6 May 2003
Brownback Says U.S. Must Support Iranian Dissidents' Struggle for Democracy
Says peace in Iraq, Afghanistan impossible with Iranian regime in power
Senator Sam Brownback (Republican from Kansas), an influential lawmaker regarding U.S. policy toward South and Central Asia, says the United States must maintain a clear and strong opposition to the Iranian regime and support the efforts of Iranian dissidents to achieve democracy.
"We must be clear and strong against the Iranian regime," Brownback said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington May 6.
"We are at a critical turning point in our relationship with Iran. If we falter now — by giving any type of comfort or legitimacy to the existing regime — against the will of Iran's own people, we will be making a mistake we will pay for for years to come," Brownback said.
Brownback is the ranking member of the Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The senator said with 70 percent of the Iranian population under the age of 35, the overwhelming majority are pro-American.
"What we are seeing in Iran is truly historic — the people are resisting the regime through non-violent means and they are successfully weakening it from the inside," Brownback said.
The senator said the Iranian regime is seeking to spread its influence to Iraq and Afghanistan because they are losing control over its population inside Iran.
"[I]t should be crystal clear to us all that we will never be able to establish a secure and free Iraq or Afghanistan as long as the Iranian regime remains intact," the senator said.
Brownback said he is drafting legislation designed to put the U.S. Congress on record backing the Iranian democracy dissidents, to provide financial support for the Iranian-American community to help their loved ones inside Iran, and to support American-based private radio and television stations that broadcast directly into Iran.
"Now is not the time for timidity — or for trying to win the favor of a regime that is going out of its way to cause us harm. We must show the world that we stand by who we are: the land of the free and the home of the brave," Brownback said.
Following is the transcript of Brownback's speech to the American Enterprise Institute:
Iran AEI Speech
Hello friends — I am thrilled to join you for such an important conference. As usual, Washington can count on the American Enterprise Institute to keep ahead of the curve and keep the spotlight on the important issues of the day.
The issue we gather here to discuss today is at both the most significant source of terrorism in the world as well as the single biggest opportunity for a peaceful democratic revolution in our age. The issue is Iran — and the importance of standing in solidarity with the brave Iranians who are resisting the tyranny and terror of the Islamic Regime to win back their country.
In practical terms, this means that America must abandon any talk of engaging the self-described reformers who have not reformed the system in the 7 years they have been in power.
In a country where nearly 70% of the people are under the age of 35, the majority of Iranians today have never known a system of government other than the tyranny of the mullahs — and they rightly place the blame for their miserable lives, on the regime that promised to care for them — but has instead, only brought sorrow, domination and torture.
The experiment that was the Islamic revolution as a form of government has failed ... to see this, you need only look into the faces of Iran's youth.
These brave kids — and their mothers and grandmothers, are risking everything for a better life. They know that each time they take to the streets protesting the orders of the regime, that they face imprisonment, torture, and perhaps death ... but they continue to defy their oppressors by the tens of thousands.
The Iranian-American community and Iranians themselves explain that this courage comes from a determination not to live lives of continual desperation, lives without liberty.
What we are seeing in Iran is truly historic — the people are resisting the regime through non-violent means and they are successfully weakening it from the inside.
But this regime won't go away easily. As a result of the defiance of their people, the regime is telling Iranians that America has cut a deal with the current government in Iran — that America will not support the brave protestors who are giving their lives and their blood for freedom. They are being told daily, that America will soon loosen its tough sanctions on Iran — that America will recognize the Islamic regime and look the other way against its terrorist acts.
Before I go any further, I want to emphasize to the Iranians who may read this speech, that this is absolutely untrue. America has cut no deal with Iran. America WILL NOT cut a deal with Iran.
Iranians are being told this because it is the surest way for the regime to dishearten the people and tear down the glimmer of hope that is inspiring their pursuit of greater freedom and equality. Because right now, America is the only world power that has stood strong against this tyrannical regime. It is America who drew a line in the sand and told Iran that there are consequences for such destructive behavior. The youth of Iran know this — and that is why there has been such an immense sea change in the attitudes of the Iranian people toward America.
Some of my colleagues may be surprised to learn, as I was, that there has evolved a great change in Iran which has slowly taken place over the last several years. Many of us only hear about Iran in the news when Western media show violent protests — and the burning of the American flag surrounded by chants of "Death to America."
But my friends, that is exactly what the brutal regime in control of Iran wants you to think. The fact is, the overwhelming majority of Iranians today are strongly pro-American.
After Sept. 11th, the Iranian people took to the streets holding impromptu candlelight vigils in solidarity with the American people.
As you can imagine, such action was highly embarrassing to the ruling mullahs — and harsh crackdowns were ordered, people were again imprisoned and tortured. What does it say to us that Iranians KNEW this would be the consequence of their action — and they did it anyway.
Contrast these scenes with the images that came from other nearby countries on that day, who are supposedly our allies — images that celebrated the destruction that came to our country on Sept. 11th. How can we fight a war on terrorism where we engage our enemies and ignore our friends? If we coddle the Iranian regime one iota, that is what we will be doing!!
Iran's Impacts on a New Iraq:
As we proceed through the difficult task of establishing an open society in Iraq, and fighting terrorists networks around the world, it is crucial that American policymakers understand the role Iran is playing in the region — and why we will never have true stability as long as the Iranian regime is in power. After all, by the U.S. State Department's own admission, Iran remains one of, if not THE largest state-sponsor of terrorism left in the world today.
We hear daily reports about Iranian meddling in Iraq — do we really think it is a coincidence that Iraq's Shiite community is now being stirred to chant the old Iranian slogan, "Death to America?" No! The Iranian government is attempting to infiltrate Iraq and revive the concept of the Islamic revolution which their own people have rejected. Iran's ruling mullahs are taking full advantage of the fact that Saddam Hussein's regime was so oppressive to this community. It was not Iran who liberated the people of Iraq, but that will not stop them from attempting to take the credit for it ... and using the cover of Islam to attain the political means they seek.
One needs only to look at the clerics inside Iran who have been jailed for speaking out against the Iranian regime's interpretation of Islam to see that the Iranian government cares little for the true feelings of religious devotion they manipulate in Iraq. But so long as we allow Iran to get away with this devious distortion, we will see more and more of the supposed "anti-American" rallies in Baghdad.
Aside from it being the right thing to do to support the dissidents in Iran, we must remember the national security benefits which will come to our own country if these brave Iranians succeed in creating a real democracy. Don't forget, that Iran's regime is the lead supporter for the terrorist groups, Hezbollah and Hamas.
The radical Islamic regime in Iran is intent on spreading the Islamic revolution throughout the region. Iran's mullahs are increasingly desperate to gain influence in Iraq and Afghanistan precisely because they are losing control of their own population inside Iran. The best hope for extending this dying regime comes in the opportunity to stir up the Shiite population in Iraq and fund the remaining warlords of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
My friends — it should be crystal clear to us all that we will never be able to establish a secure and free Iraq or Afghanistan as long as the Iranian regime remains in tact.
There is much talk about the need to "make nice" with Iran because the U.S. is so involved elsewhere in the region. But as we have seen, the Iranians have not remained quiet, they have not stayed out of our operations inside Iraq and Afghanistan — and we would be foolish to believe they ever would.
Now we come to the heart of why I am here today: We must be clear and strong against the Iranian regime. We must not allow ourselves the luxury of believing that Iran will keep any commitment it makes.
After all, Iran today is a country which extensively abuses its own people; a country which sponsors terrorism upon innocent civilians; and, it is a country that is actively undermining all progress toward democracy in the Middle East. We are at a critical turning point in our relationship with Iran. If we falter now — by giving any type of comfort or legitimacy to the existing regime — against the will of Iran's own people, we will be making a mistake we will pay for for years to come.
The Iranian people themselves have turned away from the concept of reform — because for seven years, they have watched as the reformers did not reform ... now, their cry is for an internationally monitored referendum. This would give the Iranian people the opportunity to vote on what type of government Iran should have — and by all indications, if this were to happen, the new Iranian government would be a democracy, would respect human rights, and would give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and state sponsored terrorism.
Clearly, this is the best outcome that America and the world could hope for. For our own security as well as for the sake of millions of innocent people in the Middle East who desire peace, we must send strong, unambiguous and constant support to the people of Iran as they take on their most difficult struggle.
Next Steps for Congress on Iran:
We are on the verge of an historic shift inside Iran. It is in America's best interest to support the Iranian people as they struggle for freedom. I have been joined by a number of colleagues in putting forward a series of action steps that will put the U.S. Congress on record supporting the Iranian democracy dissidents as well as providing some financial support for the Iranian-American community to organize and help their loved ones inside Iran as well as for the American based private radio and TV stations that broadcast directly into Iran.
The first step is to unequivocally stand in solidarity with the Iranian people against this terrorist regime. To that end, Sen. Wyden and I put forward S. Res 82, a resolution which states the following:
2) the positive gestures of the U.S. toward Iran should be directed toward the people of Iran, and not political figures whose survival depends upon preservation of the current regime
3) it should be the policy of the U.S. to seek a genuine democratic government in Iran that will restore freedom to the Iranian people, abandon terrorism, and live in peace and security with the international community.
I urge my colleagues to co-sponsor this resolution which I look forward to calling up for a vote in the near future.
Another action item lies in an amendment I am planning to put forward in the Senate Foreign Authorization bill as it moves to the Senate floor this week. The amendment is titled The Iran Democracy Act. It states that it is US policy to support democracy in Iran.
Further, the amendment would call for using the new Radio Farda to host programming from Iranian Americans who are talking with their families and loved ones inside Iran about the desire for an internationally monitored referendum vote on what form of government Iran should have.
This amendment would also provide grants for private radio and TV stations in the U.S. that broadcast pro-democracy news and information into Iran. These stations are only able to empower and encourage Iranians for two hours a day due to a lack of funds. The amendment also provides funds to translate books, videos and other materials into Persian — specifically, information on building and organizing non-violent social movements.
This amendment could come up for a vote very soon — our biggest hurdle is educating members about what is going on inside Iran — so that we take advantage of this historic opportunity.
Finally, I will be introducing legislation soon which would create an Iran Democracy Foundation to provide grants to the Iranian-American community and for the radio and TV Stations in the U.S. that broadcast directly into Iran — as a way of helping Iranians to take back their own country — and in the process, increase global security for us all.
My friends, the simple fact is that the Iranians are going to solve the problem that Iran poses to the rest of the world. All they really need from us is strong and consistent political and moral support.
There is too much at stake in the region and in protecting our own shores to shy away from this responsibility. If Iranians are willing to be imprisoned, tortured and killed for merely demanding a better life for themselves and their children, the very least we can do is to support them whole-heartedly.
Now is not the time for timidity — or for trying to win the favor of a regime that is going out of its way to cause us harm. We must show the world that we stand by who we are: the land of the free and the home of the brave.(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)