DO NOT VETO THE IRAN MISSILE PROLIFERATION SANCTIONS ACT OF 1997 (House of Representatives - June 22, 1998)

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from California (Mr. Berman) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I am taking out this special order here today in conjunction with my friend and colleague from Texas (Mr. Frost) to discuss H.R. 2709, the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act of 1997. The President must decide tomorrow whether or not to veto H.R. 2709, which was sent to him on June 10.

This is legislation which Congress and the administration have discussed and debated again and again. It was first introduced in October 1997, followed by hearings and briefings with the administration, including at least two lengthy meetings between Vice President Gore and congressional sponsors of the legislation. In June it was sent to the President after a 392 to 22 vote.

The Senate passed this legislation 90 TO 4. It has such great support in the Congress because it is aimed at halting one of the major threats to international stability, Iran's program of developing missile delivery systems for its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons program.

There is no doubt about the Iranian program. Iran's Shihab-3 and Shihab-4 missiles are being designed with external help, reportedly primarily but not exclusively Russian, to a range of 930 to 1,250 miles. There have been additional reports that the Iranian objective is to develop a multistage, intercontinental missile with a range of 3,500 miles.

I agree with the Secretary of State that we should engage Iran. We should not let the memory of the taking of American hostages in our Embassy in Tehran almost 20 years ago forever determine our relationships with Iran. We should seek to expand our person-to-person contacts and work to resolve differences that separate us.

However, it is important to note that while President Khatami is pursuing more moderate domestic policies, it is not clear how much control he exercises or what his real intentions are with respect to foreign and defense policy. We cannot ignore the threat Iran's weapons programs and support for terrorism pose to regional peace and American interests in people. We should not change our policy toward Iran without seeing significant changes in Iran's behavior.

Iran's weapons of mass destruction programs continue to be of grave concern. U.S. officials have said publicly that Iran has a large and increasingly self-sufficient chemical weapons program and probably has produced biological warfare agents as well. Administration officials have publicly confirmed that Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

And while Iranian President Khatami has categorically rejected terrorist attacks against civilians, he has yet to back his words with action. According to State Department's most recent report on terrorism, Iran remains the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Last fall Iran hosted representatives of numerous terrorist groups at a conference of liberation movements where they discussed greater coordination and support for some of the groups.

When the administration waived the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, sanctions on European companies and Malaysia, it said that it did so because it wanted to focus on preventing proliferation rather than preventing investments in the Iranian oil industry. While I do not endorse the administration's rationale for the ILSA sanctions waiver, I cannot help but note that the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act does what the administration says it wants. It focuses on proliferation.

It would be incongruous for the administration to veto this bill, because we can already see the consequence of the administration's waivers of the ILSA sanctions. The President should welcome this legislation, not decry it.

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On too many occasions in the past 3 1/2 years, the leadership in this House has tried to tie the President's hand in foreign policy and overrule his prerogative to lead on national security matters. This is not such an effort.

Although the President must make a classified report to Congress of `credible information on foreign entities which have transferred missile technology to Iran,' it is the President who determines what is credible. Thirty days later he must impose sanctions on those entities. These sanctions are not targeted against any country or government, but are narrowly targeted against the companies themselves, and the President may waive the imposition of sanctions, either because he is persuaded that the information contained in the report to Congress is incorrect or if he determines that the waiver is essential to the national security. And what are the sanctions that we are talking about? Simply that the entity or company that has proliferated this missile technology to Iran faces the loss of exports.