VOA contributor Greta Van Suserten spoke Friday to Senator Ben Cardin, the highest ranked Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Below are some excerpts.
Van Susteren: “Senator, there is a lot going on in Iran. There have been a series of protests sparked, at least at first, according to many as an economic issue, they have now somewhat subsided but what are your thoughts on these protests?”
Cardin: “Well, the Persian people, the Iranians, are great people; they want freedom, they want economic opportunities. They were promised a lot that has not been delivered so there’s a great deal of frustration among the Iranians that why aren’t they doing better why aren’t there better opportunities. They see their leadership, their government, is holding them back so they’re expressing themselves and I think we should all be proud of their courage.”
Van Susteren: “What about the response by the Trump administration to these protests? I know that there was criticisms—President Trump and, even Vice President Pence, has been critical of the Obama administration and President Obama waited a number of days before making a statement. Maybe President Trump made a statement earlier on Twitter; but, nonetheless they are just statements. Is there anything more that we should be doing in Iran about these protests?”
Cardin: “The question is what can you do? I mean these are obviously internal issues and it’s hard for us to get directly involved. But to the extent that the Iranian officials violate established international human rights standards we should take action. We have tools that we can use to take action against violations of human rights. People have a right to peacefully protest about their government, they should have the right to be able to speak out without intimation or fear. In Iran that’s not true. So, it is right for us and we do impose sanctions against Iran for human rights violations. We’ve recently passed a new law, known as the Global Magnitsky, we can sanction individuals and in regards to our banking system or visas. So, there are steps that we can take against those who are perpetrating violations of human rights and we should working with the international community.”
Van Susteren: “How fast can we do those sanctions? I mean if sanctions are the proper response, how fast can we do that?”
Cardin: “Well, they can be done quickly. I mean obviously there’s some—when you are dealing with banking issues there’s due process that has to follow and the Treasury Department follows that pretty closely; but we can impose sanctions pretty quickly we have against Iran. We do have sanctions imposed against Iran for human rights we can strengthen those.”