Senator Schumer, Stop the Iran Deal

As the first and only Iraq or Afghanistan veteran in the New York State Assembly, I feel a special responsibility to work at stopping the deal the Obama Administration has negotiated with Iran. To that end, I have started a petition to call on U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) to do more than just vote “no” on the Iran nuclear deal. I’m calling on Sen. Schumer, and I’ll hope you’ll join me in the call, to use his considerable influence to ensure that Congress does not approve President Obama’s deal with Iran.

It’s not enough for Schumer to vote against it. As anyone who follows politics or watches House of Cards knows, Schumer could get permission from the administration to cover himself with a “no” vote if they have enough votes and don’t need his. Already, Politico is reporting that Schumer is assuring his Democrat Senate colleagues that he won’t be whipping votes against the deal. Thus we call on Schumer, for reasons set forth below, to use his status as Vice Chair of the Democratic Conference and the likely chair of the Caucus after Senator Reid retires next year, to stop the deal the administration has negotiated with the Mullahs in Iran.

There are many reasons to oppose the deal. The following are the key reasons why Sen. Schumer must do all in his power to stop this deal:

1. Iran has the blood of American servicemen on its hands

At the confirmation hearing for Obama’s nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff we learned that at least 500 American servicemen were killed by Iranian efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked by Senator Tom Cotton, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, about Iran’s role in the deaths of American servicemen. General Dunford answered, "I know the total number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that were killed by Iranian activities, and the number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren't always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn't necessarily have the forensics to support that." Cotton believes that to be a low estimate.

Moreover, the number doesn’t take into account American servicemen wounded by Iranian explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs in Iraq and Afghnistan. EFPs were manufactured in Iran and given to Shiite militias in Iraq. According to the Military Times, “EFPs were powerful enough to destroy U.S. Humvees and breach tank hulls.” It stands to reason that Iranian EFPs wounded many more Americans.

 2. American Prisoners Still in Iran

The Obama administration infamously released five senior Taliban commanders from Guantánamo Bay, in exchange for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, but refused to include prisoner release in the deal with Iran. According to a Politico report, “Those imprisoned are former Marine Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. A fourth American, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, is believed missing and possibly held by the Iranians, though they deny it.”

After the deal was struck and Iran got sanctions lifted, Secretary of State John Kerry pathetically said, “We remain very, very hopeful that Iran will make a decision to do the right thing and to return those citizens to the United States.”

Why would we negotiate with and trust a regime that continues to hold four American hostages?

3. The deal starts an arms race in the most volatile region of the world

The deal will inevitably cause a Middle East arms race. Countries like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, faced with an Iran that is strengthened militarily and economically and on the road to eventually becoming a nuclear power as a result of this deal, will attempt to counter Iran’s new military strength.

As former UN ambassador John Bolton put it recently, "We have given Iran the path it has been seeking for almost 35 years. The other states in the region are not going to sit idly by, which is why in effect the nuclear arms race is already underway." 

4. Iran is the Number 1 state sponsor of terror

The website of the same U.S. Department of State that negotiated the deal lists Iran as one of three state sponsors of terror. According to a 2011 State Department report, “Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2010. Iran’s financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy.” None of this has changed. What will change if the deal is approved is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror will have a stronger economy when sanctions are lifted, greater access to weapons and a chance at a nuclear weapon in the near future.

5. Obama deal strengthens Iran’s economy

A recent report by Breitbart News states that, “The Iran deal will provide Iran with a cash windfall as sanctions are eased and assets are unfrozen. The total amount is estimated to be as high as $150 billion. If so, the Iran deal would give more cash to Iran than the $124.3 billion U.S. has given in total aid to Israel since 1948." Some of that money will undoubtedly flow to Iran's state sponsorship of Islamic terrorism and other nefarious purposes. The deal is enabling Iran to continue to destabilize the Middle East with its aggressive sponsorship of terror campaigns. 

6. The myth that this is the best we can do

Obama broke with the bedrock American principle of not negotiating with terrorists. He did so without preconditions. Iran wasn’t asked to release American hostages or cease its terrorist sponsorship before negotiations began. The administration’s response, “Do you have a better idea?” is juvenile. They’re asking those of us who opposed Obama’s policy toward Iran all along, “what would you do to fix this latest mistake in a series of mistakes?” That’s not a serious question.

The first mistake Obama made was to hang out to dry the Iranian reformers who rose up as part of the Green Revolution in 2009. This showed the Mullahs that we wouldn’t even speak out against them and in favor of the reformers. The Iranians knew they were dealing with a weak president when Obama refused to speak out for reform in repressive Iran. We further weakened the reformers by meeting with the Iranians without preconditions.

Meeting and negotiating with Iran and treating them as a respected member of the community of nations is worse than meeting and negotiating with ISIS or al Qaeda because Iran is more dangerous than a terrorist organization. As a state sponsor of terror it has greater resources and more deadly capabilities than does a stateless organization.

Despite the flaws inherent in the Obama administration’s question, it is worth answering. We should not ratify the deal in Congress. Instead, we should strengthen sanctions to further weaken the Iranian economy, increase espionage and cyber sabotage efforts with regard to Iranian nuclear ambitions and encourage the reformers.

We should also tell the Iranians that we will never permit them to build nukes. This may or may not have the result of forcing the Iranians to give up on their nuke dreams or render them financially incapable of continuing the pursuit of nukes. But at a minimum, it will avoid the inevitable Middle East arms race that will occur when Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are faced with an Iran that is strengthened militarily, economically and on the road to eventually becoming a nuclear power as a result of this deal.

Sen. Schumer can and must do more than cast a vote against the deal. As a proud veteran, I expect my senator to do more than that to stop a bad deal with a regime that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope you’ll join me and tell Sen. Schumer to do more than cast a politically calculated “no” vote when he can help stop the deal.

Lalor is a Republican member of the New York State Assembly.

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