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Opening Remarks - Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

December 7, 2011

Mark, thank you very much. Humility is something that I pride myself in, but after that introduction…

That was very kind. I appreciate that very much. It’s great to be here.

Cliff, I don’t know if you remember. I was a member, as you heard, of the State Senate. I came to Washington as we were trying to move forward. And I came into your office and sat down – this was years ago – and sat down just to pick your brain to figure out the best way to impress upon my colleagues the threat that Florida, the threat that the nation, that we were facing. And you graciously gave of your time to a State Senator who was just trying to do some good work to enhance international security. Thank you for that and thanks for all of the work that you do.

(Cross-talk)

I know that Jim Woolsey is here somewhere. Chairman Woolsey, thank you for being here. It’s nice to see you.

Also, Peter Earnest, thanks for hosting this evening. And to so many of the FDD professionals, researchers, I’ve seen so many of you. Most of you have been to my office or appeared before my committee at one time or another. It is an honor for me to be here and join with you.

And finally, I know that Stanley Tate from Florida and the Mayers from Florida, good friends from down south and other friends from around the country, it is an honor to be with all of you.

Look, I came here tonight for a simple reason. And that is that the work that the FDD does is incredibly valuable to those of us on the Hill who are committed to the issues that you champion. I’d like to thank FDD for its commitment to international security, to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, promoting democracy and human rights around the world, and standing up the safety and security of the State of Israel.

Mark Dubowitz not only gave a great introduction. Mark works closely with our office as do so many of the folks from FDD to pursue these aims, these vital national security interests and these goals that we all share.

I have worked closely with the Foundation in our efforts to tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime, both economically and in the area of human rights.

And though most of the focus here in Washington has been on economic sanctions and ways to get at the Iranian regime to stop its illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons through financial means – the focus has been on those sorts of sanctions. I wanted to come tonight because we must recognize that working toward human rights and democracy promotion in Iran and around the world is also in our nation’s interest and it is also a vital international security focus.

The Iranian regime is at a crossroads, as I’m sure you are going to hear from people far smarter than I over the balance of this conference. Over the past year, cracks in Ahmadinejad’s base of support have formed, and recent events like the violent storming of the British embassy; the thwarted assassination attempt that would have taken place just down the road, and as Cliff points out, with the brazen acknowledgement that Americans would have been killed as part of that attempt. All of these have left Iran more isolated from the international community than ever before.

As the regime struggles under the pressure of economic sanctions,  fear of Iran’s own version of the “Arab Spring” could push Ahmadinejad and the mullahs to tighten their grip on power and ramp up their efforts to repress anyone in the country who stands up for freedom and for democracy.

In an attempt to aid the Iranian people in their efforts to stand up to this regime, earlier this year, I, together with my colleague Congressman Dold from Illinois, introduced the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Promotion Act.

This bill has now been incorporated into the Iran Threat Reduction Act – the larger bill that I am hopeful will pass the House of Representatives within the next week.

The bill not only imposes mandatory sanctions on Iran’s worst human rights abusers – including those implicated in the violence following the 2009 elections that were stolen from the Iranian people, but it declares that it is U.S. policy to deny the Government of Iran the ability to continue to oppress their people, to fully and publicly support the Iranian people’s democracy efforts, and to help them produce, access and share information freely and safely in order to defeat the regime’s efforts and to block the regime’s efforts to jam satellite broadcasting.

FDD, you should know as I’m sure you do, has been instrumental in helping to identify many of the technologies used by the Iranian regime to repress its people. And it is many of these technologies are currently being exported by the Iranians to Syria.  There is no doubt the regime has been actively aiding Assad in his brutal crackdown on the Syrian people, having killed over 4000 of his own people.  

Reports have estimated that Iran has provided Syrian security services with more than $6 billion of aid including weapons, surveillance equipment, technology to monitor e-mail, cell phones, and social media, and they have sent members of its elite Quds Force to train Assad’s forces.  

The Iranians clearly have a vested interest in ensuring that democracy does not flourish in Syria.  Assad’s Syria serves as the conduit for most weapons shipments to Hezbollah and to Hamas and other terrorist organizations aimed at the destruction of Israel and aimed continually at attacks against Americans and American soldiers.  In fact, earlier this year Iran began constructing a $23 million base in Syria to house weapons.

The evidence is clear - The Iranian threat is the single greatest threat to international security.

Last month, the IAEA report confirmed what those of us in this room already knew - that is that the regime continues to be focused on and is determined to acquire nuclear weapons.

We know that the regime is tripling its output of 20 percent enriched uranium under the guise of powering a medical research reactor.

We know they continue to install advanced centrifuges at an underground facility.

And, we know it is only a short jump from 20 percent enriched uranium to the 90 percent enrichment level needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

Iran continues to defy international law, continues to look for ways to evade sanctions, continues to brutally repress its own people, and continues to move closer and closer toward weaponization.

We must continue to keep pressure on the regime, through unilateral and multilateral economic and human rights sanctions.

Friends, I’ll continue to do my part in Congress to keep the pressure on – to pass the toughest sanctions legislation including language designating the Central Bank of Iran as financing terrorism and proliferation activity – and to work with our international partners to do the same.

But it is the efforts of you, it is the efforts of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, that are dedicated to these issues day in and day out. And Cliff and Mark, you understand, you should understand, and I know you do, but take it from this Member of Congress, your work every day makes a real difference in these battles that we wage.  

So I thank you for having me hear tonight. I thank you to FDD and everyone participating in this week’s conference. And I thank you for your commitment to promoting democracy and strengthening international security. I know that you will enjoy this conference. I am sorry that I am not able to participate over the next couple days, but enjoy. And with the information that you learn and the information that you take back, please share your commitment with those that you know.

Together we will be able to continue to stand up for a free world that recognizes the importance of democracy. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.