[Congressional Record Volume 148, Number 34 (Thursday, March 21, 2002)]
[Senate]
[Pages S2245-S2247]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                 NEXT STEPS IN U.S. POLICY TOWARD IRAN

  Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, I will ask unanimous consent to have 
printed in the Record a very thoughtful speech by my colleague, Mr. 
Biden, on U.S. policy toward Iran, which he delivered before the 
American-Iranian Council on March 13, 2002.
  Mr. Biden offers a realistic assessment of the challenges of dealing 
with a divided government in Iran, where an unelected, ``hardcore 
clique'' holds the key levers of power and thwarts the democratic will 
of the vast majority of Iranians.
  More significantly, he lists five specific steps that the United 
States can take to increase Iran's international linkages and reach out 
to those in Iran who take risks to bring about change and reform. Mr. 
Biden's speech has touched off a spirited debate in Iran about how to 
respond to his initiative.
  Like my colleague from Delaware, I do not believe that our many 
differences with the Islamic Republic of Iran should close off 
opportunities to influence Iranian behavior and work together 
constructively when we may share common interests, such as in 
Afghanistan; assisting with and re-locating refugees displaced by the 
Afghan war; controlling the international narcotics trade; and, 
perhaps, regarding the future of Iraq.
  Our policies must also assist those in Iran advocating reform and 
change in the Iranian government. Supporting Iranian admittance to the 
World Trade Organization, for example, would strengthen the hands of 
reformers in the Iranian parliament and elsewhere who seek to undertake 
the structural economic reforms that, over time, could lead to more 
open political and economic systems for the Iranian people.
  I strongly support Mr. Biden's recommendations, including his 
invitation to meet with members of the Iranian parliament. I encourage 
my colleagues in the Senate to read Mr. Biden's speech when considering 
next steps in U.S. policy toward Iran.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that Senator Biden's speech be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

Remarks by Joseph R. Biden, Jr.--``Prospects for Progress: America and 
                           Iran After 9-11''

       It is an honor to be invited to speak before such a 
     distinguished gathering.
       The number of accomplished individuals in the audience 
     today is a testament to the extraordinary achievements of the 
     thriving Iranian-American community. You have enriched the 
     United States with your many talents, and your cultural 
     traditions have strengthened the diversity of our country.
       You also have a critical role to play in serving as a 
     bridge between Iran and the United States.
       Today, I would like to share with you my views on United 
     States policy toward Iran and the kind of relationship I 
     believe Iran and the United States should have. To save you 
     the suspense, the short answer is--a much better relationship 
     than we currently enjoy.
       I say this for one simple reason--I believe that an 
     improved relationship with Iran is in the naked self-interest 
     of the United States of America.
       Iran sits in the geo-political heart of a region that has 
     long been important to our security concerns.
       On its Eastern frontier sits a newly-liberated Afghanistan 
     where the military mission is far from over. Farther East is 
     a nuclear-armed Pakistan that just a short while ago

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     stood on the precipice of a potentially devastating conflict 
     with its arch-rival India.
       To the West is a recalcitrant Iraq, with a dangerous leader 
     who Iranians grew to know all too well during the long and 
     bloody Iran-Iraq war. To the North are the undemocratic, 
     potentially energy-rich states of Central Asia and the 
     conflict-ridden Caucasus.
       To the South are several American allies that sit atop the 
     largest known oil reserves on the face of the earth.
       So it is not an understatement to say that the direction 
     Iran takes in the coming years will have a significant impact 
     upon American strategic interests in this region.
       Clearly, we cannot speak of Iran's direction without 
     addressing its internal political dynamics. Since President 
     Khatami's election in 1997, Iran has been embroiled in a 
     gradually escalating power struggle that the outside world 
     has watched with considerable interest.
       While elections haven't been perfect, the Iranian people 
     have made clear in four separate ballots over four years that 
     they are demanding fundamental change.
       The result of these elections has been the creation of a 
     divided government. An elected branch consisting of the 
     parliament and the Presidency that, by definition, is more in 
     touch with the will of the people.
       Juxtaposed to that is an appointed branch which holds many 
     of the key levers of power including the judiciary, security 
     organizations, and other bodies populated by those whose 
     vision largely revolves around the perpetuation of their own 
     authority.
       It is this hardcore clique which refuses to give way to the 
     will of the people. Over the past few years they have 
     thwarted the goals of Iranian reformers. They've arrested 
     journalists. They've imprisoned close allies of the 
     President, and often resorted to violence.
       They've harassed and persecuted minorities in Iran--Jews 
     and the Baha'i.
       They direct policies that pose a threat to our interests. 
     Not the least of which is that Iran continues to support 
     terrorism and the escalation of violence in the Middle East.
       Its recent involvement with the Karine-A arms smuggling 
     incident is a reminder of the policies that Iran must abandon 
     if there is to be a true rapprochement. And many questions 
     remain unanswered about the role played by some Iranians in 
     the Khobar Towers attack that left 19 US servicemen dead.
       But shortly after September 11, ordinary Iranians held a 
     spontaneous candlelight vigil in Tehran in solidarity with 
     the victims. Yet some of Iran's leaders don't appear to 
     understand how drastically the world has changed after 
     September 11.
       Their continuing support for groups such as Islamic Jihad 
     puts them on the wrong side of the new fault-line separating 
     civilization and those who seek chaos. As you all know, Iran 
     is continuing an aggressive drive to develop weapons of mass 
     destruction and long-range missile systems. In these efforts, 
     it receives considerable foreign assistance, especially from 
     Russia.
       While support for terrorism appears to be directed by those 
     in the hard-line branch of the government, the support for 
     Iran's missile and nuclear weapons programs is more broad-
     based.
       The reason is a combination of three main factors: first, 
     fears over Iraq and to a far lesser degree, Pakistan. Second, 
     the belief that nuclear weapons will enhance Iran's stature. 
     Finally, we cannot dismiss the fact that some elements within 
     the government see a potential blackmail value in the 
     acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and long-range 
     missile capability.
       Whatever the motivation, the United States must place the 
     highest priority on preventing Iran from gaining such 
     dangerous and destabilizing capabilities. There are a number 
     of options for doing so.
       We cannot simply dismiss Iran's security concerns. They've 
     been the victims of chemical weapons attacks by Iraq. But the 
     neighborhood has the potential to change for the better.
       Already, the Taliban menace no longer threatens Iran. Next 
     door, Pakistan's President is reigning in religious 
     extremism.
       And I believe that the U.S. will ultimately have to 
     facilitate a regime-change in Iraq.
       These three developments alone would dramatically alter 
     Iran's security environment for the better.
       We must also be willing to hold discussions with Iran to 
     develop creative solutions as we did in North Korea. And we 
     must step up our efforts to end support by Russian entities 
     for Iranian nuclear and missile efforts. In my view, this 
     hasn't received enough attention over the past year.
       Clearly, although we must combat the spread of weapons of 
     mass destruction to any country, the threat from Iran is not 
     simply a function of capability, but of intention as well.
       If Iran evolves in a more democratic direction and the 
     U.S.-Iranian relationship improves, then the threat it poses 
     certainly will be reduced.
       This, then, raises the question of the ongoing power 
     struggle underway in Iran.
       The United States is not in a position to have a major 
     impact on this struggle. Nor should we intervene in any 
     direct way.
       We should be mindful of the painful history between our two 
     countries, which includes reported CIA support for a coup in 
     1953. And it still resonates with many Iranians, and it 
     should counsel us to be extra-cautious.
       Nonetheless, we should be clear about where we stand. We 
     are squarely with the Iranian people in their desire for a 
     democratic government and a democratic society.
       Iran has a disproportionately young population. Half of its 
     people were born after the Revolution.
       These young people and many of their parents and 
     grandparents have grown wary of Iran's isolation.
       They want Iran to take its rightful place in the 
     international community and to embrace a rapidly-changing 
     world. They want the same kinds of social, political, and 
     economic freedoms that others enjoy. And they deserve to have 
     these aspirations fulfilled. As I said, we should have a 
     better relationship with Iran. Unfortunately, that is not for 
     us to decide. And it is unlikely to come about absent a 
     change in the attitude or composition of the present Iranian 
     regime.
       While the Bush Administration continues the policy of its 
     predecessors by seeking dialogue with Iran, some in Tehran 
     have a different view.
       Part of the government clearly wants to talk to us and has 
     talked to us over Afghanistan for example. But hard-liners 
     regard us as a useful bogeyman to continue to stir up the 
     passions of their most zealous and ardent stalwarts.
       So the question is what can we do from the outside to help 
     the Iranian people realize their aspirations.
       In my judgment, we must direct our policies in a way that 
     they do not rest on the principle of reciprocity.
       In other words, we should assume that the continuing power 
     struggle will prevent Iran from responding to any particular 
     American gestures. And take steps that are carefully 
     calibrated with the aim of assisting those who seek change 
     within Iran.
       How do we do it? First, we must recognize that the most 
     entrenched elements in Iran seek to perpetuate Iran's 
     isolation through confrontation with the outside world.
       Those who seek change want to increase Iran's international 
     linkages.
       Let me outline five specific steps the United States can 
     take.
       First, the Bush Administration should issue a general 
     license to permit American non-governmental organizations to 
     financially support a broad range of civil society, cultural, 
     human rights, and democracy-building activities in Iran. Such 
     funding is currently banned by Executive Order.
       It is unfortunate that it is our own government, not hard-
     line clerics in Tehran, that have prevented practitioners of 
     democracy in America from aiding their struggling 
     counterparts in Iran.
       Second, we should continue to work with Iran on matters of 
     mutual interest as we did on Afghanistan.
       It is true that some hard-line elements in Iran are clearly 
     interested in stirring up trouble in Afghanistan, but the 
     story that many don't know is that Iran and the United States 
     coordinated their efforts on Afghanistan closely over the 
     past several months.
       The dialogue on Afghanistan should serve as a model and 
     should be extended to other areas of mutual interest, like 
     the future of Iraq another topic for discussion and 
     cooperation.
       Third, the United States should acquiesce to Iran's bid to 
     begin accession talks to the World Trade Organization. The 
     process of accession would take several years, but Iran would 
     have to make structural changes that would increase 
     transparency and undermine the key power bases of the hard-
     liners.
       Fourth, we should be willing to indirectly assist Iran on 
     refugee and narcotics matters. Iran has a huge population of 
     Afghan and Iraqi refugees. American non-governmental 
     organizations that assist refugees are willing to help and 
     should be supported in their efforts by our government.
       Likewise, Iran has paid a heavy price in blood and treasure 
     in battling narcotics traffickers on its eastern frontier. 
     Iran has asked the international community for help and it 
     makes sense to assist them through the United Nations.
       Fifth, we should continue to encourage citizen exchanges. A 
     track-two circuit has developed in recent years and it is 
     important to keep it going. Organizations such as the 
     American Iranian Council, the Open Society Institute, and the 
     Nixon Center have played a critical role, and I applaud them.
       I also applaud the President for his view that there should 
     be a direct dialogue with Iran. In that regard, let me also 
     extend an invitation in my capacity as Chairman of the 
     Foreign Relations Committee. I am prepared to receive members 
     of the Iranian Majlis whenever its members would like to 
     visit. If Iranian parliamentarians believe that's too 
     sensitive, I'm prepared to meet them elsewhere.
       Without speaking for any of my colleagues, I am confident 
     that many of them would join in such an historic meeting. 
     Indeed, some--including my friend Senator Arlen Specter--did 
     participate in an earlier brief encounter at the Metropolitan 
     Museum of Art organized by the American Iranian Council.
       We should be under no illusions that these steps will by 
     themselves have a decisive impact. The direction that Iran 
     takes the form of government it chooses are ultimately 
     matters for the Iranian people to settle.
       As we all know, Nowruz marks the start of Spring. Let us 
     hope that in this season of renewal that Iranians and 
     Americans can find a way to build on shared interests and 
     work constructively to overcome their differences peacefully.
       I pledge to do my part and I know that all of you will lend 
     your energies to this critical effort.

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       Thank you.

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