Congressman Keith Ellison

Representing the 5th District of Minnesota

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Ellison Statement on the Iran Threat Reduction Act

Dec 21, 2011
Press Release

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after voting against the Iran Threat Reduction Act last night:

“I support targeted sanctions against Iran and have voted for them in the past. For example, I voted for the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 because of the threats posed by the Iranian regime.  However, I voted against the Iran Threat Reduction Act because it restricts diplomacy and could strengthen the Iranian regime.

“Specifically, Section 601 prohibits all communication between U.S. and Iranian officials unless the President notifies Congress fifteen days in advance. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen pointed out the problem with such a measure. ‘Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union,’ he said. ‘We are not talking to Iran, so we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right.’

“That ‘something’ already happens regularly. Whether it is Iran detaining U.S. hikers or U.S. ships encountering Iranian ships in the Strait of Hormuz, having a communications bottleneck could turn these tense situations into all-out crises. Such limits on our diplomacy put our national security at risk.

“I have consistently supported strategic, targeted sanctions against Iran. Last Congress I introduced the Stand with the Iranian People Act, which put targeted sanctions on Iran’s worst human rights abusers and those who provide censorship or surveillance technology to the Iranian government.

“It is also imperative to deter Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, which is why yesterday I voted for the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act to halt nuclear proliferation in Iran, Syria, and North Korea. While not perfect, this bill does sanction countries that would help these bad actors develop nuclear weapons programs.

“The Iranian regime has repeatedly used violence and supported other violent regimes. Iran repressed the Green Revolution in 2009, supported attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, and unjustly detained American hikers for years.  In addition, Iran supports the Syrian government’s crackdown against pro-democracy forces, sends weapons to the terrorist group Hezbollah, and denies its own citizens many basic human rights.

“However the Iran Threat Reduction Act is misguided. Our policies should advance our national interests and preserve our national security through diplomatic means that support the Iranian people—Iran’s future leaders.”