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“Public meeting” set for first Iran sanctions conference session

The Iran sanctions conference meets for the first time next Wednesday and the meeting will be open to the public, according to a notice circulated around the Hill today. The conference, hosted by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, I-CT, on "The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and ...

The Iran sanctions conference meets for the first time next Wednesday and the meeting will be open to the public, according to a notice circulated around the Hill today.

The conference, hosted by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, I-CT, on "The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act," will be held in the room 210/212 of the new Capitol Visitors Center on April 28 at 1:00 p.m. and will be a "public meeting," the notice said.

The Iran sanctions conference meets for the first time next Wednesday and the meeting will be open to the public, according to a notice circulated around the Hill today.

The conference, hosted by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, I-CT, on "The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act," will be held in the room 210/212 of the new Capitol Visitors Center on April 28 at 1:00 p.m. and will be a "public meeting," the notice said.

Representatives from Berman and Dodd’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for information about exactly how "public" the meeting will be.

Berman finally appointed conferees Thursday, the Senate appointed its conferees in March. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, has promised to move the bill as soon as the conference ends and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, said Tuesday he was hopeful the bill could reach the president’s desk "within a matter of weeks."

At the public meeting, watchers can expect to hear some of the following things from these conferees, all of whom made floor speeches about the bill during Thursday’s debate:

Berman:

The urgency of this issue is beyond dispute. Iran quite possibly will be capable of developing and delivering a nuclear weapon in the next 3 to 5 years, and our task of preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability is made more complicated by the fact that we all know that our best weapon for fighting this battle — economic sanctions — takes time to work. So we need the strongest possible sanctions, and we need them fast.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL:

Diplomacy and engagement have had no real impact on the regime in Tehran. As Iran sprints towards the nuclear finish line, deadlines set by the Obama administration for compliance have been repeatedly disregarded. Now the strategy appears to be resting on securing a new U.N. Security Council resolution. However, Russia and China see themselves as friends of the regime in Tehran and have publicly stated that they will not support a resolution that puts any significant pressure on Tehran. In fact, The New York Times reported last week that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned in a secret 3-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-IN:

It is extremely important that we do something and do something very, very quickly. We have waited too long. We have been talking about negotiating with Iran and putting sanctions on them for the past 4 or 5 years, trying to get our allies to work with us. The fact of the matter is nothing has happened, and Iran continues to thumb their nose at the rest of the world. This is a terrible, terrible threat. A terrorist state, Iran, with nuclear weapons is not only a threat to the Middle East, to Israel, our best ally over there, but it is a threat to every single one of us.

Rep. Ron Klein, R-FL:

This legislation gives companies a simple choice: do business with the United States, or do business with Iran. We cannot allow the U.S. taxpayer to be last crutch of Iran’s dangerous nuclear program. Not on our watch and not on our dime. The time to act is now, and we must move with fierce urgency.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-CA:

Today, the world’s top terrorist state has its tentacles throughout the region. For those of us who have engaged in this region and have watched neighboring countries to Iran, watched their propensity to react as Iran has sped up its development, each of those countries is now looking at going nuclear. I would ask my colleagues to think about those neighbors of Iran that would create a heavily nuclearized Middle East should Iran succeed in this and what the impact would be. We can only imagine the turmoil and the tensions that will come to the Middle East should we not succeed in this effort to prevent Iran from developing these nuclear weapons.

Hoyer: (not a conferee)

It is my belief, my colleagues, that if smart sanctions take effect, more and more Iranians will come to the same conclusion and so, hopefully, will the Iranian regime. Sanctions will show the regime that its embrace of nuclear proliferation carries a cost that is far too high. We cannot expect a change of heart from Tehran, but we can demand a change of behavior. My colleagues, this action is timely and perhaps past time, but it is always timely to do the right thing, to speak up, to act, and to encourage our allies as well and our partners and our fellow citizens in this globe to act in a way that will protect them and protect our international community.

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY: (not a conferee)

This week, Iran announced its testing of various missiles and weapons capabilities. U.S. officials have said Iran could develop a ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. by 2015, and they have said that Iran’s continued existential threat to our strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel, presents dire global security implications. I urge the conferees to act with haste to address these urgent challenges with tough crippling sanctions. Let the speed with which Congress finalizes this legislation to sanction Iran be a message to the international community that time is of the essence if we are to contain Iran’s threat to security, stability and prosperity worldwide.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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