bill aims to force Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program by choking its energy and financial sectors.

The sweeping legislation, entitled the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, imposes the toughest sanctions ever on Iran.

The following is Ackerman’s statement on the legislation:

“I rise in strong support for the bill and I offer my congratulations to the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and to all my fellow conferees on what is a remarkable piece of legislation.

This bill has teeth, real teeth, great big nasty sharp teeth that are finally going to force businesses and banks around the world to choose between access to the American economy and financial system, or business as usual with Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.

This bill has real sanctions; not maybe sanctions, not sort-a sanctions, real sanctions. This bill has real sanctions investigation requirements; not maybe we’ll look into it, not we’ll try to get to it when we can, but a clear legal requirement to investigate potential violations. This bill creates legal safe harbor for the potential divestment of billions of dollars of equity from companies that continue to do business in Iran, the world-capital of state-sponsored terrorism. This bill has real sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and all the things that keep it alive and allow it to operate. This bill will force new requirements on U.S. banks to keep Iran’s blood-tainted money from being laundered by the international financial system.

This bill imposes sanctions on those in Iran responsible for human rights violations and those companies that facilitate Iranian state repression. America will not merely bear witness to the brave struggle of the people of Iran to be free; we choose to stand with the Iranian people against the jackboot of the ayatollah’s tyranny.

This bill will force action to close loopholes abroad that have allowed Iran to import, smuggle and altogether befuddle international efforts to keep dangerous technologies out of their malicious hands. With this bill there will be no more blind eyes for allies; no more sleeping at the export control switch.

In short, this is a bill that forces the issue: will the world watch passively as Iran crosses the nuclear arms threshold, or will we join together to squeeze, wrangle, coerce, and compel Iran to pull back from the nuclear brink.

Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East and throughout the world. We know it. Our allies in Europe know it. Russia and China know it. All the Arab states know it. Successful nuclear proliferation by Iran would likely mean the collapse of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the onset of a mad rush for nuclear arms in the Middle East and a vastly increased possibility of the unimaginable horror of nuclear arms being used.

This bill is also a triumph for the Leadership of this Congress and for the Obama administration. For the entirety of their eight years, the previous administration talked tough while the Iranian nuclear program went from crawling to walking; from walking to running; and from running to sprinting. The rhetoric was always very fierce, the results were always very flaccid. The previous Republican-controlled Congresses, though no less aware of the looming danger following the revelation of Iran’s uranium enrichment program in 2002, also said all the right things, but somehow—somehow—never got around to passing this bill or one like it.

Look at who’s in charge today. Look at who is going to get this bill done with broad bipartisan support. Look at who just put Iran’s energy sector under the gun. Look at who just closed the investigations loophole and the diversion loophole. Look at who just imposed unprecedented energy, banking, and finance sector sanctions. Look at who just imposed human rights sanctions on Iran’s regime of thugs.

Look also at who just got Russia and China to join with the international community in passing the toughest ever UN Security Council sanctions on Iran; sanctions that authorize the inspection of Iranian ships; that impose major new restrictions on Iranian banking, finance, shipping, and arms transactions; and that designates the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and key Iranian firms and figures associated with proliferation for additional penalties. Two years ago if someone had suggested the Security Council would have adopted these positions, they would have been taken away in a straitjacket. Today it’s reality.

The cowboy rhetoric and the contempt for diplomacy are gone. But the results, which are what actually matters, are compelling. Just as we in Congress have come together to pass this historic legislation, the Obama administration has rallied the world to stand against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Results matter.

We cannot guarantee the success of these measures. Ultimately, the choice lies with the regime in Tehran to decide what price they’re prepared to pay to sustain their illicit nuclear activities. But it should be clear that we are doing all that we can to impose on Iran the highest possible costs for its defiance and that we are demonstrating, by our actions and by our efforts, the depth of our commitment to peacefully ending Iran’s illegal nuclear activities.

We are trying diplomacy. We are trying unilateral sanctions. We are trying multilateral sanctions. We are trying our utmost to avoid making conflict inevitable. But there should be no question about the absolute determination of the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran cannot and must not be allowed to cross the threshold of nuclear arms. They can stop their program, or it can be stopped by others. And it would be far, far better if they stopped their nuclear program themselves. The United States and the other P5+1 nations have all made clear the benefits Iran would gain if it made this choice. The United Nations and the Congress today are showing Iran the rising costs and growing isolation it will endure if its behavior doesn’t change.

Iran’s illicit nuclear activities and programs must stop. Above all other considerations, above all other costs, without any doubt or uncertainty, Iran’s nuclear arms program must be stopped.”