At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran las Monday, there was rare and welcomed unanimity, especially given the recent political environment.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) a ranking member, said that, although he voted against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, he now doesn’t believe it would be wise to withdraw. He continued, “Having said that, Iran’s activities today are as bad as they have ever been and probably worse. They are certainly increasing their terrorist sponsorship in the Middle East as we see in so many different countries in that region. Their record on violating the ballistic missile obligations are well known and well understood. Their human rights violations against their own citizens are horrible, one of the worst countries in the world. They violate the arms embargo and the list goes on and on. So, it is appropriate to get this Committee to look at what we can do to make sure that first, the Iran nuclear agreement is honored so that Iran does not become a nuclear weapons state, but then secondly, look at those activities that were not covered under the JCPOA as to how we can play a stronger role.”
Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the Chairman, was like-minded. “One of my criticisms of the JCPOA was that it would become our de facto Middle East policy and Iran would expand their destabilizing activities. I think we are seeing a lot of that today. Regionally, we’ve seen an escalation in Iranian intervention. Iran, along with its allies in Russia, has continued to prop up Assad at the cost of countless lives in Syria. Iran’s support to the Shia militias in Iraq threatens the interests of Sunnis and Kurds alike, not to mention the Shia in Iraq that don’t subscribe to the anti-American, zero-sum politics of the militias that are there,” he said, adding, “Iran is arming the Houthis in Yemen, who are in turn attacking our Saudi allies and targeting our ships. Yemen now faces a humanitarian crisis unprecedented in its history. Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It counts Lebanese Hizballah – an organization that has killed hundreds of Americans – as among its closest allies.”
At the AIPAC Policy Conference, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told the audience that “as I said when I voted against that deal, if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it.” He views Iran’s conduct as worsening. He continued, “Many of us rightly predicted that an Iranian regime that prioritized funding terrorism over the well-being of its own citizens would see sanctions relief as a cash windfall for their terrorist proxies across the region. And on terrorism, we feared that much of Iran’s new economic capacity would be used to propagate violence against Jews. It is no surprise then that Iran has not suddenly transformed into a responsible member of the international community. Rather it remains an agent of instability throughout the Middle East, a nefarious actor that continues to undermine American national security interests and our efforts to partner with countries throughout the region working to protect civilians and build democratic governance structures.”