Senate Vote Today Would Link Sanctions Relief to Change in Iranian Behavior
‘The Administration failed to negotiate to ensure the release of American citizens being held in Iranian custody. The Administration failed to negotiate to ensure Iran’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist. But we can do something to link the freedom American citizens being held in Iranian custody and the recognition of Israel to sanctions relief — something that the Administration should have done. We can say it has to be corrected before sanctions are lifted, and billions more flow into Iranian coffers to use for terrorism. That’s what today’s vote is about.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding a vote on his amendment that would link sanctions relief with Iran’s release of American prisoners and recognition of Israel:
“Democrats have chosen to deny the Senate a final vote on the President’s deal with Iran.
“They made their choice.
“But that doesn’t mean the discussion is over.
“Today, we’ll have another opportunity to address the lifting of congressionally mandated sanctions as called for in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“Today, we’ll have an opportunity to vote on a question of policy: Should Iran be left with a threshold nuclear program, one now recognized by the P5+1, and receive billions of dollars in sanctions relief without any linkage to other aspects of its aggressive foreign adventurism?
“I’ll discuss that vote in greater detail in just a moment.
“But let’s first remember how we got to this point.
“Here’s what we know about the nuclear deal with Iran.
“It’s President Obama’s deal with Iran, not Americans’ deal with Iran, because he President did everything possible to cut the American people out and block their elected representatives from having a say.
“He first refused to pursue a treaty, because — as Secretary Kerry noted quite candidly — he wasn’t interested in negotiating something an elected Congress could support.
“He then had to be persuaded that resisting legislation to allow Congress an up-or-down vote on it — just as he had to be persuaded when Congress passed sanctions legislation that helped bring Iran to the table in the first place — would be futile.
“He finally worked to convince his party, which had voted unanimously for that legislation, to then deny the American people the up-or-down congressional vote Democrats had just promised them.
“Democrats went to extreme lengths to protect the President politically.
“Because they did, Democrats ensured that this would be not just be Obama’s deal with Iran but the Democratic Party’s deal with Iran too.
“It’s a deal that allows Iran to grow stronger in any number of ways: diplomatically, militarily, in terms of trade, and in terms of its enrichment program.
“It’s also a deal that achieves hardly any of the Obama Administration’s primary goals.
“Secretary Kerry once declared that an accounting of Iran’s military related nuclear activities ‘will be part of a final’ deal. ‘If there’s going to be a deal,’ he promised, ‘It will be done.’
“Secretary Moniz once declared that he expected we’d have ‘anytime, anywhere access’ to Iranian nuclear facilities.
"President Obama once declared that ‘the deal we’ll accept is they end their nuclear program — it’s very straightforward.’
“Or perhaps not quite so straightforward, because this deal will not end Iran’s nuclear program.
“Because the President made clear his desire to secure an agreement at any cost, it became easy for the Iranians to exploit concession after concession.
“It became possible for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to secure a deal that allows it to enrich uranium, to maintain thousands of centrifuges, and to become a recognized nuclear-threshold state, forever on the edge of developing a weapon. Iran was even able to secure a multi-billion dollar cash windfall that will allow it to strengthen terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, along with Assad’s bloody regime in Damascus — even the President basically admits as much.
“The Administration is now so invested in this deal that it’s likely to veto any additional sanctions passed by this Congress, even those against terrorism.
“Presidents are able to secure stronger, better, and more durable outcomes when they seek constructive cooperation on matters beyond the water’s edge.
“Republicans stood proudly for more international trade jobs just a few months ago. The President agreed with us on the policy. We all fought in the same corner as a result.
“It was disappointing to then hear the same President dismiss honest intellectual disagreements on the Iran deal as reflexive opposition to him personally.
“The President made a choice to turn this into a partisan campaign instead of serious debate. He tried to cut out the American people and Congress at every opportunity.
“Because he did, he left his country — and his party — with an executive deal that has hardly any durability or popular backing.
“The American people aren’t sold on it.
“A strong, bipartisan majority of the House has rejected it
“A strong, bipartisan majority of the Senate rejects it too.
“The deal can, and likely will, be revisited by the next commander-in-chief.
“But its negative consequences promise to live on regardless — and far beyond one President’s last few months in office.
“Those who follow in the White House and in Congress will have to deal with an Iran enriched by billions of dollars to invest in conventional weapons upgrades and further support to terrorist groups. Many of us will be here in the future when we will need to work with the next President to decide how best to deal with Iran’s ambitions and the future of this nuclear program.
“One reason Iran was able to negotiate so successfully was because of Russian support for a deal that would be antithetical to America’s interests.
“No surprise then that, just days after the deal was accounted, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force reportedly flew to Moscow to secure Russian support for their mutual ally in Syria.
“No surprise then that, as soon as the President had seemingly succeeded in securing the votes for a veto override, we heard that Russia was constructing a forward operating base to help prop up Assad.
“Iran’s negotiating partner Russia will undoubtedly use its presence in Syria to attempt to leverage the Western powers to weaken sanctions crafted in response to the invasion of Crimea.
“That, my colleagues, is diplomatic linkage.
“Russia pursued it successfully. The Obama Administration did not.
“The Administration attempted to negotiate this deal with the singular focus of ending Iran’s nuclear program. We already know it failed in that regard. But that myopia also had other consequences too, leading the Administration to ignore many issues that should have been linked to the negotiations in the first place — everything from Iran’s support of terrorism, to its aggressive behavior across the Middle East, to its harassment of shipping vessels in the Persian Gulf.
“But not just those issues.
“The Administration failed to negotiate to ensure the release of American citizens being held in Iranian custody.
“The Administration failed to negotiate to ensure Iran’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
“But we can do something to link the freedom American citizens being held in Iranian custody and the recognition of Israel to sanctions relief — something that the Administration should have done. We can say it has to be corrected before sanctions are lifted, and billions more flow into Iranian coffers to use for terrorism.
“That’s what today’s vote is about.
“When it comes to the American citizens being held in Iranian custody:
“The Senate voted unanimously just a few months ago to call for Iranian leaders to release those Americans. One is a journalist imprisoned for spreading ‘propaganda against the state.’ Another is a pastor who dared to attend a Christian gathering.
When it comes to Israel:
“Iran employs invective against Israel at every turn. It has already demonstrated both the will and capability to strike out against the West, and through proxies and cyber-attacks at allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. What this deal won’t do is alter Iran’s behavior. What it will do is give Iran an even greater ability to follow through on these threats.
“So we cannot allow Iran to be empowered as a nuclear threshold state armed with billions in sanctions relief without at least providing some protection to Israel first, without at least demanding the release of Americans who’ve languished in Iranian custody for years first.
“Let’s at least agree on that.
“I understand that there is strong division in this Senate — a bipartisan majority opposed, a partisan minority in favor — over the broader Iran deal.
“But at the very least, we should be able to come together over the vote we’ll take today.
"I urge all of my colleagues to vote for it.”
Related Issues: Iran Nuclear Deal, Iran, Israel, Russia