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Ted Cruz on Iran: Remember, He Was Wrong on the Corker-Cardin Bill

A recurrent campaign trail mantra (see here, here, here) spoken by Senator Ted Cruz has been:

As POTUS, I’ll rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal!

Senator Cruz’s vociferous declaration — endlessly repeated — fits within a context of the presidential aspirant’s understandings of Iranian Shiite society, and his actions vis-à-vis the Obama administration’s disastrous Iranian nuclear deal, that merit careful examination.

Such public scrutiny, which the senator has not received, reveals his inadequate grasp of Iran’s current Shiite Islamic religio-political milieu, and its roots in five centuries of Twelver Shiite doctrine and history. Related, but worse still, explicating the timeline of Senator Cruz’s statements and deeds pertaining to the Iranian nuclear agreement — especially the Corker-Cardin bill — demonstrates his abandonment of constitutional responsibility that undermines U.S. national security, and gravely threatens our only reliable Middle Eastern ally with shared Western values of liberty, and consensual government: Israel.

Three months ago, Senator Cruz elucidated his foreign policy views during a widely reported December 10, 2015 Heritage Foundation address. Attention to Cruz’s speech focused obsessively on his alleged attempt to “thread the needle between” the GOP’s so-called “hawkish and dovish factions.” But even neo-conservative critiques of Cruz’s concerted effort to distance himself from their failed Lewis Doctrine-inspired Middle Eastern nation building designs, ignored the senator’s support for one of their own shared delusions — (Soylent) Green Movement led “regime change” in Iran.

Senator Cruz excoriated the Obama administration for what he deemed its “single greatest blunder,” when in 2009:

… the President [Obama] ignored the Green Revolution in Iran, thereby forfeiting an opportunity to replace the radical Islamist, terrorist-sponsoring regime in Tehran that chants ‘death to America’ and ‘death to Israel’ and pursues nuclear weapons, and instead America could have stood with a peaceful, secular rebellion that was crying out for support from the United States.

Doubling down on this condemnation, Cruz further invoked President Reagan’s iconic June 12, 1987 speech at the West Berlin Brandenburg Gate, which called upon then Soviet despot Gorbachev to dismantle the Berlin Wall, adding:

There was a case where regime change squared up with our most pressing national need. But instead of standing with the Iranian people in what could have been his ‘Tear down this wall’ moment, instead President Obama fell silent and decided to open up negotiations with the mullahs instead.

Cruz’s pronouncements were at odds with his own appropriate, if rather harsh criticism of “democracy promotion as an absolute directive.” Moreover his hagiography of the Green “Revolution” indicated a profound, delusive ignorance regarding the espoused ideology of the Green Movement’s religio-political leadership, specifically, and the current broader, Sharia-supportive opinions, and pro-nuclear development attitudes, of the vast preponderance of Iranian Shiites overall.

Ted Cruz’s warped assessment of the Green “Revolution” does not withstand any honest scrutiny of its leadership. The key figures in what I have the dubbed Soylent Green (an apt reference to the dystopian 1973 cult film) Movement, since 2009 (see here; here; here), were the late, eternal “spiritual inspiration” Ayatollah Montazeri (d. 2009), and active, remaining political leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. Cruz’s uninformed burbles reflect the hubristic ignorance of beltway policymaking elites, including his own senior foreign policy adviser, art historian Victoria Coates. This tragically prevalent ahistorical mentality entirely ignores — as Coates just did in a 3/1/16 oped — the living legacy of Shiite Islamic doctrine, and its authentic, oppressive application in Iran as a continuum since the advent of the Safavid theocratic state at the outset of the 16th century. Iran’s Safavid rulers, beginning with inveterate Muslim Jew-hater Shah Ismail I (r. 1501-1524), formally established Shiite Islam as the state religion while permitting a clerical hierarchy nearly unlimited control and influence over all aspects of public life.

The all-encompassing influence of the Shiite clerical elite continued for the next four centuries, although interrupted, between 1722-1795 (during a period precipitated by [Sunni] Afghan invasion [starting in 1719], and the subsequent attempt to re-cast Twelver Shiism as simply another Sunni school of Islamic Law, under Nadir Shah) through the later Qajar period (1795-1925), as characterized by Persian literature scholar and historian E.G. Browne:

The Mujtahids [an eminent, very learned Muslim jurist/scholar who is qualified to interpret the law] and Mulla [a scholar, not of Mujtahid stature] are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics.

A thorough evaluation of Montazeri’s recorded modern opinions demonstrates his pious adherence to traditionalist Iranian Shiism during the Safavid-Qajar eras, and since the retrograde Khomeini “revolution,” following Iran’s relatively brief 20th century dalliance with Western secularism under the Pahlavi Shahs (from 1925-1979). Ayatollah Montazeri’s copiously documented views — his Shiite Islamic juridical writings, memoirs, interviews, and speeches — reveal unequivocally the following:

  • Full-throated support for open-ended, aggressive jihad warfare to destroy Israel, fight the U.S., and establish global Islamic suzerainty, and the universal application of Sharia;
  • Application of an ugly, najis (i.e., non-Muslim infidel spiritual and physical “impurity”)-based Islamic order within Iran, openly antithetical to Western conceptions of individual liberty, religious freedom (i.e., including advocacy of the death penalty for “blasphemy”), and democracy;
  • Continued (per interviews Montazeri gave in 2003 and 2006) support for Sharia supremacism, sharing the current Iranian regime’s opinion about (and negotiating tactics for procuring) the Islamic Republic’s “right” to pursue “peaceful” nuclear technology, and re-affirming his bigoted, strident opposition to Israel’s mere existence.

An objective assessment of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s opinions demonstrates his great fidelity to Montazeri’s Weltanschauung. Across the gamut of critical issues — jihadism/Sharia-supremacism, violent anti-Americanism and annihilationist anti-“Zionism” (i.e., Jew-hatred), and active support for Iran’s nuclear aspirations: Mousavi’s views mirror those of Montazeri.

Pooled materials from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s open source translation office, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, and primarily multiple online media accounts that are obtained with relative ease validate this comparison. Equally unsettling is the fact that here again, as in the case of Montazeri, both Ted Cruz and his chief foreign policy adviser Coates remain oblivious to the unmistakable implications of Mousavi’s well-documented views and related actions.

Mousavi’s role in facilitating Iran’s nuclear program warrants elaboration. As described in a November 2007 IAEA report, in 1987 then-Prime Minister Mousavi endorsed the decision by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) to acquire centrifuge technology from the A.Q. Khan network. The IAEA obtained a copy of a “confidential communication” between the AEOI and Prime Minister Mousavi dated March 5, 1987, in which the AEOI president stated that Iran’s activities with the Khan network “should be treated fully confidentially.” Reviewing these events (on June 10, 2009), the non-partisan Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)’s Nuclear Iran project commented:

Mousavi effectively approved Iran’s use of the black market to pursue its secret gas centrifuge program.

Just over two decades later, Mousavi confirmed his commitment to Iran’s nuclear program in a series of statements reported during his 2009 “reformist” electoral campaign:

— April 12, 2009, via the Financial Times: “No one in Iran would accept suspension. Progress in nuclear technology and its peaceful use is the right of all countries and nations. This is what we have painfully achieved with our own efforts. No one will retreat.”

— On April 27, 2009, to Der Spiegel: “We will not abandon the great achievements of Iranian scientists. I too will not suspend uranium enrichment.” Asked if he would at least consider the outsourcing of uranium enrichment, as proposed by Russia. Mr. Mousavi responded simply, “No.”

— On June 12, 2009, to Time: “We will not accept our country being deprived of the right to [peaceful] nuclear energy.”

Recent hard polling data have confirmed how Montazeri’s and Mousavi’s Green Movement leadership attitudes reside within the closed circle consensus of an Iranian Shiite Muslim population still overwhelmingly committed to Sharia supremacism and the pursuit of Iran’s nuclear program.

After almost four decades of strict re-application of the Sharia in Iran (which has included stoning to death for adultery, execution for homosexuality, abrogation of freedom of conscience and religious minority rights, etc.), and notwithstanding wishful arguments that these phenomena had spawned mass public rejection of Islamic Law, Pew polling data released June 11, 2013 (from face-to-face interviews with 1,522 adults, ages 18 years of age and older) captured a sobering reality. When asked, “Do you favor or oppose the implementation of Sharia law, or Islamic law in our country?”, 83% favored its application.

A largely concordant finding demonstrated that only 28% of Iranians were concerned (i.e., 9% “very,” and 19% “somewhat” concerned) about “extremist religious groups” in the nation. Several months earlier, according to Gallup polling data reported February 2013, almost 2/3 of Iranians were willing to pay the high price of sanctions designed to deter the country’s nuclear ambitions. Sixty-three percent claimed that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program even given the scale of sanctions imposed on their country because of such efforts.

Senator Cruz’s factually challenged, delusive appraisal of the Green Movement notwithstanding, his perfidious comportment on the Obama administration’s relentless effort to seal a “nuclear agreement” with Iran was far more acutely damaging. By voting for the Corker-Cardin amendment, S.615, “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” Ted Cruz, knowingly relinquished his Constitutional authority to manage one of the most important global security matters of our time.

In March of 2015 I supported the only member of the Senate who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Sen. Tom Cotton, and his March 9, 2015 “Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Cotton’s letter, endorsed by 46 other GOP Senators, informed the theocratic totalitarians of Iran–and reminded U.S. citizens–that, In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.” Commendably, and consistent with the “advise and consent” power of the Senate, Sen. Cruz co-signed Sen. Cotton’s letter. As signatory to the Cotton letter, Presidential aspirant Cruz was cognizant — then — of the anti-Constitutional Obama administration approach to such a dangerously destabilizing nuclear “agreement,” shorn of Senatorial review and debate, and mandatory 2/3 approval vote by that body.

The subsequent months leading to eventual passage of the Corker-Cardin Senatorial “oversight” bill, and eventual approval of the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran, however, were punctuated by ignoble, capitulatory actions on the part of Senator Cruz. On April 14, 2015 a much ballyhooed “compromise” — in fact a constitutional capitulation — regarding S.615, “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” was unanimously agreed upon within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The next day, April 15, 2016, I reported my worst fears about what had actually transpired, citing p. 32 of the updated bill under a section entitled, “EFFECT OF CONGRESSIONAL ACTION WITH RESPECT TO NUCLEAR AGREEMENTS WITH IRAN,” which states in lines 16-19:

 16‘‘(C) this section does not require a vote by

17 Congress for the agreement to commence;

18 ‘‘(D) this section provides for congressional

19 review

Thus the Corker-Cardin compromise validated the Obama Administration’s negotiations strategy. That “strategy” was contrary to almost all past arms control agreements of consequence, which have been Senate Advice and Consent Treaties, whose approval requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate. The Obama Administration, in contrast, was (and remains) hell-bent on giving legitimacy to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, waiving economic sanctions on Iran, and not submitting the fruits of its masterful negotiations to a Congressional vote for approval before implementing the agreement. These developments should have been a tocsin of looming calamity given that the framework fiasco for this deal included a thoroughly inadequate inspections process, while also fully ignored Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear weaponization programs.

On April 28, 2014, in a belated, feeble effort to restore Constitutional advice and consent, as the Cotton/ the GOP-47 letter emphasized a mere seven weeks earlier, Sen. Ron Johnson proposed an amendment to the Corker Cardin Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, “To declare that any agreement reached by the President relating to the nuclear program of Iran is deemed a treaty that is subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.”

That evening Sen. Johnson’s amendment was voted down, 39 yea, 57 nay, a majority of senators rejecting this last-ditch effort to give the Iran nuke deal the international treaty status it merited. Sen Cotton, of course voted to approve the amendment. Ted Cruz did not even vote on Johnson’s amendment.

Although he had failed to vote on Johnson’s amendment, the next day in a Washington Times op-ed Sen. Cruz observed:

Thus, Corker-Cardin motion of disapproval reverses the ordinary presumptions. Instead of the President needing 67 Senate votes to ratify the Iran deal, it would now require 67 votes to stop an Iran deal. This makes no sense.

Less than a week later, Wednesday May 6, 2015 Sen. Cruz redoubled his criticism of Corker Cardin, calling it a “bad bill.” Cruz added that legislation:

… is unlikely to stop a bad Iran deal … this issue [the Iran nuke deal] is far too important to send a bad bill simply to send a message. This legislation at best will slow down slightly a terrible deal. Don’t have a fig leaf vote.

But the very next day, May 7, 2015, while brave Sen Tom Cotton alone held fast to principle, Senator Cruz joined the rest of the Senatorial lemmings, disavowing his constitutional responsibility, and voting 98 to 1 to approve the shameful Corker-Cardin capitulation. Sen. Cruz could muster only this mealy-mouthed unprincipled rationale for sacrificing his own often avowed Constitutional purity:

Ultimately, I voted yes on final passage because it may delay, slightly, President Obama’s ability to lift the Iran sanctions and it ensures we will have a Congressional debate on the merits of the Iran deal.

In stark contrast, Sen. Cotton reiterated his principled, Constitutional objection that the Iran nuclear deal was not to be presented to the Congress as a treaty:

A nuclear-arms agreement with any adversary — especially the terror-sponsoring, Islamist Iranian regime — should be submitted as a treaty and obtain a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate as required by the Constitution.

The self-declared jihadist state of Iran has global hegemonic aspirations, and continues its open-ended, “fierce” jihad war with the U.S. “at all levels,” as one “moderate” Iranian adviser to former “moderate” Iranian President Khatami has explained. This eternally threatening jihadist mentality was again on display during the recent February, 2016 mass celebrations of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Day, marked each year on February 11.

Ali Shirazi, chief Iranian theocrat Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative to the elite Iranian military Qods Force, intoned that all U.S. facilities worldwide:

… will be in danger … Iran’s missiles will ignite [American] submarines … Iran’s military might is bringing the U.S. to its knees.

 Iranian Army chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi added:

The Islamic Revolution is delivering harsh blows to the neck of “The Great Satan” … Much of our capabilities will be revealed only when the [U.S.] enemy either no longer exists or cannot retaliate.

Ted Cruz, a bright and gifted lawyer, has become the consummate politician whose ilk invariably sacrifices courageous decision-making at the altar of expediency. Inculcate Cruz with the shallow, doctrinally and historically deficient, see-no-Shiite Islam nostrums that permeate the “Washington cartel” policymaking advisory class — epitomized by Cruz’s chief foreign policy adviser Victoria Coates — and the result is a toxic amalgam of uninformed delusion and dangerous duplicity.