March 03, 2009

Senator Gillibrand’s Opening Statement For Hearing On Iranian Political And Nuclear Relations And U.S. Policy Options

Washington, D.C. - New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following opening statement for this morning's hearing on Iranian Political and Nuclear Relations and U.S. Policy Options:

"Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this critical hearing. I want to also recognize our distinguished panelists for joining us today to share their expertise and recommendations and look forward to hearing their testimony.

"Iran's stated interest in nuclear technology is one of the most serious national security challenges facing the United States and the entire international community .Over the past eight years, we have seen the growth in Iran's power and influence in the region, threatening our nation's interests in the Middle East. Iran is a chief supporter of terrorist group like Hezbollah and Hamas, supplying them with both weapons and financial assistance to carry out their attacks.

"As we heard from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, who I had the honor to meet with last week, Iran now has enough uranium that if further purified, could be used to build an atomic bomb - a process that could be completed in just months. This alarming news is compounded by the fact that Iran's government is isolated and its economy vulnerable - making them even more dangerous and unpredictable.

"Iran's nuclear quest is an existential threat to our ally Israel, the Middle East as a whole, and to world stability.

"To address this growing concern, the United States has begun a process of engagement with Iran.  There is good reason to believe that there are elements in Iran who recognize that it is in Iran's best interest to engage. Effective engagement now is essential.

"Additionally, while offering positive incentives to Iran, the United States must continue to strengthen international pressure to make it clear to Iran that its failure to work with the international community will have significant repercussions. We must continue to work with Russia and China by using diplomatic solutions to influence Iran favorably.

"These additional measures should include targeted sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard, which this body urged the Secretary of State to include on the list of recognized terrorist groups; a measure I supported.

"We should also seek increased limitations on Iran's importation of refined petroleum products.  Despite being a major oil producer, Iran imports close to half its gasoline.  I support the efforts of our colleagues in the House who recently sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Chu requesting that he reevaluate a recent federal contract awarded to the Swiss firm that is Iran's leading supplier of gasoline.

"Again, thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing and I look forward to receiving the testimony of our distinguished panelists."

Witnesses at today's hearing included the Honorable Frank G. Wisner II, Former U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, Egypt, Philippines, and India, the Honorable Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Mark Fitzpatrick, Senior Fellow for the Non-Proliferation International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Karim Sadjadpour, Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.