WASHINGTON — Declaring “we are all Jews,” one of President Obama’s foremost critics on Iran and Cuba policy vowed today to keep going against his party as needed to protect Israel and stop Iran.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this morning that the terror attacks in Brussels are “another reminder that the United States must stand by its friends and allies whether in the Middle East or Europe or elsewhere.”
He encouraged the thousands of AIPAC attendees getting ready to lobby Capitol Hill to remember “the essence of the Netanyahu defense doctrine” on their visits to senators and congressmen: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”
“We see headlines that Iran has launched and test-fired two ballistic missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv – some of them marked ‘Israel must be wiped out,'” he noted. “Some of us saw it coming. Everyone in this room could see it coming. But we signed the JCPOA, and Iran is already testing the agreement, testing our resolve, and quite literally testing long-range ballistic missiles.”
Menendez was one of four Senate Democrats to vote against the nuclear deal.
“Not ever will we allow Iran to threaten Israel or the region with a nuclear weapon. I will continue to stand with you against any nation, any power, any potential threat to Israel’s right to exist. No matter what it takes, no matter what political powers I have to take on, even if they are in my own party,” the senator promised, drawing enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
“…And sometimes when I look at the vitriol stemming from certain quarters within our own politics here in the United States, I am reminded why being pro-Israel has always meant following our better angels, angels of religious tolerance and the rule of law… the fact is, in the Middle East, we stand at the confluence of order and chaos, civility and barbarism.”
Menendez continued his criticism of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, charging “it provided too much to Iran and too little to enhance Israel’s security – and the security of the United States.”
He stressed that the International Atomic Energy Agency is “short of human capital and equipment necessary to do the job” of enforcing the agreement and “its attention will be lost on other proliferation challenges.”
“The fact is, the IAEA is not an intelligence agency and is not schooled in tradecraft or in detecting clandestine or undeclared activities. What does it say that we are putting our national security interests in the hands of a multilateral organization that, at best, will be struggling to meet its requirements?”
Menendez said that while “we are only a short time into this process,” he already can see “we need new legislation to fill the space around the JCPOA that has not been addressed.”
“We’ve seen three ballistic missile tests: One in October, one in November, and one in March, and one launched not far from U.S. Naval vessels. We’ve seen American sailors humiliated and detained at gunpoint. We’ve seen 4 innocent American hostages traded for the freedom of 21 Iranian criminals, the release of 7 terrorists, and clemency for 14 more. We’ve seen $1.7 billion in American taxpayer money go to the government of Iran for defense contractor services, plus interest, paid but not performed in 1979 and so quickly paid that no victim of terrorism who has a judgement could attach the money.”
Meanwhile, “Iran continues to support a Houthi insurgency that toppled the legitimate government of Yemen. It supports Shia militias in Iraq that virtually control the democratically elected Iraqi government, threatening to return Iraq to civil war or worse. It supports Assad in Syria and continues to send millions of dollars and sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, threatening Israel’s security…. It has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, biological weapons, and continues to develop cyber-war capabilities. Iran continues its development of space-launch vehicles that can lead to longer-range missile capability.”
“It has cooperated with North Korea on the transfer of ballistic missile technology, And, despite Iran’s blatant adventurism, our only response has been to impose some limited sanctions on individuals, not as robust as the sanctions I had proposed, when Iran began testing intercontinental ballistic missile, which is in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
Menendez stressed that “clearly, Iran will never change — the devil you see now is the devil you’ve always known.”
“For all of these reasons I am introducing legislation that fills that empty space left by the JCPOA that lets Iran continue its hegemonic behavior and leaves it unencumbered, emboldened, and enriched,” he said. “When you go to the Hill tell them you want a bill that will go a long way to preventing Iran from continuing to build up its conventional forces, fund its terrorist-proxies, and make it more difficult for Iran to find new and clever ways to cheat on the agreement it signed and find its way to a nuclear weapon.”
The senator took a dig at Donald Trump without naming the GOP frontrunner: “Unlike some presidential candidates, I do not believe the U.S. can be neutral if Israel is to survive.”
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