December 17, 2019

Senate Policy Briefing Iran Uprising: A Nation Rises for Freedom

Senate Policy Briefing
Iran Uprising: A Nation Rises for Freedom
Kennedy Caucus Room
December 4, 2019
Message from Senator Ben Cardin from Maryland, the ranking member of subcommittee on Western hemisphere, the transition that transnational crime, civilian security, democracy, human rights and global woman issue, Foreign Relation Committee. This message was read by Jonathan M. Weadon, Foreign Policy Fellow, office of Senator Cardin.
Good morning. Senator Carden would like to be here. He expresses his regrets, he is unable to attend, but I have been asked to read the following on his behalf.
General Jones, Ambassador Bloomfield, distinguished guests and friends of the Iranian people.
I would like to extend my thanks to the Organization of Iranian American Communities for hosting this event. And of course, would like to single out the Iranian American Community of Maryland for their invitation to me to deliver some brief remarks. I hope everyone gathered here today had a wonderful Thanksgiving last month as well as a joyous moment. These are tense times in Iran and its neighboring states. Military operations by Turkey and Russia, supported by the Iranian and Syrian regimes, have made what was already a dangerous refugee crisis in northern Syria even more chaotic with the resulting instability, creating a fertile environment for Islamic state elements to regroup.
Although glimmers of hope for a resolution of the five-year conflict in Yemen have appeared, even an end to the slaughter will only be the beginning of an arduous process to rebuild that shattered country. Popular outpourings of frustration with government mismanagement, price increases and lack of opportunity have brought hundreds of thousands of protesters into streets across Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran. The protest in Lebanon and Iraq have succeeded in convincing the premiers in both States to resign and we hold out hope that their successors will be responsive to the demands of their people. Sadly, and unacceptably, the unelected regime in Tehran is less interested in responding to the demands of its people than it is and using any means necessary to assure that its dominance over the lives of Iranians remains unchallenged. As we have seen in recent weeks, the security apparatus of Iran has resorted to every tactic in the dictatorial playbook to quash the protests they have shut down internet service made mass arrests and directed propaganda efforts to allege that the protests are nothing more than the manifestation of a foreign clot under the auspices of the CIA, Islamic state, and Kurdish militants. The regime has no evidence to back up this last claim because the facts of the protest already speak for themselves. The Iranian economy creaking under the weight of us sanctions on its oil trade and a number of key industries has seen significant inflation, rising unemployment, and the need for the government to reduce fuel subsidies, a catalyst for the protest where Iranians have been able to get access to the internet, they have posted dozens of videos appearing to show security forces violently suppressing demonstrators. The unreliable status of the internet has made it difficult to get a precise figure on the number of protesters who have died, but it is certainly in the hundreds with thousands of others detained by the security forces. I have long been an advocate for the protection of human rights as well as support for positive democratic change in Iran.
Countless Iranians had been abused by the regime since the revolution in 1979 and many more continued to be, as we can see in the daily headlines from Iran. We have seen this abuse of power play out again and again throughout the history of post 1979 Iran. We saw it during 2009 green revolution and again in 2017 and 2018 as the Iranians tried to make their voices heard in response to poor economic conditions and government corruption. We see this violent protection of the regimes, interests outside of Iran’s borders throughout Yemen, the Gulf, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. My message to you this morning is that despite the regime’s best efforts to hide its activities, the world is watching, and Congress is watching, and the United States is watching as well. These repeated displays of state violence are why I’ve introduced legislation to mandate US strategies against Iran’s malign activities outside of its borders and why I have co-sponsored resolutions supporting the right of Iranian citizens to have their voices heard.
One final note. While I will never cease pursuing accountability for Iranian officials who violate human rights or benefit from corruption. And while I will always support the rights of Iranian people to self-determination, I’m committed to making sure that we do not respond to regime provocations and engage in an authorized military activity against Iran. The current authorization for military force, which dates from the days following the 9/11 attacks is not the proper means to permit war with Iran and to treat it as such, would be a Constitutional violation of Congress’s duty to authorize any such action. Now, as with anytime we are witnessed to acts of injustice, our most potent weapon is making sure the world is witness to Iran’s murderous reprisals against its own people, and that we speak with one voice and demanding an immediate end to the bloodshed. Thank you.

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