Originally Published: September 18, 2015 6:01 a.m.
For the last several weeks, the Democratic minority in the U.S. Senate has blocked an up-or-down vote on President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. The American people deserve to know where their representatives in Congress stand on this agreement, which has profound consequences for our nation's security. I continue to hope that Democrats will reconsider its blatant obstructionism and allow that vote as soon as possible.
I oppose President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran because it has dangerous implications for the security of America and our allies, including Israel. Rather than cut off Iran's path to a nuclear weapon, it paves a new one. It legitimizes Iran as a threshold nuclear state with an industrial enrichment capability, unshackles the regime in its long-held pursuit of conventional military power, and gives billions of dollars to the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Iran is not just an arms control challenge - it is a geopolitical challenge. The Obama Administration has no strategy to counter Iran's hostile activities in the Middle East and around the world. Yet into this strategic vacuum, this deal will give Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief to boost arms supplies to Iran's terrorist proxies, sow chaos and instability across the region, and double down on the murderous Assad regime in Syria.
This agreement will also further Iran's emergence as a dominant military power in the Middle East. Despite repeated assurances that negotiations were strictly limited to the nuclear program, the Administration made two major concessions:
The agreement would legitimize and accelerate Iran's development of ballistic missiles, including ICBMs, whose only conceivable military purpose would be to deliver nuclear weapons.
The agreement would lift the international arms embargo against Iran, freeing up the regime to acquire advanced conventional military capabilities, such as fighter aircraft, air defense systems, and anti-ship missiles.
These concessions have direct and dangerous implications for the U.S. military. Iran was responsible for the deaths of more than 500 American service members during the Iraq War. And while the Administration says that the military option will remain on the table if Iran violates the agreement, the deal itself would enable Iran to construct the very kind of advanced military arsenal that could raise the cost of employing our military option should it become necessary. In short, if this agreement fails, and U.S. service members are called upon to take action against Iran, their lives could be at greater risk because of the terms of this deal.
The deal also threatens to increase security competition in the Middle East, sparking new arms races, nuclear proliferation, and possibly conflict - all of which would demand more, not less, U.S. leadership and presence in the region.
Ultimately, this is what I find most troubling about the Iran deal: It embodies, and will likely exacerbate, the collapse of America's global influence that is taking place under this Administration - and indeed, has so often been set in motion by its policies.
Just consider how much more dangerous our world has become under President Obama. Russia has invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. China is rapidly modernizing its military while building and militarizing land features in the South China Sea. Cyberattacks against our nation are increasing in regularity and severity. The hard-won gains of our men and women in uniform have melted away following the President's decision to withdraw all of our troops in 2011. And the Syrian conflict has claimed 220,000 lives, created the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, and contributed to the unraveling of the entire Middle East.
ISIL, al-Qaeda, and their terrorist offshoots are expanding throughout the region, and deeper into Africa and South Asia as well. And all the while, the Iranian regime is furthering its ambitions to become the dominant power in the Middle East, and the deal before the Congress now will only help them accomplish that goal.
Our nation needs leadership - a strategy and policies to address the challenges to our security, especially the broader threat posed by Iran. This larger response should include new legislation to increase sanctions against Iran for its malicious activities in the Middle East and its human rights abuses, provide new security assistance for our allies and partners in the region, and fund our military to meet the serious threats we face. But the first step the Congress must take is rejecting this dangerous deal with Iran.
Contact U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, at 202-224-2235 or visit www.mccain.senate.gov to email a comment.