CONGRESSMAN SHERMAN INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO FOSTER DEMOCRACY IN IRAN
[Washington, D.C.] “ Today, Congressman Brad Sherman introduced the Iran Democracy and Freedom Support Act today, along with 12 cosponsors from the House of Representatives. Sherman is the Ranking Democratic Member of the House International Relations Committees Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights.
Shermans bill would provide assistance to Irans democratic opposition and to dissident broadcasters based in the US, reimpose a total embargo on Iranian goods imported into this country, and allow the president to reduce US payments to the World Bank and other multilateral institutions which provide support to the Iranian regime.
"With protests underway in Iran right now, its important that American policy makers adopt a strong position in support of those brave Iranians who take to the streets to demand democracy and respect for human rights," Sherman said. "We also need to ensure that our government adopts policies to hasten the fall of that regime by denying it material assistance."
Shermans bill includes provisions substantially identical to those in Senator Sam Brownbacks (R-KS) recently introduced Iran Democracy Act, which would declare US support of an internationally-monitored referendum in Iran and would require that US broadcasting and State Department grant programs foster this policy by supporting Iranian dissidents who share this goal of a peaceful change to the Iranian regime. News media have reported that many of those who attended protests in Iran this week were spurned on by US-based satellite broadcasters, demonstrating the power that these media outlets can have.
"I knew from my Iranian constituents in Los Angeles that these broadcasters are very effective in conveying a pro-democracy message to the people of Iran," Sherman said. "Recent events have proven this to the world. But satellite time and broadcast equipment are expensive, and many of these broadcasters may not be able to stay afloat. It would be a shame if we did not support these effective Iranian voices for change."
Sherman has long been a critic of American policy toward the regime in Tehran. He has called on both the Clinton and Bush administrations to take stronger action to prevent the Iranian regime from receiving aid, trade and investment from our Western allies.
"We sent the 101st Airborne in to take care of Saddam, where the threat of nuclear weapons was slight, but we have not even taken minimal action to convince our European and Asian friends not to support the terrible government of Iran, which is on the verge of actually producing nuclear weapons" Sherman said. "We have not even cut off all economic ties with Iran ourselves, and we currently buy more than $150 million per year in Iranian goods."
Shermans bill would ensure that no Iranian goods enter this country until Iran abandons its support for terrorism, its drive to develop nuclear weapons, and until it improves its human rights record.
Sherman has been concerned about the lack of a coherent policy to prevent the World Bank from lending millions of dollars to the Iranian government. The World Bank recently approved a $180 million loan to Iran and a $231 million package was approved by the Bank in 2000. Roughly one-quarter of these funds come from American taxpayers.
"What message does the West send to the Iranian people when its approves these loans? It tells them that we support their government - its a stamp of approval for the regime," Sherman said.
The Iran Democracy and Freedom allows the President to punish multilateral institutions which support Iran. Institutions that loan to Iran would risk having their US contribution reduced by the amount of any loan. Instead, the US funds would be redirected toward efforts to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide.