from today’s demonstration against Iran’s President Ahmadinejad at New York’s United Nation’s headquarters.
I am honored to be with you and with leaders from across this great country – leaders from different faiths and political parties united in a single voice of outrage.
Tomorrow, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will come to New York – to the heart of what he calls the Great Satan – and speak freely in this, a country whose demise he has called for.
Ahmadinejad may choose his words carefully, but underneath all of the rhetoric is an agenda that threatens all who seek a safer and freer world. We gather here today to highlight the Iranian dictator’s intentions and to call for action to thwart him.
He must be stopped.
The world must awake to the threat this man poses to all of us. Ahmadinejad denies that the Holocaust ever took place. He dreams of being an agent in a “Final Solution” – the elimination of the Jewish people. He has called Israel a “stinking corpse” that is “on its way to annihilation.”
Such talk cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a madman -not when Iran just this summer tested long-range Shahab-3 missiles capable of striking Tel Aviv, not when the Iranian nuclear program is nearing completion, and not when Iran sponsors terrorists that threaten and kill innocent people around the world.
The Iranian government wants nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is running at least 3,800 centrifuges and that its uranium enrichment capacity is rapidly improving. According to news reports, U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Iranians may have enough nuclear material to produce a bomb within a year.
The world has condemned these activities. The United Nations Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its illegal nuclear enrichment activities. It has levied three rounds of sanctions. How has Ahmadinejad responded? With the declaration that the “Iranian nation would not retreat one iota” from its nuclear program.
So, what should we do about this growing threat? First, we must succeed in Iraq. If we fail there, it will jeopardize the democracy the Iraqis have worked so hard to build, and empower the extremists in neighboring Iran. Iran has armed and trained terrorists who have killed our soldiers in Iraq, and it is Iran that would benefit from an American defeat in Iraq.
If we retreat without leaving a stable Iraq, Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be bolstered. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons ? they could share them tomorrow with the terrorists they finance, arm, and train today. Iranian nuclear weapons would set off a dangerous regional nuclear arms race that would make all of us less safe.
But Iran is not only a regional threat; it threatens the entire world. It is the no. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. It sponsors the world’s most vicious terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah. Together, Iran and its terrorists are responsible for the deaths of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s, in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, and in Iraq today. They have murdered Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, and other Muslims who have resisted Iran’s desire to dominate the region. They have persecuted countless people simply because they are Jewish.
Iran is responsible for attacks not only on Israelis, but on Jews living as far away as Argentina. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are part of Iran’s official ideology and murder is part of its official policy. Not even Iranian citizens are safe from their government’s threat to those who want to live, work, and worship in peace. Politically-motivated abductions, torture, death by stoning, flogging, and amputations are just some of its state-sanctioned punishments.
It is said that the measure of a country is the treatment of its most vulnerable citizens. By that standard, the Iranian government is both oppressive and barbaric. Under Ahmadinejad’s rule, Iranian women are some of the most vulnerable citizens.
If an Iranian woman shows too much hair in public, she risks being beaten or killed. If she walks down a public street in clothing that violates the state dress code, she could be arrested.
But in the face of this harsh regime, the Iranian women have shown courage. Despite threats to their lives and their families, Iranian women have sought better treatment through the “One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws.” The authorities have reacted with predictable barbarism. Last year, women’s rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 20 lashes and 10 months in prison for committing the crime of “propaganda against the system.” After international protests, the judiciary reduced her sentence to “only” 10 lashes and 36 months in prison and then temporarily suspended her sentence. She still faces the threat of imprisonment.
Earlier this year, Senator Clinton said that “Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is in the forefront of that” effort. Senator Clinton argued that part of our response must include stronger sanctions, including the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. John McCain and I could not agree more.
Senator Clinton understands the nature of this threat and what we must do to confront it. This is an issue that should unite all Americans. Iran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Period. And in a single voice, we must be loud enough for the whole world to hear: Stop Iran!
Only by working together, across national, religious, and political differences, can we alter this regime’s dangerous behavior. Iran has many vulnerabilities, including a regime weakened by sanctions and a population eager to embrace opportunities with the West. We must increase economic pressure to change Iran’s behavior.
Tomorrow, Ahmadinejad will come to New York. On our soil, he will exercise the right of freedom of speech – a right he denies his own people. He will share his hateful agenda with the world. Our task is to focus the world on what can be done to stop him.
We must rally the world to press for truly tough sanctions at the U.N. or with our allies if Iran’s allies continue to block action in the U.N. We must start with restrictions on Iran’s refined petroleum imports. We must reduce our dependency on foreign oil to weaken Iran’s economic influence.
We must target the regime’s assets abroad; bank accounts, investments, and trading partners.
President Ahmadinejad should be held accountable for inciting genocide, a crime under international law.
We must sanction Iran’s Central Bank and the Revolutionary Guard Corps -which no one should doubt is a terrorist organization. Together, we can stop Iran’s nuclear program.
Senator McCain has made a solemn commitment that I strongly endorse: Never again will we risk another Holocaust. And this is not a wish, a request, or a plea to Israel’s enemies. This is a promise that the United States and Israel will honor, against any enemy who cares to test us. It is John McCain’s promise and it is my promise.