01.09.20

Gardner Speaks on Senate Floor Regarding Iran

“The Administration’s action with regard to Qassem Soleimani was not only decisive, but necessary and legal under longstanding presidential authority to protect American lives from imminent attack.”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke on the floor of the Senate today regarding Iran.

Iran Floor Remarks 1-9-20

NOTE: Click here or the picture above to view Senator Gardner’s remarks.

“I hope the latest events have made it clear to Tehran that the United States will never back down from protecting our people, our interests, and our allies,” said Senator Gardner. “So now it’s in Tehran’s court to choose the path of peace, or the path of confrontation. It is my sincere hope that they choose the path of peace.”

Remarks as delivered:

Thank you, Madam President.

I come to the floor today to speak about United States policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I commend the Administration for taking decisive action last week in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists planning an imminent attack on American targets. The Administration’s action with regard to Qassem Soleimani was not only decisive, but necessary and legal under longstanding presidential authority to protect American lives from imminent attack.

It is our obligation, it is our duty, to protect American lives, especially when our national security agencies and personnel know the imminent danger of attack. The President made the right call at the right time to neutralize the threat and to save American lives. Imagine having done nothing, having done nothing and allowing the attacks to proceed.

At yesterday’s classified briefing, General Milley and our national security personnel made it clear: the death of General Soleimani saved lives.

Our duty in Congress is to protect the United States, its people and interests, diplomats, and our men and women in uniform around the globe. The actions taken by our military in Iraq undoubtedly saved American lives and addressed a clear, compelling, and unambiguous threat.

The world should not mourn Qassem Soleimani, a man whose name is synonymous with murder in the Middle East as the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Quds Force, which is designated as a terrorist organization under U.S. law, a man who personally is designated as a terrorist battlefield commander by President Obama.

The Quds Force was the tip of the spear for the regime in its terrorist activities abroad and is responsible for thousands of deaths across the region. Most importantly, according to the Pentagon, Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of over 600 American service members in Iraq.

General David Petraeus, who commanded our forces in Iraq, stated last week that in his opinion, taking out Soleimani was “bigger than Bin Laden, bigger than Baghdadi.” In other words, President Trump rid the world of an extreme and lethal enemy of the American people, someone who was actively pursuing and had killed, and taken American lives.

I fail to understand how anyone can question this decision or its rationale. And I know they certainly did not, and rightfully so, when President Obama took out Bin Laden.

We expected an Iranian response and on Tuesday, Iran launched a ballistic missile attack against bases in Iraq hosting U.S. troops. I condemn these attacks in the strongest terms and we are fortunate that they did not result in any casualties.

I do not want war with Iran, but the President did not take this action in a vacuum. Contrary to claims by some of my colleagues in this very chamber, it is Iran that has escalated tensions, not the United States. Over the last several months and years, Iran has sharply escalated its malign behavior against the United States and our allies.

On June 13th, the IRGC attacked two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical global shipping lane.

On June 20th, the IRGC shot down a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle in international airspace.

On September 14th, Iran sponsored an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, temporarily cutting off half of the oil supply of the world’s largest producer.

On December 27th, Iranian proxy group Kataib-Hezbollah carried out a deadly attack against a base in northern Iraq, killing an American civilian – killing an American. The Administration appropriately retaliated against this group on December 29th.

Then on New Year’s Eve, Iran-backed militias besieged and damaged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for two days, forcing the Administration to take prudent measures to prevent further violence.

When Soleimani was caught plotting additional attacks against American targets, the Administration took lawful and appropriate action.

I now urge Tehran to take the opportunity presented by the Administration to de-escalate tensions immediately. The Administration must also continue taking all necessary steps to keep our troops, diplomats, and country safe, and to regularly consult with Congress on next steps.

It is my hope that diplomacy ultimately prevails, but we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. Iran’s enmity toward the United States stretches over decades, not just months or weeks.

Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the ruling mullahs held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, releasing them only on January 20th, 1981, the day President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.

Two years later, on April 18th, 1983, a truck laden with explosives rammed into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 17 Americans.

On October 23rd, 1983, a similar attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut killed 241 American servicemen. Overwhelmingly, the evidence led to Iran and its wholly owned subsidiary, Hezbollah, as the perpetrator of these attacks.

The Iranian regime has not changed in 40 years. It targeted and killed Americans during the Iraq War, supported Shiite militias, and supplied deadly explosives used to target our troops.

Iran continues to prop up the regime of the murderous Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The Iranian regime regularly refers to the United States as the “Great Satan,” and threatens our ally, Israel, which they call “Little Satan,” to wipe them off the face of the earth.

The mullahs continue to grossly abuse the human rights of their own people, as demonstrated by recent bloody crackdowns on protestors in Iran that have claimed hundreds and hundreds of innocent lives.

Despite all of this, in 2015, the Obama Administration rewarded Tehran with a sweetheart deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which paved a patient pathway to a nuclear weapon for Iran, lifted all meaningful sanctions against the regime, and did nothing to constrain Iran’s malign behavior in the region. Iran used the billions and billions of dollars that were provided in the JCPOA to dramatically increase its terror funding and its military funding.

The Trump Administration rightly exited the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed crippling economic sanctions against the regime. They have been clear with Iran that the door to diplomacy remains open, if Iran changes its behavior and complies with international norms.

On May 21st, 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech at the Heritage Foundation, which clearly stated the Administration’s objectives: Iran must forgo its nuclear aspirations, cease its support for terrorism, and respect the human rights of its people.

Secretary Pompeo said, and I quote, “Any new agreement will make sure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, and will deter the regime’s malign behavior in a way that the JCPOA never could. We will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations, and we will not renegotiate the JCPOA itself. The Iranian wave of destruction in the region in just the last few years is proof that Iran’s nuclear aspirations cannot be separated from the overall security picture.”

Secretary Pompeo was clear that once Iran changes its behavior, it will reap the benefits, stating that “[The United States is] prepared to end the principal components of every one of our sanctions against the regime. We’re happy at that point to re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relationships with Iran. And we’re prepared to admit Iran to have advanced technology. If Iran makes this fundamental strategic shift, we too are prepared to support the modernization and reintegration of the Iranian economy into the international economic system.”

I hope the latest events have made it clear to Tehran that the United States will never back down from protecting our people, our interests, and our allies. So now it’s in Tehran’s court to choose the path of peace, or the path of confrontation. It is my sincere hope that they choose the path of peace.

Thank you, Madam President, I yield the floor.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.