National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Date: July 12, 2007
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SESSIONS. I will be glad to yield to Senator Nelson if he wishes to share some thoughts.

The amendment offered today, simply put, acknowledges that we have a growing threat to peace and security that arises from Iran's nuclear and missile program, and this amendment would make it the policy of the United States to develop effective defenses against this threat as soon as possible.

The amendment also emphasizes the need to ensure that the defenses we deploy are coordinated with existing programs of our NATO allies. A number of Senators and Members of the House want to be sure that we coordinate with the NATO allies, and this amendment would call for that.

Sadly, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to threaten the United States and our allies and that threat must be recognized and confronted. My amendment signals the resolve of the United States to do that. At a time when Iran is openly threatening to destroy the United States and our various allies--and is providing weapons, such as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, which we have pretty clearly traced to Iran today, and that are killing our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan--demonstrating our understanding of the seriousness of their threat and their purpose is critical for us to have clear thinking and sound policy. So I appreciate my colleagues, such as Senator Lieberman, who spoke eloquently and offered an amendment on the need to confront Iran's support of worldwide terrorism, which we voted on yesterday--in a very strong vote.

I see missile defense as another facet of confronting and facing this threat. Even in the Middle East, where anti-Israel sentiments are all too common, Iran is the only country in the Middle East where the President openly calls for the destruction of Israel. Shortly after taking office in 2005, Ahmadi-Nejad, the President, rallied supporters at a conference, and the conference was called ``A World Without Zionism.'' In that speech he said, ``The current skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land. As the Imam said''--and here he is referring to the Ayatollah Khomeini--``Israel must be wiped off the map.''

But Israel isn't the only target of Iran's crash program to develop long-range missiles with nuclear warheads--long-range missiles they are now developing. He is developing also nuclear warheads. In the same speech Ahmadi-Nejad was quoted as saying this: ``Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury.''

That includes, of course, the United States--us--and our allies in Europe and the Middle East. For anyone who doubts that Ahmadi-Nejad's threat was meant to include America, he has also been quoted as saying this: ``And God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism.''

A world without the United States. It does not get much more straightforward than that. Arnaud de Borchgrave, an experienced world observer and editor at large of the Washington Times and United Press International, had a piece in the Washington Times yesterday, and he pointed out some of the examples of the kind of extremism, real extremism, we have seen from the Iranian leadership.

Now, let me say this: The Iranian people are good people. They have quite an educated population, certainly for that area of the world. There is no need and no justification for Iranian leadership to betray those people, the people of that historic nation, with these kinds of policies. In truth, President Ahmadi-Nejad and certain clerics are damaging the history, the economy, the people, and the reputation of Iran. There is no reason for this. It should not continue. Unfortunately, it is reality. And while we can hope for change, change does not seem likely in the short run.

While the people of Iran may, and I think do, oppose this extremism, the President and the extremists, certain mullahs and others, seem to be firmly in control of the country and determined to pursue a radical and extremist ideology and policy. It is not only a tragedy for Iran that this is occurring but for the whole world.

Mr. de Borchgrave lists some of the statements that are more than sufficient to alert the world to the dangers and the intentions of the leaders of Iran today. This is what he wrote yesterday, and I quote:

Whether Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad said he wants to wipe Israel off the map is still contested, even by anti-mullah Iranian-Americans. But that he wants to wipe out the Jewish state, there can be no doubt. As he completes his visits to every Iranian town, the collection of his pronunciamentos is edifying reading.

Culled from a wide variety of sources, ranging from the Agence France Presse, the French national news agency, to the London Daily Telegraph, to the Suddeutsche Zeitung Online, to France's Le Monde and Liberation, Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad spells out the target and the strategy: ``This regime--here he is talking about Israel--will one day disappear. The Zionist regime is a rotten tree that will be blown away by one storm. The countdown for the destruction of Israel has begun. Zionists are the personification of Satan.''

He goes on to say:

In the case of any unwise move by the fake regime of Israel, Iran's response will be so destructive and quick the regime will regret its move forever. The west invented the myth of the massacre of the Jews (in World War II) and placed it above Allah, religions, and profits.

So he continues to assert that the Holocaust was a myth, invented by the West.

What about his strategic plan?

We don't shy away from declaring Islam is ready to rule the world. The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world. Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi, a 5-year-old boy who vanished 1,100 years ago and who will lead the world into an era of peace and prosperity, but not before the planet is first convulsed by death and destruction.

He goes on to say:

Soon, Islam will become the dominating force in the world occupying first place in the number of followers among other religions. Is there a craft more beautiful, more sublime, more divine than the craft of giving yourself to martyrdom and becoming holy? Do not doubt, Allah will prevail and Islam will conquer mountaintops of the entire world. Islam can recruit hundreds of suicide bombers a day. Suicide is an invincible weapon. Suicide bombers in this land showed us the way and they enlighten our future. The will to commit suicide is one of the best ways of life.

This is the President of a country that is steadfastly moving forward to develop nuclear weapons and steadfastly advancing its ability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

What does he say about nuclear power?

By the grace of Allah we will be a nuclear power and Iran does not give a damn about the IEA, the International Energy Agency, their demands to freeze enrichment of nuclear fuel. Iran does not give a damn about resolutions.

That is the U.N. Resolutions. Those are his words. There are other comments. He goes on to say, as I indicated earlier, at this conference on the world without Zionism--the President of Iran said:

To those who doubt, to those who say it is not possible, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible.

You can say this is an exaggeration. You can say this is not realistic. But I suggest that is the repeated statements of the leader of a very dangerous nation, a nation with real capabilities. They are developing a nuclear capability and an expanding and growing missile capability. I think yesterday Senator Lieberman, after the vote on his amendment, summed it up very well. This is what he said:

The threat posed by Iran to our soldiers, to our allies, to our national security is a truth that cannot be wished or waved away. Congress today began the process of confronting it.

We also need to take one more step in that process by making clear that we are not going to leave our Nation or our allies in Europe vulnerable to any missile threats from Iran.

Most Senators were in the room a few weeks ago when the Director of National Intelligence, ADM Mike McConnell, gave us a classified briefing and described in detail the threat posed by Iran. Having received that briefing, I think few of us would doubt that Iran does pose a threat to the security of the United States and our allies. It is a threat to us. It is not something we need to be intimidated about. We don't need to back down to Iran. Militarily
there is no doubt in the mind of this Senator or any objective observer's mind what would happen if a conflict developed here. But we need to be realistic, we need to seek to avoid conflict, but we need to pursue policies that will make sure we don't allow our citizens to fall under a risk of a nuclear missile attack.

So they are pursuing, under Ahmadi-nejad's leadership, the means to kill millions of people with the single push of a button. When Iran's Shehab-3 missiles are paraded through the streets of Iran, they are draped with banners stating, ``Israel must be wiped off the map.'' That is what they put on their missiles. With a range of 1,300 kilometers and a payload capacity of over 700 kilograms, the Shehab-3 has the capacities to implement Ahmadi-Nejad's genocidal agenda. Iran is also working hard to develop missiles that can reach Europe and the States. The Shehab-4 is well along in development and will reportedly be able to reach most of continental Europe. The Shehab-5 and Shehab-6 have also been discussed in open sources. They are developing those advanced missiles. These sources claim these models will have the capacity to reach the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Iran's ability to develop nuclear warheads for those missiles are proceeding apace as well. In April, in a speech at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, there in Iran, Ahmadi-Nejad stated:

I declare that as of today our dear country has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.

International Atomic Energy Agency later confirmed that Iranian enrichment capabilities were developing rapidly while our knowledge and understanding of their nuclear program was decreasing. This uncertainty is very disturbing.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported the construction of an underground tunnel complex near its enrichment facilities at Natanz. It appears, therefore, that Iran is preparing to protect and hide its nuclear capabilities.

Nothing about Iran's behavior recently suggests that it will use these capabilities in a responsible manner. In fact, to the contrary, we expect Ahmadinejad to use nuclear-tipped missiles to threaten, blackmail, and terrorize the nations that oppose its radical agenda and using them, actually using them based on some of the extreme statements he has made, cannot be placed out of the question.

We all remember last March when Iran seized 15 British sailors and held them as hostages. Imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when Iran could take the whole city of London as a hostage with a nuclear threat. According to reports in the Washington Post, the intelligence community assesses that Iran's ICBMs and its nuclear weapons capability will both mature in 2015. That is not that far away. As a result, the cities of the eastern seaboard and of Europe are expected to face the threat of nuclear attack from Iran in less than 8 years.

Keep in mind that 2015 is the midpoint of the estimated range. Iran's capability could come online in 2017, later, or even by 2013, if things proceed faster than expected. That may seem like a long way away, but an adequate defense will take a long time to build and we need to start now. According to the Missile Defense Agency, even if Congress fully funded the European defense site--which I hope that we will. We refer to it as the "third site,'' and it is funded every year--the system would not be up and running until 2013. Any delay to that schedule--which could happen for a number of reasons--could open up a window of vulnerability during which Iran would have the means to attack us and our allies, perhaps with nuclear weapons, and we will have no means of defending the American people or our allies against them.

The good news is we have it in our power to prevent this window of vulnerability and keep it from opening if we commit as a nation to doing so. My amendment represents an opportunity for the Senate to go on record with such a commitment. An effective missile defense, which we would promptly begin to deploy, could convince the Iranian leadership that developing such missiles for their nuclear weapons is a futile undertaking. Perhaps we may have already missed, however, that opportunity to actually deter them in this way, making it all the more important that we get moving on development of the means to defend ourselves and our allies.

This amendment is more than about setting U.S. policy on missile defense, it is about sending a message to the rest of the world, our friends and enemies alike, that we take this Iranian threat seriously and we intend to stand up to it. The debate over the third site is being watched with great interest around the world. Some may be drawing conclusions about our commitment to meet this threat head on and doubting that we are committed. In fact, I will note that we effectively deployed and continue to upgrade a national missile defense system that can meet the North Korean missile threat, which is somewhat more advanced than Iran's but not a lot. We know we have this capability and we should do it with Iran also.

Imagine sitting in Mr. Ahmadi-nejad's shoes today. He provides sophisticated weapons to our enemies in Iraq, killing hundreds of American troops in the process. In response, one of our colleagues proposed legislation to prohibit the President from attacking Iran without congressional authorization. Ahmadinejad rushes headlong toward a nuclear weapon and long-range delivery capability and both the Senate and the House cut funding for missile defenses that could neutralize the threat. Ahmadi-Nejad must not feel like his bluster and threats will be effective.

They will not be. Imagine the conclusions that Vladimir Putin is drawing from those media reports. In February of 2007, Mr. Putin and the Russian Army Chief of Staff, Yury Baluyevsky, threatened to unilaterally withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibits the United States and Russia from deploying arsenals of short- and medium-range missiles in Europe. Mr. Putin later suspended Russia's obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which historically allowed NATO and the Warsaw Pact to remove much of the military personnel and material that was arrayed along Europe's central front during the height of the Cold War.

Finally, in June of this year, Putin directly threatened to focus Russia's nuclear arsenal on ``new targets in Europe.'' Putin claimed that ``the strategic balance in the world is being upset'' and that Russia ``will be creating a system of countering that anti-missile system.''

These threats coincided with Russian tests of an advanced ICBM, the RS-24, by Russia.

It ought not. Of course, any third site in Europe will be ineffective against the massive missile capability of Russia. We don't have any capability of doing that. We can create a system that will be very effective against anything the Iranians can do in the decades to come but not Russia. Our plans have no intention of affecting Russia. But we also need not be affected by Mr. Putin's bluster or that we be slowed down in our legitimate interests in protecting our country and our allies from Iranian threats by these kinds of comments from the Russians.

We reduced somewhat--not greatly--but $84 million in funding for the third site in Europe. Colleagues felt that money could not be effectively spent. They did not believe it was necessary in this year's budget. The problem might be that some would conclude the action by our committee in taking those steps to trim the budget would be a plan to kill missile defenses in Europe.

Yesterday, an article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled ``Obstacles Ahead for Missile Defense,'' stated the Senate was opposed to building defenses against Iranian missiles, in effect, saying:

In Washington, the Democratic-controlled Congress appears reluctant to fund the move, scrambling its near-term prospects.

I don't think that is true. I think there is bipartisan support for creating a missile defense system, but a firm belief exists on the part of my Democratic colleagues that we should not go so fast that it is not done wisely.

We have reached a proposal in the legislation as written that we can live with. However, there has been some confusion as to our seriousness in this commitment.

In fact, on July 5 the Washington Post ran an article entitled, ``Senate Panel Faults Missile Defense Plan.'' In the article, the Post states:

Democrats in Congress are building a legislative roadblock for the Bush administration's plan to place elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

It is an incorrect perception. It undermines our alliance relationships by causing our allies to think we are not committed in a serious way to building a missile defense system that would be effective against Iranian attacks and be protective of Europe. So I think it is therefore incumbent upon us to clarify the Senate's stance.

The Poles and the Czechs and other NATO allies have all undertaken the momentous challenge of winning over their populations to the idea of American missile defenses in Europe. They have battled anti-Americanism, pressure from Europe and Russia, because they value our friendship, but more importantly because they realize Europe may soon be vulnerable to Iranian nuclear intimidation and potential nuclear attack unless steps are taken to develop defenses now.

I think it would be a slap in the face and unbefitting to our Nation if we were to pull the rug out from under these projects after our allies have stepped up and been supportive of them. We cannot stand idly by, my colleagues, when a madman threatens to destroy the United States and to wipe from the map allies of the United States, then defies the international community by developing the means to carry out these threats.

We are the most powerful military in the world, but some people doubt our seriousness and our commitment. In the Middle East, in particular, this perception of weakness can be a fatal error. So I think it is appropriate for us to make clear to Iran and to Russia and to our allies worldwide that we understand that the Iranian danger is clear and present.

We must leave no uncertainty in anyone's mind that we intend to defend ourselves and our allies from this threat. Our security, the security of our allies, and the credibility of our commitments are all at stake. I will just add that while the Iranian actions are very troubling, they should be taken very seriously. Iran's words cannot be ignored.

I would say one thing further. We have no reason to be intimidated by Iran. We have the capability of defending ourselves, our military, and our interests, and the leaders in Iran need to know this. This Senator is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to defend our national interests.


Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, this amendment, which has been modified in agreement with my colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle to reach an amendment I think we can all support, would state it is the policy of the United States that we should have a system that will protect the United States and its allies against Iranian ballistic missiles. The findings are that Congress finds that Iran maintains a nuclear program in continued defiance of the international community, while developing ballistic missiles of increasing sophistication and range that pose a threat to the forward-deployed forces of the United States and to its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies in Europe, and which eventually pose a threat to the United States homeland.

That is the problem we are dealing with. So we would state with clarity, so there is not any doubt about it--and I think our bill we passed in committee does that, but some have misinterpreted it, in my opinion--that it would state that it is our policy to develop and deploy as soon as technologically possible, in conjunction with allies and other nations wherever possible, an effective defense against the threat of Iran as described in the previous paragraph.