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Message to Iran

By Jon Kyl

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently visited the United States to deliver remarks at Columbia University and the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

I didn't agree with Columbia University's decision to allow the Iranian president to speak on its campus. I do not believe Columbia's decision was justified on free speech grounds - it is simply unacceptable for a distinguished university to offer a forum to the head of a country that ruthlessly crushes freedom and routinely tortures and imprisons its own citizens for "crimes," like expressing political views opposed to those of the government, and which is responsible for killing Americans in Iraq.

He does not deserve a platform to speak at any university, or at any other institution of freedom, including the United Nations, whose charter expresses its determination to protect "fundamental human rights" - rights routinely denied in Iran.

Ahmadinejad's presence at Columbia University was an affront to the American soldiers and Iraqi civilians who are right now in danger from his country's weapons, to the Israeli people whose country Ahmadinejad wants wiped off the map, and to anyone who values freedom and respects the dignity of the human beings.

The evidence is very clear that, through proxy organizations, Iran is waging a proxy war against the United States in Iraq by providing resources and training to radical Shi'a militias who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers.

In congressional testimony before the House and Senate in September, General David Petraeus, the commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, stated that, "it is increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of Iranian Republican Guard Corps Qods Force, seeks to turn the Shi'a militia extremists into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq."

United States Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker stated in the same hearing: "Iran plays a harmful role in Iraq. While claiming to support Iraq in its transition, Iran has actively undermined it by providing lethal capabilities to the enemies of the Iraqi state."

The day after Ahmadinejad spoke at the United Nations, the Senate adopted a measured by a vote of 76 to 22, I authored with Senator Joseph Lieberman that calls on the U.S. State Department to classify the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. By doing so, it will give the United States the ability to cut off the financial resources that the IRGC funnels to terrorist organizations, including those in Iraq.

During the debate of the measure, some critics charged that it could be construed as opening the doorway to war with Iran. That is not true. In fact, to be sure it could not be so construed, Senator Lieberman and I agreed to a minor change in the language of our measure. Nevertheless, its passage should send a clear message to Iran that the United States will not tolerate the killing of innocent Iraqis and American soldiers, or any interference to progress in Iraq.

The threat posed by Iran is clear. And I believe the measure overwhelmingly adopted by the Senate offers a strong non-military response to the aggressive actions of Ahmadinejad and Iranian military forces.

Sen. Kyl serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees and chairs the Senate Republican Conference. Visit his website at www.kyl.senate.gov.

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