Rouhani promises, quote, “constructive engagement with other countries.” Yet, two years ago, Iranian agents tried to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington, D.C. And just three weeks ago, an Iranian agent was arrested trying to collect information for possible attacks against the American embassy in Tel Aviv. Some constructive engagement.
I wish I could be moved by Rouhani’s invitation to join his wave — a world against violence and extremism. Yet, the only waves Iran has generated in the last 30 years are waves of violence and terrorism that it has unleashed in the region and across the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I could believe Rouhani, but I don’t because facts are stubborn things, and the facts are that Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric.
Last Friday Rouhani assured us that in pursuit of its nuclear program, Iran — this is a quote — Iran has never chosen deceit and secrecy, never chosen deceit and secrecy. Well, in 2002 Iran was caught red-handed secretly building an underground centrifuge facility in Natanz. And then in 2009 Iran was again caught red-handed secretly building a huge underground nuclear facility for uranium enrichment in a mountain near Qom.
Rouhani tells us not to worry. He assures us that all of this is not intended for nuclear weapons. Any of you believe that? If you believe that, here’s a few questions you might want to ask. Why would a country that claims to only want peaceful nuclear energy, why would such a country build hidden underground enrichment facilities?
Why would a country with vast natural energy reserves invest billions in developing nuclear energy? Why would a country intent on merely civilian nuclear programs continue to defy multiple Security Council resolutions and incur the tremendous cost of crippling sanctions on its economy?
And why would a country with a peaceful nuclear program develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose sole purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads? You don’t build ICBMs to carry TNT thousands of miles away; you build them for one purpose, to carry nuclear warheads. And Iran is building now ICBMs that the United States says could reach this city in three or four years.
Why would they do all this? The answer is simple. Iran is not building a peaceful nuclear program; Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Last year alone, Iran enriched three tons of uranium to 3 1/2 percent, doubled it stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium and added thousands of new centrifuges, including advanced centrifuges. It also continued work on the heavy water reactor in Iraq; that’s in order to have another route to the bomb, a plutonium path. And since Rouhani’s election — and I stress this — this vast and feverish effort has continued unabated.
Ladies and gentlemen, underground nuclear facilities, heavy water reactors, advanced centrifuges, ICMBs. See, it’s not that it’s hard to find evidence that Iran has a nuclear program, a nuclear weapons program; it’s hard to find evidence that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program.
Last year when I spoke here at the U.N. I drew a red line. Now, Iran has been very careful not to cross that line but Iran is positioning itself to race across that line in the future at a time of its choosing. Iran wants to be in a position to rush forward to build nuclear bombs before the international community can detect it and much less prevent it.
Yet Iran faces one big problem, and that problem can be summed up in one word: sanctions. I have argued for many years, including on this podium, that the only way to peacefully prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat. And that policy today is bearing fruit. Thanks to the efforts of many countries, many represented here, and under the leadership of the United States, tough sanctions have taken a big bite off the Iranian economy.
Oil revenues have fallen. The currency has plummeted. Banks are hard-pressed to transfer money. So as a result, the regime is under intense pressure from the Iranian people to get the sanctions relieved or removed.
That’s why Rouhani got elected in the first place. That’s why he launched his charm offensive. He definitely wants to get the sanctions lifted; I guarantee you that. But he doesn’t want to give up Iranians’ nuclear — Iran’s nuclear weapons program in return.