Democratic presidential hopeful takes a get-tough stance against tyrant of Tehran--Americans need to come together to confront the challenge posed by Iran. Yet the Bush administration and an anonymous senator are blocking a bill with bipartisan support that would ratchet up the pressure on the Iranian regime. It's time for this obstructionism to stop.
The decision to wage a misguided war in Iraq has substantially strengthened Iran, which now poses the greatest strategic challenge to U.S. interests in the Middle East in a generation. Iran supports violent groups and sectarian politics in Iraq, fuels terror and extremism across the Middle East and continues to make progress on its nuclear program in defiance of the international community. Meanwhile, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared that Israel must be "wiped off the map."
In response, the Bush administration's policy has been tough talk with little action and even fewer results. While conventional Washington thinking says we can only talk to people who agree with us, I believe that strong countries and strong Presidents shouldn't be afraid to talk directly to our adversaries to tell them where America stands. The Bush-Cheney diplomacy of not talking to Iran has not worked. As President, I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, including the power of tough, smart and principled diplomacy.
For diplomacy to work, we need to dial up our political and economic pressure - not just our tough talk. Iran's troubling behavior depends in large part on access to billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue. That is why I introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act last May, to build on a movement across the country to divest from companies that do significant business with Iran. This would send a clear message about where America stands, increasing Iran's isolation and hitting the Iranian regime where it hurts.
The bill works in three ways. First, it would educate investors and pressure foreign companies to reconsider doing business with Iran by requiring the U.S. government to publish - every six months - a list of companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector. Second, it would give explicit congressional authorization to state and local governments to divest the assets of their pension funds and other funds under their control from any company on the list. Third, it would give private fund managers who divest protection from lawsuits, while urging the government's own 401(k) fund to create "terror-free" and "genocide-free" investment options for government employees.
This common-sense approach enjoys broad support. Sam Brownback, a Republican senator and presidential candidate, joined me in introducing this bill. A companion bill passed the House of Representatives 408 to 6. The only obstacle now is a single senator who placed an anonymous "hold" on the bill, blocking it from coming to a vote.
This is exactly the kind of unaccountable obstruction that needs to change in Washington. Instead of having a debate in the open, a Bush administration ally is blocking the bill through a secret Washington maneuver - a maneuver that would be banned if a sweeping bipartisan ethics reform bill that I led the fight to pass is signed into law.
Talking tough and keeping our troops in the middle of Iraq's civil war has only served to strengthen Iran's position. It's time to turn the page on a failed foreign policy. It's time for strong diplomacy backed by common-sense measures that pressure the Iranian regime.