Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you for holding these hearings and for granting Senator Smith and me the opportunity to open this hearing. And I want to thank Gordon Smith, who, on every issue we've worked on, is just a terrific partner to work with. And I thank him for his true leadership on this legislation.
I know we're beginning late here today, so I will try to be brief. I think that's all right, because everyone on this committee is acquainted with what ILSA is all about, and 16 of the 20 members of this committee signed as original co-sponsors. Senator Smith and I introduced the bill a few weeks ago with a total of 77 original co- sponsors.
So let me just say a few words. There has been movement on the part of the administration and some here in Congress to weaken ILSA by watering down its provisions. Many of these people would do away with ILSA altogether, but because of the enormous support in Congress for the five-year reauthorization, their strategy is to reduce the extension of ILSA to two years and add new waiver provisions that would effectively kill the bill.
I am here today to say that ILSA must be renewed fully intact for a five-year term. Over the past five years, Iran and Libya have done nothing to show they would be welcomed into the community of nations and benefit from better relationships with the U.S. and our allies. Despite the election of the so-called moderate President Khatami in 1997, Iran remains the most active sponsor of terrorism and has been feverishly seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, as Senator Smith has outlined.
Just last week, a federal grand jury found that Iranian government officials, quote, "supported and directed" the Hezbollah terrorists who blew up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 brave American servicemen. And Iran proudly supports Hamas, whose most recent claim to fame was sending a suicide bomber into a crowded disco in Tel Aviv, killing 21 young Israelis and injuring dozens more.
These are not actions worthy of American concessions. I agree completely with Gordon Smith. This is an issue of morality. What would the world think when the world's greatest power relaxes sanctions on a nation, two nations, that have shown themselves to be so outside the family of nations, engaged in some of the most dastardly acts that we have seen?
The bottom line is simple. If these nations are serious about entering the community of nations and seeing their economies benefit from global integration, they must change their behavior. The argument that we should lift sanctions in hopes that Iran and Libya might change their behavior is backward reasoning, backward logic, backward morality. And so I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that we would continue ILSA.
I just want to say a few words about sanctions policy in general. I think it's understandable that the administration would want to review U.S. sanctions policy to make sure it's working effectively. But ILSA is about the best we have. It's highly flexible. It grants the president full waiver authority on a case-by-case basis. It contains a menu of sanctions, ranging from a slap on the wrist to more serious economic retaliation. And its sunset provisions are profoundly reasonable.
If we're not going to maintain ILSA, we're not going to maintain any sanctions policy at all. And I think, you know, there are a couple of reasons that we are in the greatest country in the world. One is our economic might, but another is that Statue of Liberty that stands so proudly in the harbor of the city I come from, New York. It's a beacon of freedom. It's a beacon of what's right.
We are known as a country who tries to do the right thing. To simply cave in to economic pressure at this point in time, I think, would not only hurt our relationships in the Middle East. It would do serious harm to the greatness of this country. And so I urge that ILSA be renewed.
We are known as a country who tries to do the right thing. To simply cave in to
economic pressure at this point in time, I think, would not only hurt our
relationships in the Middle East. It would do serious harm to the greatness of
this country. And so I urge that ILSA be renewed.
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