IRANIAN ARMS FOR BOSNIA (Senate - April 17, 1996)

[Page: S3445]

Mr. DOLE. Mr. President, since the report surfaced in the Los Angeles Times that President Clinton decided to allow Iran to provide arms to the Bosnians, there has been little, if any, response from the other side of the aisle.

Had there been a Republican in the White House, no doubt, the Democrats would have been all over the President. But, that is not the real issue. I am not here to be all over the President. This is not about the conduct of partisan politics, but the conduct of our foreign policy. This is about American leadership, American credibility, and Congressional oversight. That is why I met today with the chairmen of the Foreign Relations, Intelligence , Armed Services, and Judiciary Committees to discuss this serious foreign policy matter. For nearly 3 years, this administration opposed congressional efforts to lift the unjust and illegal arms embargo on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We were told, and the American people were told, that the United States was bound by the U.N. embargo on the former Yugoslavia. We were told that if America violated this embargo, we would lose support from our allies for other embargoes, such as the one against Iraq. Finally, we were told that lifting the embargo and allowing the Bosnians to have arms while U.N. forces were deployed in Bosnia, would endanger the troops of our allies.

Some people are saying, well, you knew that Iran was providing arms to the Bosnians. I would like to respond to that. While we read and heard reports that Iran was smuggling arms to the Bosnians, we did not know the President and his advisers made a conscious decision to give a green light for Iran to provide arms. Indeed, those of us who advocated lifting the arms embargo--Republicans and Democrats--argued that if America did not provide Bosnia with assistance, Iran would be Bosnia's only option. In my view, the role of the President and administration officials in this matter need to be examined--even if we do not receive cooperation from the White House and the Intelligence Oversight Board--which has been the case to date.

In the meeting I held with the four committee chairmen today, we decided on the approach we would take. The Intelligence Committee will investigate the matter of whether any administration officials were engaged in covert action. The Foreign Relations Committee will review administration policy as stated and as executed, as well as the ramifications of these revelations. Let me tell you why I believe this examination is important.

In short, this duplicitous policy has seriously damaged our credibility with our allies. It has also produced one of the most serious threats to our military forces in Bosnia and, according to the administration, the main obstacle to the arm and train program for the Bosnians--I am talking about the presence of Iranian military forces and intelligence officials in Bosnia.

As I have said many, many times on this floor, along with many of my colleagues on the other side, had we lifted the arms embargo and had we provided the weapons, the Bosnians could have defended themselves and chances are there would not have been any American troops there now, and we would have had a peace agreement sooner and on better terms for the Bosnians. And most likely, as I said, we would not have 20,000 Americans in Bosnia at this moment. And finally, had we lifted the arms embargo on Bosnia, the United States would have done the right thing for the right reason. We would have done it openly, and we would have done it honestly.

That is what this examination and these hearings will be about, because I think we owe it to the American people and we owe it to Members of Congress. As far as I know, no one knew about what was happening. We were told we just could not lift the arms embargo because of all the problems that would create with our allies and our credibility at the same time. Apparently some knew it was happening through the back door.

I yield back the remainder of my leader time.