WASHINGTON – Former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said the Trump administration should “declassify” the entire Iran nuclear deal and “close the loophole” that allowed the Obama administration to directly pay Iran $1.7 billion without congressional approval.
“The best thing the Trump administration can do is declassify the entire agreement and publish it so the Congress and the American people can look at it and see the negotiating record and understand all of the terms as they were put forward before the parties,” Kirk said during a United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) Capitol Hill briefing on Thursday about the future of Iran policy.
“The [Obama] administration used a loophole in U.S. law using the settlements fund, whereby the executive could settle lawsuits against the United States basically without a need for appropriation by the Congress – that’s where all the ransom money came from. That loophole should be closed. I don’t see President Trump ever paying ransom so I don’t think there’s a danger of Congress using their power there,” he added.
Kirk also encouraged the United States to work with Saudi Arabia to combat the Iran regime’s actions such as sponsoring terrorism. He said the Saudis would jump at any chance to “screw” the Iran regime after its plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.
Kirk told PJM that Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who served as the Saudi Ambassador to the United States from 2007 to 2015, personally told him the plot was supposed to take place at Café Milano, a restaurant in Georgetown, with the help of a Mexican drug cartel.
Kirk recalled al-Jubeir saying the Iranians targeted that restaurant because they found out his hobby was cooking and that he used to do volunteer work there.
“That story reminded me that the Saudis would probably do almost anything to screw the Iranians, that we have a very, very good ally there to be able to adjust production to undercut the Iranian position in the oil market,” Kirk said.
PJM asked Kirk how he initially found out about the plot.
“That came about when the FBI surprisingly released the transcript of an Iranian intelligence agency planning to kill al-Jubeir. I was really surprised that stuff became unclassified, and because it was unclassified I asked al-Jubeir about it. I said, ‘So where do they want to kill you?’ He said, ‘Café Milano,’ so as a Georgetowner I felt personal about that,” the former senator said. “It was Iranians to the Zetas in Mexico, and talking to the Mexicans probably improved our ability to monitor what was being discussed.”
PJM also asked Kirk if Trump would be able to stop Iran if the Kremlin lobbies Washington officials on behalf of their allies in Tehran.
“There’s some high-impact, non-military things the Trump administration can do to make ‘on notice’ become more real, and I think the first step is to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization,” he said. “And you look at the IRGC as a set of industrial empires and run them out of money because they are the most toxic part of the Iranian government. You’re doing the most damage to the terrorist infrastructure.”
During the briefing, former UN Ambassador John Bolton said regime change in Iran is the preferred outcome. PJM asked Kirk how the U.S. could achieve regime change without going to war with Iran.
“I do agree with him. President Obama had that option when the Green Movement started, and because he was into appeasing Iran he didn’t help out the Green Movement exactly when it could have taken power,” Kirk said of the 2009 protests against the regime.
“My hope is if the mullahs are totally dedicated to the principle that 7th century values should run a 21st century Iran, that makes no sense and should make no sense to the two-thirds of Iranians who are young people who want to interact with the interwebs and make sure they can fully realize their potential as people in other countries do,” he added.
Kirk compared the situation to Syria and said the regime is on its last legs, with Russia’s support as the last thing holding it up.
“You have regime change just like you have had in Syria with a revolution. And you know a lot of people a couple of years ago, if you had said we need to change the regime in Damascus they would have said the secret police is too strong, we can’t do that – but now it looks like the Syrian regime is on its last legs but for the Russian support,” he said.
Kirk also offered his reaction to Russia’s missile delivery to the Syrian regime.
“I don’t think the Iskander that is in Syria has any nuclear capability. It’s a conventional system, which can hit a target about 100 miles away, but whether it can hit it accurately is open to question,” he said.
“If I was advising the Trump administration, I would say to you ought to not do what Obama was doing. We ought to repeat the success we had in Afghanistan of giving Stingers to the opposition so they can negate the airpower advantage that Assad has – and that was critical to winning in Afghanistan,” he said.
Kirk said providing Stinger surface-to-air missiles to the opposition would cause Russia’s operating cost in Syria to rise.