In a speech this week to the Council on Foreign Relations, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) lays out his views on a strategic basis for non-certification of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and offers a way forward on U.S.-Iran policy.
"I've long advocated for declining to certify the deal to Congress again for many reasons," Cotton said. "But President Trump has put it best himself: 'The Iran deal poses a direct national-security threat.' The sensible course, then, is to decline to certify the deal and begin the work of strengthening it and counteracting Iranian aggression, with the threat of sanctions and military action if necessary."
SEN. TOM COTTON: Thank you all very much, and thank you to the Council on Foreign Relations for hosting this important conversation about the future of the Iran deal.
That future faces a moment of decision on October 15. I've long advocated for declining to certify the deal to Congress again for many reasons, which I'll explain tonight. But President Trump has put it best himself: "The Iran deal poses a direct national-security threat."
The sensible course, then, is to decline to certify the deal and begin the work of strengthening it and counteracting Iranian aggression, with the threat of sanctions and military action if necessary.
To understand why, let's understand the Iranian threat. It's not the deal's technical flaws, though it has a lot of those. The threat is not the nature of Iran's weapons; it's the nature of Iran's regime.
The ayatollahs are a radical, revolutionary Islamist movement, backed with the powers of a nation-state. And it has always been so. Shortly after taking power, Ayatollah Khomeini created the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to fulfill "the ideological mission of jihad in God's way; that is, [to extend] the sovereignty of God's law throughout the world," in the words of Iran's constitution. Suffice it to say, their vision of God's law is not exactly merciful.
The IRGC's shock troops take their mission very seriously. Today, Iran supports and trains Shiite militias and terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Gaza. They build missile factories on Israel's borders. They recruit child soldiers to fight in Syria. They employ secret police to harass and beat students.
And Iran is the most anti-American regime in the world. The ayatollahs have called us "the Great Satan" for 38 years, ever since they invaded our sovereign embassy territory in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for over a year.
And that's not just rhetoric; the ayatollahs' hands are dripping with the blood of American patriots. Hezbollah, the cat's paw of the IRGC, has murdered hundreds of Americans in the bombings of our embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut and of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia. More recently, Iran was responsible for the deaths of hundreds and hundreds of American troops in Iraq, where they supplied Shiite militias with vast arsenals, including devastating roadside bombs.
This is the threat we face: a theocratic tyranny with a deep-seated ideological commitment to wreaking havoc, mayhem, and death against the United States.
There are no mythical moderates in this regime. Even Wendy Sherman, who chiefly negotiated the deal, has since said, "There are hardliners in Iran, and then there are hard-hardliners in Iran." She even characterized the current president, supposed centrist Hassan Rouhani, as "not a moderate, he is a hardliner." It has always been so; if the ayatollahs were to moderate, they would undercut their own self-serving claim to rule.
It's no wonder, then, that this outlaw regime has relentlessly pursued nuclear weapons for a generation. No other weapon is so well-suited for its revolutionary agenda. Nor is it a surprise that the ayatollahs have gone to the greatest lengths to hide their nuclear-weapons program.