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U.S. Senator Jon Kyl: 'Very Detrimental If Events In Iraq & American Politics Hamper U.S. Need To Act More Aggressively Against Iran'

U.S. Representative Jane Harman: 'U.S. Policy Must Be Effective Against Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program & Not Wait For Solution In Iraq'

Bicameral Delegation From U.S. Congress Visits Knesset For Talks On National Security Issues

Senator Kyl | Representative Harman
(Photos: United States Congress)

In Jerusalem, a  U.S. Congressional delegation of Republicans and Democrats has discussed national security issues with Israeli Knesset members. The Iranian nuclear weapons threat was obviously high on the agenda at their closed door session in the Knesset. Delegation leader  Senator Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona and Representative (D) Jane Harman of California were interviewed by IsraCast on how Republicans and Democrats view for stiffer international sanctions may prevent Tehran from acquiring 'the bomb'.

Interview with U.S. Senator Jon Kyl and U.S. Representative Jane Harman

Sen. Jon Kyl : My name is Jon Kyl, I am a U.S. Senator from the state of Arizona.

David Essing: Senator Kyl, what brings you and your delegation to Jerusalem at this time?

Senator Jon Kyl website

Sen. Jon Kyl : There is a joint Knesset-Congress inter-parliamentary group, which we formed many years ago, to exchange delegations between Israel and the United States, primarily dealing with national security issues. This is our annual or semi-annual visit to Israel for that purpose, and as you see, we are meeting primarily with members of the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. When the Israeli delegation comes to the United States, they too focus on matters of national security, and talk to members of the U.S. house and the U.S. Senate. Representative Jane Harman is with me, she is from the House of Representatives. Our group is bicameral, both houses of the Congress, and bipartisan - I am a republican, Representative Harman is a democrat. And so, what brings us here is to fulfill that commitment.

David Essing: You are here at a very auspicious time, when the run-up to the crisis with Iran is growing daily, and there seems to be some kind of difference between America's position and the Europeans'. America is pushing hard for the sanctions, the Europeans are sort of sloughing off. How do you think this is going to play out, and how serious do you think President Bush is about stopping Iran one way or the other?

Sen. Jon Kyl : President Bush is very serious about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. We need the support of other countries in the world. We, the United States, have imposed sanctions. Europeans should join us on that effort. There are some other things we can do - dealing with freezing of bank accounts, disinvestment of companies that do business with Iran and so on. All of those are subjects that we would hope to get some cooperation from our allies on.

David Essing: Congresswoman Jane Harman, are the democrats seriously behind the administration's strive to stop Iran?

Representive Jane Harman website

Rep. Jane Harman: I think this is a bipartisan issue in Congress. I think most people agree that Iran is an existential threat to Israel, our only democratic ally in the Middle East, and could pose a longer term threat to U.S. interests, so none of us wants Iran to have the bomb. The interesting thing is that here is a case where sanctions appear to be working. The UN Security Council recently passed a resolution unanimously supporting sanctions, and one of the deadlines is coming up later this week. So there is an opportunity for the sanctions regime to expand, and, I would hope, for Iran to change course before it develops the bomb. That is what we are all working toward, and we don't have to speculate about what happens if that doesn't work, we are all working to make it work.

David Essing : There are some experts here in Israel who have said recently, as you say, that the sanctions are paying off and that there are signs in Iran that there is opposition to this, there are people who are saying in Iran that Ahmadinejad has been exaggerating the progress that they have made. Do you think there is still time?

Rep. Jane Harman: I think there is still time, certainly there is no intelligence agency that I am aware of, that is saying that Iran will have the bomb sooner than the turn of the decade, but that is part of it. Part of it too is whether they can put together critical ingredients, even without making bombs, which could be destabilizing here and which they possibly could sell to bad actors. So there is a lot to worry about, but I think that we are on a good course. We are imposing sanctions unilaterally - the U.S. is, but we are also doing it multilaterally through the UN. The EU is supporting this, and now the challenge is to make the sanctions regime broader, to cover all the subsidiaries of companies who do business in Iran, the subsidiaries who do business in the U.S., and cut them off if they continue to trade with Iran.

Sen. Jon Kyl : No one knows for sure, including the Iranians probably, when they can actually have a weapon production capability, but each month or year that goes on they acquire more technical capability and knowledge, and there are some levels of understanding that we would prefer that they not achieve, and so it is not a matter of having a long time to wait, which is why we really are strongly supportive of the sanctions and other ways of diplomatically, economically and politically influencing Iran's actions.

Rep. Jane Harman: I agree with that totally.

David Essing: Prime Minister Olmert has made clear that the Iranian nuclear weapons could be a clear and present danger to the Jewish state. Do you think that there is enough awareness of the danger to the whole free world today?

Sen. Jon Kyl : There may be a level of knowledge among people that look at this carefully, what is distressing to me is that because of events in Iraq primarily and American politics, we could find ourselves in a situation where we need to act more aggressively, but don't have public support to do it because of the politics surrounding our actions in Iraq. That would be very detrimental obviously.

Rep. Jane Harman: I think it is critical to focus on Iran right now. Iran is a bigger threat, surely to Israel, than Iraq is, and any Israeli will tell you that they have always understood that. U.S. policy has to be effective towards Iran right now, we can't wait until we figure out Iraq. I am one who does not think this new U.S. strategy in Iraq is likely to work, but I am for trying to achieve stability in Iraq. Meanwhile we have to have at least a two track or three track foreign policy. North Korea is another place we have to worry about, and actually the news in North Korea are somewhat encouraging - maybe that will point to some better news in Iran soon.

David Essing: Congressman Harman, Senator Kyl, thank you very much indeed.

Transcript by Dar Translations
972-2-6414722 | dar_doc@smile.net.il


David Essing

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