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Senator Tom Cotton in the Wall Street Journal "As the Iranian Nuclear Talks Drag On, Congress Must Act"

January 30, 2015
Wall Street Journal
By: Senator Tom Cotton 
Anuclear-capable Iran is the gravest threat facing America today. The Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, the so-called P5+1 talks, were supposed to stop Iran’s rush to a nuclear bomb. Regrettably, what began as an unwise gamble has descended into a dangerous series of unending concessions, which is why the time has come for Congress to act.
Our negotiating “partner,” Iran, is not a rational or peaceful actor; it is a radical, Islamist tyranny whose constitution explicitly calls for jihad. Iran’s ayatollahs have honored the call: Iran has been killing Americans for more than three decades.
In 1983 Iran helped finance and direct the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, killing hundreds of American military, diplomatic and intelligence personnel. Iran has also been implicated in the 1996 Khobar Tower bombings, which killed 19 American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.
More recently and personally for me, Iran has been responsible for the killing and maiming of thousands of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. During my tour in Baghdad leading an infantry platoon, Iran supplied the most advanced, most lethal roadside bombs used against coalition forces. My soldiers and I knew that Iranian-supplied bombs were the one thing our armored vehicles couldn’t withstand. All we could do was hope it wasn’t our day to hit one. My platoon was lucky; too many others were not.
Iran also continues to terrorize the civilized world. It is the worst state sponsor of terrorism on the planet, according to President Obama’s State Department. Iran is a lead financier and arms supplier of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, terrorist organizations dedicated to destroying Israel. Iran and its proxies also have a nasty habit of blowing up Jews around the world, from Argentina to Bulgaria to Israel.
Consider, too, what has happened in the past few weeks. Iranian-aligned Shiite militants have seized the capital of Yemen. Iran continues to prop up Bashar Assad ’s outlaw regime in Syria. An Iranian general was discovered near Israel’s border preparing offensive operations with Hezbollah against Israel—fortunately, he was discovered by an Israeli missile. Iran signed a new defense pact with Russia. And Iran proceeded with a sham prosecution against an American journalist held hostage there.
President Obama, citing the sensitivity of nuclear negotiations and Iran’s continuing participation, has asked Congress to postpone new legislation dealing with the Iranian threat. One has to ask: If this is the cooperation that our forbearance has achieved, can America afford any more cooperation from Iran?
The answer is no. It is the nature of Iran’s regime to kill Americans, export terror, destabilize the Middle East and foment world-wide Islamic revolution. If Iran commits these crimes against the West now, imagine what Iran would do with a nuclear umbrella.
Yet the nuclear negotiations have become an endless series of concessions to Iran. As it stands, American negotiators have conceded to Iran the right to enrich uranium, for which Iran has no legitimate need, much less a right. The negotiators have also conceded to Iran its plutonium-producing reactor and possession or development of thousands of advanced centrifuges. Nor are the negotiators even addressing Iran’s ballistic-missile program. In return, Iran has received billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
To end this appeasement, the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would impose new conditional and prospective sanctions on Iran if nuclear negotiations fail. The proposed legislation also calls for congressional approval of any nuclear agreement. It would have been preferable never to have eased the economic sanctions on Iran to begin with, but 20 months of negotiations is more than enough time for a process that Secretary of State John Kerry once predicted would take three to six months.
Many Senate Democrats oppose the proposed legislation, agreeing with President Obama that it might cause Iran to “walk away” from negotiations. Yet sanctions brought Iran to the table in the first place. The threat of future sanctions would cause the Iranians to walk away only if that is what they planned to do all along. The regime in Tehran could easily avoid new sanctions by making a deal.
Perhaps the Obama administration isn’t so much worried about the ayatollahs’ delicate sensibilities as it is focused on avoiding any deadline for itself or congressional review of its actions. This makes congressional action all the more necessary. Congress must protect America from a bad deal—anything less than Iran’s complete nuclear disarmament. The U.S. cannot live with a nuclear Iran, whether it is achieved with a formal agreement or in slow motion through endless negotiations.
Some Senate Democrats claim to share the goal of stopping a nuclear-armed Iran. They will now have their chance to prove it when this new legislation comes to the Senate floor in a few weeks.
Mr. Cotton, a Republican, is a U.S. Senator from Arkansas and a member of the Senate Banking and Intelligence committees.