WASHINGTON, D.C. – This evening, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) took to the floor of the United States Senate to highlight the significant failures within the President’s nuclear deal with Iran, and called on Congress to reject the President’s deal.
As we come together and debate President Obama’s agreement on Iran, I believe it is one of the most consequential national security decisions we may ever face. I have heard my peers talk many times about the things that trouble them. The things that they fear. The “things that keep us up at night.” And I will tell you that this nuclear agreement is one of those things that keeps me up at night, as a mother, as a grandmother, and as a soldier. Having proudly worn our nation’s uniform for over twenty years, and having deployed to the region, I can tell you that protecting and defending this country is something that I take very seriously, and very personally.
I had hoped our President would approach the American people with a deal that reflected the high ground our nation has stood on against Iran for decades.
Unfortunately, now that I have seen the available details, I believe the President has not negotiated a good deal with Iran. The agreement before us fails to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program and does not end Iran’s support of terrorism. The President has squandered his opportunity to enhance our national security, and the security of our Israeli and Arab allies by failing to live up to his own goal of ending Iran’s capability to build a nuclear weapon.
The Administration is asking the American people to accept a deal which will—at best—freeze Iran’s nuclear program for eight years.
And that’s if the Iranians actually live up to their end of the bargain. One of the major failures in this deal is the lack of anytime, anywhere inspections to ensure that they do.
In April, the President’s own Secretary of Energy—Dr. Moniz—a nuclear physicist who the President often refers to as a leading authority on nuclear programs, he said, and I quote, “we expect to have anywhere, anytime access,” end quote, when referring to what our country needed to ensure Iran was abiding by a nuclear agreement.
Well, how can we ever be certain of compliance if Iran decides to cheat and we have a weak inspection regime as part of this deal? I would argue that we can’t.
Another part of this debate that has been very troubling to me is that the President continues to tell the American people there are only two options: his agreement or war. During one of his major speeches on this deal, he actually mentioned the word “war” 50 times in an attempt to hammer this false choice home.
Despite this misinformation campaign designed to pressure the American people into agreeing on a bad deal, our military leaders and distinguished former Administration officials clearly denied that our choice is either support the deal or go to war with Iran.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, disagreed with the President’s assessment that the American people face a choice of supporting the agreement or going to war with Iran.
Later that same week, the President’s pick to lead the United States Navy, said war was not the only alternative and that “we need to use the full set of capabilities that the joint force and the Navy can deliver to deter that. And the military contribution is also just a subset of a ‘whole of government’ approach along with our allies in the region.”
And it’s not just leaders within our military saying this. General Michael Hayden, former Director of the CIA and NSA, said, quote, “There is no necessity to go to war if we don’t sign this agreement. There are actions in between those two extremes.” End quote.
Dr. Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I would echo that …” during the same hearing.
Ambassador Edelman, a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Ambassador to Turkey, said “..I agree with you, I don’t think those are the only alternatives.”
Ambassador Nicholas Burns, a former top US negotiator with Iran on its nuclear program and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said “I don’t believe that war would be inevitable…”
Rather than misrepresenting the facts and our country’s options, I challenge supporters of this agreement to explain to the American people why they are supporting a flawed and bad deal today when we should be putting our citizens’ interests and their security first.
I’d also note that this Administration was willing to leave the negotiating table without securing an end to Iran’s support of terrorism. Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terror—and we are giving them a free pass in this deal to continue those efforts.
In addition to the billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which leaves Iran poised to double-down on its support of terrorism, the president also agreed to lift the UN arms embargo for advanced conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.
As a veteran of Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom—I am beside myself, as are many other Americans who served in Iraq, regarding the President’s support for sanctions relief for one terrorist in particular—the leader of Iran’s elite covert force, the Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani.
General Soleimani is directly responsible for the deaths of several hundred of Americans and the wounding of thousands more during the Iraq War.
Throughout the Iraq War, we lost many Americans killed in action and many more wounded by Iraqi Shia militia who were supported or controlled by General Soleimani.
In 2010, Ambassador James Jeffrey, then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, said, “Up to a quarter of the American casualties and some of the more horrific incidents in which Americans were kidnapped…can be traced without doubt to these Iranian groups.”
One of the signature tools to attack American servicemembers was an Improvised Explosive Device IED known as an Explosively Formed Penetrator or EFP.
These EFPs were provided by Iran exclusively to groups they controlled in order to kill Americans. If you ask American servicemembers who served in Iraq during the war—they will tell you these types of IEDs used by Iranian supported Shia militias were some of the most deadly and devastating types emplaced by any of the Iraqi insurgent groups—including al Qaeda in Iraq.
While many of my colleagues share the concern regarding General Soleimani and Iran’s targeting of Americans during the Iraq War, we seldom hear from Americans who have firsthand experience in fighting these Iranian supported Iraqi Shia militias.
My staff recently spoke to a currently serving U.S. Army officer, originally from Waterloo, Iowa, who deployed with the 1st Cavalry Division on a 15-month deployment to Iraq during the Surge. This Iowan described to us the impact Iran’s effort in Iraq had on him and his tank platoon in Baghdad, saying, “the threat of EFPs was quite real during our deployment to Iraq. And I’m quoting him. Understanding the pipeline from Iran into Iraq, the abundance of the munitions and the lethality on US Forces, the sense of peril never left [our] psyche. While I was never fearful of losing a limb, I knew if I was struck, I would follow certain death, one that I welcomed ten months into a fifteen month deployment.” End quote.
Removing sanctions on Soleimani is an embarrassment for this Administration and in the words of some of our Iraq veterans, “a slap in the face.”
And then there’s Luke, a retired Army servicemember with the storied 101st Airborne Division. While on patrol during the division’s second tour to Iraq, Luke lost his leg in combat after his vehicle was hit with an Iranian made EFP. He told us that, quote, “We come home blown up and try to put our lives back together, only to hear that our country is going to be lifting sanctions that will free up billions for Iran to kill more innocents. We may not be at war with them, but they’re at war with us. I’m a wounded veteran and I spend a great deal of time helping other guys like me. I can assure you that this deal directly affects us. It’s a slap in the face to all veterans. All those who served…” End quote.
We owe it to veterans and our current servicemembers who have sacrificed to stop Iran’s support of terror. I urge the President and my colleagues to consider Iran’s true intent, and not to underestimate Iran’s will to enhance its capability to destabilize the Middle East, threaten American security, and the security of our allies in the region and around the globe.
Mr. President, in closing, the decision we make on this agreement will have lasting results for our nation, the world, and future generations of Americans. I urge all of my colleagues to reject the President’s bad deal and put the security of the American people, our allies, and the global community first. Thank you Mr. President, I yield back the floor.