MCCONNELL: Senate should not tie military’s hands over political divisions at home  

Sen. McConnell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on Tuesday on the Senate floor regarding Iran:

"Every day brings more repudiation of the conventional wisdom of the Democrat foreign policy establishment, breathlessly amplified by the mainstream media, that the strike on Qassem Soleimani would unite Iranians behind the regime.

"Proud Iranians continue to take to the streets – not to rage against America or Israel – but to vent their frustration against the corrupt, theocratic regime that has led Iran down a ruinous path.

"I spoke about these protests before the strike on Soleimani, and I will continue to speak about them.

"I have long believed the United States should care about human rights and democracy, whether in Russia, China, Hong Kong, Burma, Cuba, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Syria, or Iran.

"The promotion of human rights and defense of democracy should not necessarily be the driving force of our foreign policy, but it should be an important component.

"I ask my Democratic colleagues who share this view to set aside their hatred for Donald Trump -- even just for a moment -- and step back to look at what has been happening across Iran for years:

"The repression of women. The persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. The brutal suppression of dissent.

"Was the Obama administration right to meet the 2009 Green Revolution with silence?

"Consider the story of Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who this week defected from Iran and requested asylum. Or the Iranian State TV broadcasters who quit, apologizing to the public for years of lying on behalf of the mullahs. Or the innocent protesters who are being killed and wounded by agents of the state.

"These are well-known realities. They were well-known when, twelve days ago, the United States took the world’s most dangerous terrorist off the battlefield.

"But mystifyingly, many voices here in Washington and in the media sought to blame escalating tensions in the region on President Trump.

"We heard from leading Democrats that the operation to eliminate Soleimani was one of the administration's, quote, 'needless provocations.' We heard the 'cycle of violence' was America’s responsibility.

"All of this flies in the face of the reasonable analysis some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were offering before Donald Trump became President.

"In 2007, 30 Democrat Senators joined Republicans to support an amendment warning of the need to prevent, quote, 'Iran from turning Shi’a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hizballah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq.'

"Few more prescient warnings have been pronounced by this body. But unfortunately, it went unheeded by the Obama administration, which withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq, effectively abandoning it to Soleimani and his proxies.

"As recently as 2015, the Democratic Leader warned that the JCPOA failed to address Iran’s destabilizing malign activities and that Iran would use its windfall to, quote: 'redouble its efforts to create even more trouble in the Middle East and, perhaps, beyond.'

"Senator Menendez hit the nail on the head as well. He warned, quote, 'If there is a fear of war in the region, it will be one fueled by Iran and its proxies and exacerbated by an agreement that allows Iran to possess an industrial-sized nuclear program, and enough money in sanctions relief to significantly continue to fund its hegemonic intentions throughout the region.' End quote.

"So many of our Democratic colleagues understood all this quite clearly when a Democrat occupied the White House. And it came true. Iran’s aggression only accelerated after the Obama administration’s deal.

"The question for us is not who to blame. That much is clear. The question is what to do about it.

"So, as Iran’s aggression became focused on the United States, as the risk to our personnel and interests grew, after months of repeated warnings, President Trump took action.

"I am glad the strike against Soleimani has provided some justice to his countless victims – hundreds of Americans and many more across the Middle East.

"We don’t yet know if Soleimani will prove irreplaceable. But his death will significantly disrupt Iran’s death machine. And it will change Iran’s long-held misconception that they could literally get away with the murder of Americans without a meaningful response.

"President Trump’s strategy seems to have re-established deterrence.

"But the Senate risks jeopardizing what we have gained with this strike if it ties the military’s hands and tells Iran we have no stomach for this.

"America can hardly be defeated on the battlefield. But we can be defeated at home on the political front. We can allow ourselves to become divided and play into the hands of our adversaries.

"Our divisions at home are significant. Let us not allow them to pollute our judgment on foreign affairs. Let’s not make our adversaries’ lives easier by tying our military’s hands."

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