Washington, May 17- Heavier sanctions against Iran could help stop the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon, three experts testified Thursday before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Amb. Mark Wallace, CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), proposed a strategy focusing on four major areas: banking, insurance and reinsurance, disclosure and debarment and shipping (BIDS). As part of BIDS, all companies that conduct business in Iran would be ineligible to receive U.S. government contracts.
Wallace stressed the importance of the United States standing firm on sanctions: “When I challenge businesses around the world and I say we’re going to make public the business [they] do in Iran and [that they’re] not going to do business in the United States…they pull out of Iran, because they want to do business with the biggest country in the world.”
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, agreed. “If we impose a true economic blockade…it will have a dramatic impact,” he said.
Wallace placed responsibility on Peugeot, Europe’s second-largest carmaker, for shipping vehicle components to Iran and for working closely with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Peugeot has temporarily suspended business with car manufacturing company Iran Khodro in March in what many call an effort to make way for a joint venture between Peugeot and General Motors. The suspension is set to expire in September, but Wallace said, “That should be a permanent ban.”
Dubowitz also stressed the need for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s removal from power. “I think the goal is regime change in Iran,” he said.” I don’t think this regime can be trusted….this regime is dedicated to finding a nuclear weapon.”
Congressman Dan Burton agreed, saying Iran needs to be stopped before it’s too late. He cited the Agreed Framework between the U.S. and North Korea in 1994, in which Pyongyang agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for aid. Less than a decade later, the agreement collapsed. “You tell tyrants 'enough' while you still have time,” Burton said. “We didn't do it in Korea and now it's too late.”
Dr. Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Iran’s nuclear program is still in the early stages. “We have more time than we think,” Takeyh said.
Wallace, Dubowitz and Takeyh were flanked by family members of the victims of the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing, in which more than 200 American soldiers were killed by truck bombs detonated by Iran-backed Hezbollah.