Iranians deserve the same freedoms and rights as people everywhere and all nations would benefit from the talents and creativity of the Iranian people, especially its youth. It is a shame that much of the world realizes this and the Iranian government has yet to do so.
Let me conclude by addressing a topic we are watching closely: Iran’s June 14 presidential election. Following the last election in 2009, when the regime violently quashed the hopes and dreams of ordinary Iranians who went into the street to demand their fundamental rights, we have seen a deliberate and unrelenting level of repression in the lead-up to these elections.
As we speak, behind closed doors, Iran’s unelected and unaccountable Guardian Council is vetting Iranian presidential contenders, using vague criteria to eliminate potential candidates. Without a transparent process, it is difficult for us to say whether Iran’s elections will be free, fair, or represent the will of the Iranian people.
We take no sides in Iran’s presidential election. The decision about who leads Iran is for the Iranian people, who should have every opportunity to express freely and openly their opinions, ideas, and hopes for the future of their country. But we do call on the Iranian authorities to conduct a free and fair election that not only conforms to international standards of transparency and accountability but is just and represents the will of the Iranian people.
In sum, Iranians deserve better. Their government has chosen to isolate them, stunt their economic growth, repress their ability to speak freely, and connect the people of Iran with the most heinous acts of terrorism and regional adventurism. Iran’s government can choose to end these policies at any time and put their people’s well being first.
As the President said, we have no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming decades of mistrust. It will take a serious and sustained effort to resolve the many differences between Iran and the United States. We do not expect to always agree, but rather for Iran to be an honest and responsible member of the international community, a community where members honor their commitments and keep their word or pay the price.
We share Congress’ concern about Iran and want to continue our hand in hand efforts to ensure that Iran does not continue on a path that threatens the peace and stability of the region and tramples the freedoms of its citizens. We welcome your ideas on how we can sustain and expand our efforts.