One year after Iran deal, Congress needs to act
One year ago this week, the Senate had its first, second, and third failed vote on the Iran deal. Well, sort of.
What Senate Democrats won’t tell you is that they prevented the Senate from even voting on the Obama administration’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the floor.
Instead, they blocked a procedural vote three times.
Despite having massive implications on U.S. national security, nuclear proliferation policy, and U.S. sanctions on Iran—something I believe should have been handled as a treaty to be ratified or rejected by the Senate—Congress had no say on this deal.
As we’ve learned, this deal was sold to the American people based on lies and manipulation.
Over the past year, Iran has received a lot: the recognition by the international community of the “right to enrich” nuclear material, billions of dollars in sanctions relief, access to frozen assets, new business interest, legitimacy on the world stage, and a $400 million cash payment for hostages from President Obama.
So what has America gotten out of this deal?
Last July, President Obama said he hoped his deal would, “incentivize them [Iran] to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative."
Instead, Iran has become increasingly aggressive and cavalier in its support for terrorism and dangerous proxy groups and regimes, like Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar al Assad. The president’s failed deal emboldened Iran to become more blatantly aggressive in its support of terrorism and quest for regional hegemony. Sanctions relief and other payments enriched Iran to support their destructive ambitions.
One year after the deal, Iran is still the number one state sponsor of terrorism.
Iran has also continued its illicit ballistic missile launches. According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, there have been seven illicit launches since the deal was signed.
Iran captured two American boats and 10 sailors in January, breaking international law. Since the Obama Administration’s ransom payment, Iran arrested at least six more foreign visitors to Iran, including dual American-Iranian citizens. What’s worse, we still don’t know the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.
Just last week, an Iranian vessel harassed the USS Firebolt in the Gulf. That followed a string of dangerous Iranian maneuvers near U.S. ships last month, which in some cases prompted American ships to fire guns or flares. According to defense officials, unsafe confrontations between American and Iranian warships in the Persian Gulf are up more than 50 percent in 2016.
Most recently, Iran continued its trend of saber-rattling by threatening to shoot down two Navy surveillance planes flying in international airspace over the Gulf.
Iran continues to export instability to the Middle East. Iran is propping up Assad with an estimated $6 billion per year and is arming the Houthis in Yemen. Four arms shipments from Iran to the Houthis have been intercepted by the U.S. since Obama’s deal was signed, all of which violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Iran also remains a massive human rights abuser. According to the United Nations, Iran’s number of executions has increased drastically—including executions of minors. To this day, Iran’s leaders and people chant “death to America” and “death to Israel.”
President Obama promised the “most comprehensive…inspection and verification regime ever negotiated,” but the basic requirements of the deal haven’t even been met. A new report shows that the nuclear deal’s enforcement body, the Joint Commission, granted Iran secret exemptions to evade some requirements and restrictions.
With each passing day, Iran becomes more immune to future efforts to limit its nuclear potential.
Components of Iran’s first Russian-made S-300 missile system – a long range defensive surface-to-air system that can be quickly converted into a limited offensive tool – were positioned not around their capital or a military base, but around the Fordow fuel enrichment plant. Fordow is an underground bunker which, until recently, was used for uranium enrichment. Iran is sending a clear message to the international community that it intends to keep its nuclear options open, regardless of the JCPOA.
We must recognize Iran for the rogue regime it is, not the reformed state that President Obama and Hillary Clinton wish it to be. Their dangerously naïve brand of foreign policy emboldened Iran and made the world less safe.
However, with cowardly party moves blocking a vote on the Iran deal altogether, it’s no wonder President Obama continues to govern as if Congress doesn’t exist.
It is this brand of crony politics that Americans are so fed up with. There are at least 17 bills that have been introduced just since January that would strengthen our stance on Iran, and Leader McConnell hasn’t brought a single one to the floor for a vote.
The Senate should recommit itself to taking a vote--a real vote--on this vital issue of national security and constitutional order while we still have time this session.
Though Obama may veto what we pass and keep us going down a path that threatens our national security, Senate Republicans must be willing to show the American people there is a better vision for our foreign policy and lead by example.
If not, I hope the next Congress, and the next president, will approach U.S.-Iran policy with more courage and accountability to the American people.
United States Senator David Perdue is the junior senator from Georgia and the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress. He serves on the Foreign Relations, Budget, Agriculture, and Judiciary Committees.