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Cotton Speaks on Senate Floor in Favor of Iran Sanctions Bill

June 14, 2017

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353

Today, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act. Click here to watch the speech in full.

I speak in favor of this Iran sanctions bill. I'm an original co-sponsor of the bill, so it should come as no surprise that I support it. My only concern is we didn't pass it sooner. And as I stand here today, I can't help but feel that this moment highlights the folly of the last eight years of President Obama's foreign policy.

For eight years, President Obama did everything he could to curry favor with ayatollahs in Tehran. He ignored popular protests, known as the Green Movement-and the thousands of Iranians who cried out for something more than sham elections. He lectured our Gulf Arab allies on the need to "share" the Middle East with their sworn enemy in some kind of cold peace. He insisted on putting "daylight" between us and our friend Israel. He dallied and dithered as the regime helped their client Bashar Assad tear apart his own country in a brutal civil war. And most infamously, he traded away billions of dollars in sanctions relief for a flimsy, one-sided nuclear deal-a deal that didn't prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon as so much ultimately guarantee it in just a few years.

And what do we have to show for all this? What did we get for looking the other way for eight years?

Not a more reasonable Iran; not a more open, tolerant, democratic Iran; not a friendlier Iran-but an emboldened Iran-one that continues to launch ballistic missiles in willful defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions. For everything we've done to mollify the ayatollahs and their sensitivities, they've gone out of their way to inflame ours.

And what did President Obama do? Nothing but appease them.

But we shouldn't lay these failures solely at the last president's doorstep-because he represents a mindset that's too widely shared. It's one that sees Iran's obvious imperial aggression in the Middle East-and yet still considers America the aggressor. It's one that tries to compartmentalize and haggle with a regime whose leaders shout, "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" virtually every Friday. And it's one that refuses to call a spade a spade and say to the ayatollahs, "Enough is enough."

But today we're changing course-and not a moment too soon. This legislation will finally hold the regime in Tehran accountable for its brazen attempts to bully its neighbors and assert supremacy throughout the Middle East. It will put heavy sanctions on anyone involved in helping Iran develop ballistic missiles, circumvent our arms embargo, or spread terrorism throughout the world.

I know there are those who consider this kind of a move provocative-but I would say it is the Iranian regime's aggression that has been provocative. All of these sanctioned activities-they're things the regime in Tehran shouldn't be doing in the first place. I don't think it provocative to hold our enemies to the same standards as our friends. I don't think it unreasonable to do what we can to protect our friends-and ourselves-from Iranian-supported terrorism and from a regime that's responsible for killing hundreds of American troops in the Middle East. 

Instead, I think it's long overdue. And today I'm glad to see the Senate finally prepared to rectify these grave mistakes.