Comprehensive legislation aimed at discouraging Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons was recently introduced on both the U.S. House and Senate floors, and now the bill’s proponents, including lead sponsor U. S. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, are asking for support from their fellow congressmen.
“We’re trying to create an environment where Iranians will have second thoughts about doing this,” Durbin said during a special communal leadership conference call Tuesday organized by JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).
The community briefing was part of JCRC’s ongoing Action Plan for Iran Advocacy.
The Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 (S.B. 970 and H.R. 1400)—introduced by Durbin and Sen. Gordon Smith (OR) in the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Chairman Tom Lantos (CA) and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) in the House—sets out a plan to impose additional economic sanctions against Iran.
"Iran’s nuclear aspirations are of great concern to the Jewish community since the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denies the Holocaust, has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and his regime continues the long-standing Iranian policies of supporting Hezbollah and Hamas and aiding terror attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets around the world," said JCRC Executive Director Jay Tcath. "But this is not exclusively a ‘Jewish’ or ‘Israeli’ issue; a nuclear-armed Iran would create a security concern for the U.S., other Arab states, Europe and the entire civilized world, and Durbin said the success of the legislation will depend on other countries’ support and involvement.
“We have to expand this to other countries who share in our beliefs,” Durbin said. “We’re reaching out in every direction.”
Key provisions of the bill include tightening enforcement of the existing U.S. Sanctions Law, isolating Iran from international financial institutions, calling for divestment from Iran, promoting democracy throughout Iran and supporting the establishment of an international nuclear fuel bank.
Another important provision, Durbin said, involves prohibiting all nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia until Russia agrees to cease nuclear cooperation with Iran. “When we turn our backs, (Russians) end up giving technology to people who are our enemies,” he said.
The best way to deal with Iran is to aggressively pursue sanctions regimes such as the proposed legislation and not to fight through military action, Durbin said.
“If any president of the U.S., be it this one or any president in the future, suggested military invasions or military operations involving Iran, I don’t think the American population would support it,” he said, noting that the current situation in Iraq has “poisoned the wells.”
For now, Durbin said he the other proponents of the bill are working feverishly to assemble co-sponsors and gain the support of other senators and representatives.
“You’ve got to contact your senators,” he urged. “We need your help.”
“This conference call with Senator Durbin is an example of the type of programming JCRC is providing, as part of our expanded Iran Advocacy Action Plan, to its 46 constituent Jewish groups and, through them, to many tens of thousands of their members," Tcath said. “It is our hope that individuals, with this information, in turn take action of their own as well.”
In addition to Durbin’s briefing, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, the Hon. Baruch Binah, briefed participants about the current situation on Israel’s southern border with Gaza. Palestinian Hamas terrorists have been bombarding the Western Negev, including the Israeli city of Sderot, with hundreds of Kassam missiles, wounding and killing civilians and inflicting property damage. Binah also discussed the situation in Lebanon, where the Lebanese Army has been acting against Palestinian terrorists said to be affiliated with Al Quaida.