Speech Date: September 25, 2018
I know I’m part of the horrible traffic problem in New York during UNGA week, so I thank and apologize to any brave souls who fought the gridlock to get here. Hope you don’t hold that against me. Next time I will take the subway.
I am honored to address the patriots in this group. UANI is doing vital work to make sure the Iranian regime cannot develop a nuclear weapon, cannot continue its campaigns of state-supported terror, and cannot continue to line its own pockets while the people of Iran suffer.
I especially want to thank UANI’s Chairman, Senator Lieberman, for his invitation and that introduction.
He continues to be an uncompromising voice for national security sanity, just as he was during his many fine years in the Senate.
Senator, we need more like you on Capitol Hill who truly understand the threat of the Iranian regime.
It is an appropriate but sad irony that we are talking about Iran during the week of the 73rd UN General Assembly, or UNGA.
So many times over the years during UNGA, Iranian regime leaders and diplomats have used this occasion to turn on the charm with foreign governments and obscure what they are really up to at home and abroad. Iranian President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, and other Iranian figures take this opportunity to present themselves as moderate statesmen. But the world knows the truth – their polished diplomatic waltz is a transparent attempt to trick responsible nations into thinking, “maybe they aren’t so bad.”
In actuality, these are two of the highest-ranking officials of a regime which brazenly defies the vision of the United Nations, the requirements of international law, and the principles of national sovereignty. The Iranian regime’s track record over the past forty years has revealed it as among the worst violators of the UN Charter and UN Security Council Resolutions – if not the absolute worst. It is truly an outlaw regime.
Let’s first look at the UN Charter. It calls for our nations to “live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.” And where there is a threat to that peace, it requires UN Member States to carry out the decisions made by the Security Council as to what must be done to address that threat.
Has Iran lived together with other nations in peace? Has it been a good neighbor? Has it contributed to the maintenance of international peace and security by fully abiding by the decisions of the Security Council? Let’s take a little tour around the world and you’ll see the answer is a deafening “no.”
Let’s start with Europe.
Just a few months ago, authorities across Europe arrested several Iranian operatives – including an Iranian official based in Austria – as part of a plot to plant a bomb at a political rally in France. This happened just as the regime has been putting a full-court press on European countries to stay in the nuclear deal. As a just response to this support for terrorism, a few weeks ago our ally France indefinitely postponed all non-essential diplomatic travel to Iran. That is a good first step, and we hope to see more actions like this from other nations. We must put pressure on the regime to rein in its destruction and demand that Iran act like a normal country.
Unfortunately, last night the United States was disturbed and deeply disappointed to hear the remaining parties in the deal announce they are setting up a special payment system to bypass U.S. sanctions. This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security. By sustaining revenues to the regime, you are solidifying Iran’s ranking as the number one state sponsor of terror, enabling Iran’s violent export of Revolution, and making the regime even richer while the Iranian people scrape by. I imagine the corrupt Ayatollahs and the IRGC were laughing this morning.
This decision is all the more unacceptable given the litany of Iranian-backed terrorist activity in Europe.
In 2012, four Qods Force operatives entered Turkey to attack Israeli targets, but the attack was thankfully disrupted by Turkish authorities.
That same year, Lebanese Hizballah – one of the regime’s most loyal proxy groups – bombed a bus in Bulgaria carrying Israeli tourists. Six were killed, including a Bulgarian driver, and at least 32 were wounded.
In 1992, Iran provided logistical support to Lebanese Hizballah operatives who assassinated four Iranian Kurdish dissidents at a café in Berlin.
But Iran’s state-supported, lawless terror is not confined to Europe. It’s all over the world. Our journey continues in Africa.
In 2013, three Iranian operatives were arrested in Nigeria for planning attacks against USAID offices, an Israeli business, a Jewish cultural center, and hotels frequented by Israelis and Americans.
In 2012, two Qods Force operatives were arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, for planning bomb attacks against Western interests; 33 pounds of explosive materials were discovered.
What about South America? In Uruguay in 2015, a senior Iranian diplomat was expelled for planning an attack near the Israeli embassy. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Iran provided logistical support for two suicide vehicle attacks; one in 1992 and one in 1994. These attacks killed a total of 114 people and wounded nearly 500, with the 1994 bombing being the deadliest terror attack in Argentina’s history.
The next stop on our regime-backed terrorism tour is Asia:
In Kathmandu, Nepal, in 2013, an Iranian traveling on a fake Israeli passport was arrested for conducting surveillance of the Israeli Embassy.
In New Delhi in 2012, the Quds Force directed a bomb attack that targeted Israeli diplomats.
In Karachi in 2011, Iranian operatives assassinated Saudi diplomat Hassan al-Qahtani. Since 2006, Iran has provided the Taliban with a broad range of arms, including rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, rockets, and plastic explosives.
Iran has tried to pull the same stunts on our own continent. In 2011, the Qods Force supported a plan to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.
This past August, the United States arrested two alleged agents of Iran for conducting covert surveillance and intelligence collection activities against Israeli and American targets alike.
In cyberspace, Iran has exploited the internet to inflame the fault lines of public opinion and try to turn Americans against one another. Last month, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube collectively removed thousands of accounts originating inside Iran for coordinated disinformation activities.
Regime-linked hackers aren’t shy about targeting and penetrating American systems. In March of this year, nine Iranian hackers were charged with waging a cyber-threat campaign that targeted 144 US universities, 30 U.S. companies, and five U.S. government agencies.
In June 2013, Iranian hackers conducted a cyber-intrusion into the control system of a dam less than 20 miles from…guess where…New York City.
In Australia, hackers linked to the IRGC have tried to steal sensitive research from universities.
And of course, the Iranian regime has directed an array of violent and destructive activities at its neighbors in the Middle East:
It provides Lebanese Hizballah, a terrorist organization, with $700 million dollars each year.
Hizballah is responsible for some of the most lethal terrorist attacks against Americans abroad in the Middle East. In 1983 – with the approval and financing of the Iranian regime – it bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63, including 17 Americans.
And again, in 1996, Hizballah bombed the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. Air Force personnel.
The regime provides over $100 million each year to terrorist groups like HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The most hypocritical part about this is that the Ayatollah claims he cares about the Palestinians, but from 2008 to 2017, Iran only gave a paltry $20,000 to the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees. Meanwhile, the United States gave nearly 3 billion dollars over the same period – that is 150,000 times as much.
The regime recruits impoverished youth in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, peddles a seductive vision of martyrdom to them, and then ships them off to fight in Syria at the direction of Qasem Soleimani and the Qods Force. The regime has enticed Afghan children as young as fourteen years old to fight in Syria.
Iranian vessels harass ships in international waterways based on maritime claims made in defiance of international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. If the Iranian regime thinks the Strait of Hormuz belongs solely to them, you can bet your last rial the United States will never stand for that.
And just a few weeks ago, Iranian-supported militias in Iraq launched life-threatening rocket attacks against the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad and the U.S. consulate in Basra. Iran did not stop these attacks, which were carried out by proxies it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.
The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to our facilities. America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives.
All of these malicious activities – at a minimum – defy the spirit of the UN Charter. But what about the letter of the law in the form of UN Security Council Resolutions and other instruments of international law? A tally of the evidence here too confirms Iran is an outlaw regime.
Exports of arms from Iran are prohibited by UNSCR 2231. The provision of arms to the Houthis is prohibited by UNSCR 2216. But Iran has done the opposite and armed the Houthis to the teeth.
Resolution 1373 requires all UN Member States to refrain from providing any form of support to entities involved in terrorist acts. Resolution 1701 requires all UN Member States to prevent the direct or indirect supply by its nationals or from its territory of weapons to Lebanon, with some exceptions. Neither of these resolutions stops the Iranian regime from being the number one supplier of Lebanese Hizballah’s arsenal.
From 2006 to 2010, the UN Security Council passed six different resolutions governing Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But from 2007 to 2015, the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors issued no less than 33 reports outlining Iran’s non-compliance with each resolution.
UNSCR 1929 stated that, “Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” But Iran conducted multiple ballistic missile launches between 2010 and 2015 – every one of them a flagrant violation of this provision.
And even when, in connection with JCPOA sanctions relief, the Security Council superseded this provision in UNSCR 2231 with a call upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to such missiles, Iran’s pace of missile launches and tests did not diminish. Iran has conducted multiple ballistic missile launches since January 2016, when the deal was implemented. Today Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East. Each of those ballistic missiles cost a million dollars or more.
I wonder how the struggling people of Iran feel about a missile program that drains their public treasury and causes economic sanctions that constrict their prosperity.
And recently, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that the Government of Iran has no legal basis for the arrest and detention of the American graduate student Xiyue Wang.
Last year the same UN working group called for the immediate release of another American, Siamak Namazi, who was arbitrarily arrested in 2015 while visiting his parents in Iran. In 2016, the working group also concluded that Bob Levinson – who has been missing in Iran for more than 11 years – was arrested without legal grounds and should be immediately released.
We continue to press Iran to uphold its commitment to assist the United States in locating Bob so he can return to his family. All these Americans and others wrongly detained in Iran must come home.
Iran is wasting a lot of time these days trying to discredit the United States over our lawful and justified decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal. But Iran’s own track record of violating international law is among the worst – if not the very worst – in the world. Iran conducts itself with no regard for international law, borders, or lives.
I don’t know how much more evidence I need to offer. There can be no question Iranian destructive activities are truly global in scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior. The ongoing, multi-national, multi-continental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for inaction or indecision.
The United States will continue to coalesce international efforts to change Iranian behavior through pressure, deterrence, and support for the Iranian people. We want every single country on board. This is among President Trump’s highest diplomatic priorities.
The consensus that already exists on Iran’s non-nuclear activities is reflected in the Security Council Resolutions I just mentioned, as well as other instruments of international law.
But enforcement of those Resolutions should be the bare minimum of our actions to hold Iran accountable.
In the wake of President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the nuclear deal, countries are now facing a choice of whether to keep doing business with Iran. Re-imposing sanctions and discouraging international business with Iran is not something we are doing out of spite – this is a necessary security measure. The regime must no longer be allowed to get its hands on billions of dollars that it has already proven it will spread around to its allied client states, rebel groups, and terrorists. Doing business in Iran only pours money into a regime that hoards it for itself and misuses for violent ends: this is what happened during the deal, and what will continue to happen if we do not all take action together.
For decades the world has sought to achieve the elusive goal of a stable Middle East. What better way to proceed toward it than denying resources to the regime most responsible for instability in the region? We must do whatever we can to stop the funding of the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence, so that their agents cannot sustain terrorism and subversion on every continent. Make no mistake – these sanctions and our economic pressure are directed at the regime and its malign proxies, not at the Iranian people.
That is why we have humanitarian exemptions to all of our statutory sanctions that are being re-imposed, and have a range of authorizations in place to allow for certain activities that benefit the Iranian people.
If the world wants to see for itself the full extent of the Iranian regime’s malign activity, the U.S. has just released a booklet chronicling the destructive activities this outlaw regime has perpetrated over the years around the world.
It is a great resource for anyone who wants to see what the revolutionary priorities of this regime really are – check out State.gov to download it.
I’ve talked a lot today about the regime’s broken promises to fellow UN Member States. But there’s another constituency which can put no faith in the words of Iran’s leaders: the Iranian people themselves.
In 1978, before he returned from exile, Ayatollah Khomeini gave an interview touting the glorious things to come for the Iranian people under the tenets of the Islamic Republic.
Among other things, he promised the “eradication of poverty,” and the “improvement of the condition of life of the majority of the people who have been oppressed in various manners.”
How’s that working out? There are psychic hotlines with more accurate predictions.
The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, himself has said, “many people have lost their faith in the future of the Islamic Republic and are in doubt about its power.” That attitude is understandable when one third of Iranian youth are unemployed, while government parking garages are filled with Range Rovers and BMWs.
Thanks to the regime’s failed policies, the Iranian people are battling drastic water shortages and environmental crises.
Last year, Iran’s own energy minister said that 295 cities are facing droughts and water shortages. Meanwhile, the regime has spent untold billions on its nuclear program over the years. The Iranian regime is more concerned with heavy water than drinking water.
In terms of “improving the condition of those who have been oppressed:”
Iran still throws people in prison on spurious charges like “anti-revolutionary behavior,” “corruption on earth,” “siding with global arrogance,” and “crimes against Islam.” Regime vans cruise around the streets of major cities to round up women not obeying the restrictive hijab laws. As part of a larger persecution of the Sunni minority, last year one court sentenced four Sunnis to five years imprisonment for the crime of…jogging.
The law prohibits Muslim citizens from changing or renouncing their religious beliefs. Even the teaching of music – music – is discouraged in schools.
If nations are not moved by the evidence to change their policies toward Iran, that is their prerogative. But how can any nation that claims to sympathize with the people of Iran keep sustaining trade relationships with the lawless and oppressive Ayatollahs?
The United States says this to the people of Iran: our pledges of support do not end with our words. The United States hears you; the United States supports you; the United States is with you. We support your rights to live as a free people, under a government that exercises accountability and treats you with respect.
You deserve better than the fruitless revolution that has been imposed on you by corrupt theocrats.
Our message is consistent with what the protestors on the streets of Iran themselves are crying out for, and what millions of Iranians in the worldwide diaspora have said for nearly forty years. The United States seeks a better way forward with Iran and the Middle East. We also know Iran’s neighbors all want its leaders to take a different path. The whole world does too.
As President Trump and I have said many times, a new agreement is possible, but change must come in the twelve areas I outlined in May, as well as in Iran’s human rights record.
This week our new Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, will meet with members of the Iranian diaspora here in New York. They will share their personal stories about what they and their families and their friends have experienced and endured. They will share their hopes for the future of their home country and the next generation of Iranians. And they will share what we can do to continue supporting, advocating for, and empowering the Iranian people. All Iranians who long for a normal government in Iran should be heard. We will continue these conversations to let the regime in Iran know unambiguously whose side we are on.
I want to close with a quote from an American who often crossed party lines to stand up for the truth – much like our friend Senator Lieberman. Daniel Patrick Moynihan represented the great state of New York for 24 years in the U.S. Senate. He also served as the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations under President Ford.
He once said that, “The United Nations Charter imposes two obligations on members. The first, which is well-known, is to be law-abiding in their relations with other nations: not to attack them, not to subvert them, and so on. But there is a second obligation, which very simply is to be law-abiding in the treatment of one’s own citizens.”
Iran has failed on both these obligations.
Ambassador Moynihan also once said “everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.”
The fact is that Iran’s charm offensive behind closed doors can’t cover up its string of broken promises in the Security Council chamber.
The fact is that the Iranian regime robs its own people to pay for death and destruction abroad.
The fact is that the outlaw Iranian regime has sabotaged the ability of people on every continent to live in peace and with dignity, including its own.
The United States asks all nations to come to terms with these facts and hold Iran accountable in ways it never has before.
Only then can we take new and true steps toward greater security for our own peace-loving people, and greater liberty for those inside Iran.