Joni Ernst: Iran nuclear deal naively places trust in Tehran
Iran must never be allowed to develop a single nuclear weapon, she says
Editor’s Note: Joni Ernst is a U.S. senator representing Iowa. The views expressed are her own.
This week marks a critical time in our nation’s history and the future of the Middle East as Congress considers President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. The President claims that the deal will make the Middle East a safer place. But it is hard not to feel the opposite will be the case. After all, on Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei forecast that Israel will not exist in a mere 25 years. Indeed, he went as far as to taunt Israel by saying it would be kept “worried every moment.”
We should take Iran’s leaders at their own word.
Neither I, nor the American people, signed up for a nuclear deal with Iran that will provide the regime with billions of dollars to support its terrorist proxies and the murderous al-Assad regime in Syria. Nor did we agree to lift the United Nations arms embargo so Russia and China could provide Iran with conventional weapons and ballistic missiles. Unfortunately, despite the fact that a majority of Americans oppose this reckless Iran deal, that is the agreement in front of us.
Back in July, I hoped the President of the United States would return to the American people with a deal that reflected the high ground our nation has stood on against Iran. Now, having seen the available details, I believe the President has squandered our opportunity to enhance our national security – and the security of the world community – by failing to lead in dismantling Iran’s nuclear program and ensuring Iran committed to ending its support of international terrorism.
Much has already been said about risks assumed by our country through not achieving an agreement that includes critical “anywhere, anytime, inspections,” ends Iran’s ability to develop its nuclear program, and provides it with the ability to obtain new arms, weapons, and equipment. The President and our military leaders have pointed out these risks in the past. And we should also pay attention when the leader of one of our key allies, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, makes clear he believes the agreement will make the region more dangerous.
As someone who served in Kuwait and Iraq during the Iraq War, I understand it is vital to take into account the second and third order effects of our national security policies. Unfortunately, this agreement naively places trust in Iran, an adversary who has still not admitted it has a nuclear weapons program, nor does it seek to end its reign as the lead sponsor of terror in the world.
In addition, the effects of the non-nuclear related aspects of the deal, such as providing billions in sanctions relief without mechanisms to ensure those funds do not go to terrorist groups, lifting the U.N. arms embargo for conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, and lifting sanctions on individuals vital to Iran’s support of terrorism, will have immediate and devastating effects to our own national security and the security of our friends and allies in the region and around the world.
One of the cataclysmic events of this century – which Iran is to be held directly responsible for exacerbating – is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war against his own people, which has unraveled the Middle East and led to a sectarian conflict in the region not seen for generations. According to a U.N. estimate, Iran provides $6 billion annually to support al-Assad. Along with these funds, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has fought fight side-by-side with al-Assad’s forces, propping up a regime that would have collapsed years ago without their help.
Through Iran’s support of al-Assad, Iran has also been a key contributor to the largest humanitarian crisis of our time. Since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, over 220,000 people have been killed and according to the United States Agency for International Development, more than 11.6 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes. Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, have shouldered much of the original burden of providing for these displaced Syrians, but Europe now also faces hundreds of thousands of displaced persons who have sought refuge from the war in Syria.
Of course much of the blame rests with al-Assad, who many feel has committed crimes against humanity after the gassing of his own people and through countless instances of targeting civilians. But Iran and its proxies are directly responsible for ensuring al-Assad’s brutal policies have been able to continue.
When al-Assad initially heard of the nuclear agreement, he expressed confidence that Iran would continue to work for “just causes” and for “peace and stability.” I disagree. However, there should be no doubt that Iran will be able to do even more under this agreement to achieve its foreign policy aims, goals that have led to dire consequences for Syrians, our country, and the international community.
Iran must never be allowed to develop a single nuclear weapon – not now or at any point in the future. Instead, Tehran should take steps to actually make the Middle East a safer place in the long-term, including ending its support of violent extremism and terrorism. This will not happen through the lifting of the U.N. arms embargo, and instead requires the International Atomic Energy Agency to have anywhere and anytime access to declared and suspected nuclear sites.
The stakes are too high for the United States to risk any mistakes by sealing this agreement with Iran.