Tougher action on Iran is necessary

Rob Portman
There’s a war going on around the world. It’s not a traditional war, but make no mistake about it: The Iranian regime is waging a covert war against us and our friends and allies.

In the past decade, the Iranian regime has made clear its intent toward the United States of America and our allies.

The evidence is on the table. We should not be hesitant to bring that evidence forward and talk about it openly.

They’re behind the more powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have maimed and killed our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In some instances they’ve supported the IED development; in other cases they’ve even built the components for IEDs in Iran. Their proxy regime in Syria also funneled terrorists into Iraq to wound and kill our troops.

In October, the FBI disclosed an alleged plot by the Iranian regime to work with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. We’ve also heard reports of Iranian collaboration with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

This is part of a long pattern of behavior. For almost 30 years, the State Department has designated the Iranian regime a state sponsor of terrorism. Their terrorist proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, is responsible for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

When they’ve had a chance to harm us or our allies, they’ve done so. That’s why we need to do everything in our power to prevent them from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

Incidentally, their pursuit of a nuclear weapon and the capacity to deliver it, as well as their aggressive military posture in the Straits of Hormuz and elsewhere in the region, is part of what’s driving up gas prices. Ohioans are feeling that pain at the pump.

To be clear, our beef is with the leadership, not the Iranian people. Helping the Iranian people achieve their true freedom is one way we can prevent the regime from getting a nuclear weapons capability. In the summer of 2009, the United States had the opportunity to help Iranian protestors overthrow their despots. Unfortunately, the Obama administration chose not to provide assistance and the movement was crushed. Some of us may recall the video of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young Tehran woman, getting shot in the chest by the brutal regime as it was cracking down on the protestors. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is doing the same in his country right now with the support of Iran.

Congress has been pushing the administration to be tougher on the regime, knowing that containment is not an option. I co-sponsored a resolution emphasizing that it’s unacceptable for the Iranians to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

There’s a lot we can do. There still are opportunities to ratchet up sanctions that target the political leaders and the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that protects the regime. Iran’s ability to use energy revenues to fuel their global ambitions threatens us and our allies. This is why I will be supporting the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act that has passed out of the Senate Banking Committee.

As we impose sanctions, we need to show we’re not trying to hurt the Iranian people, only their oppressors. That’s why I’ve called for free and fair elections in Iran.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’m now working to bar companies that engage in business or trading activity with Iran from buying oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is a loophole that needs to be closed.

Sanctions must be multilateral so that the pressure of the whole world comes down against Iran. We need to work hard to keep our allies together. Time is short. We can no longer afford for Russia and China to provide an economic safety valve for the regime. We need to make sure more companies follow the example of French oil giant Total, which stopped buying Iranian crude.

We are at a pivotal point where we must decide whether to do the things required to help preserve the peace and avoid Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver it.

We’re blessed to have brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day. None of us wants to see a shooting war involving the men and women of our armed forces. But to avoid that, we must pursue what Ronald Reagan famously referred to as “peace through strength.” Ratcheting up sanctions is the first step.

Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.