WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Iran:
“This week, two of America’s closest partners in the Middle East made history. The United Arab Emirates welcomed a President of Israel for the first time, laying another diplomatic stone on the foundation of the Abraham Accords.
“But within mere hours of President Herzog’s historic arrival, we were reminded of the dangers that an increasingly violent Iran is willing to impose on anybody pursuing peace. For a third straight week, the UAE was targeted by a Houthi missile attack, made possible by Tehran.
“Last week, the terrorists targeted an airbase that hosts 2,000 U.S. personnel. And it was American-made missile defense systems that intercepted the strike.
“The United States faces these same Iranian-backed threats alongside partners like Israel and the UAE. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at President Biden’s foreign policy.
“A year ago, the State Department removed Yemen’s Houthi terrorists from its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
“Since then, the Iranian proxy terrorists have only increased their attacks, underwritten by Iranian money and technology.
“So much so, in fact, that last month the Biden Administration was reportedly considering reversing its decision.
“Iran’s strategy is to use violence to drive the United States out of the Middle East.
“Small wonder they would double-down on this strategy after the Administration’s humiliating retreat from Afghanistan.
“And the failure to respond forcefully to Iranian-backed attacks against US forces in the region has eroded our deterrence and dramatically increased the risk to US personnel.
“If this Administration chooses to shrug or look the other way when Iran targets our friends and our interests, and if they continue to withhold military capabilities from partners threatened by Iran, then they should not pretend to be surprised when traditional American partners in the Middle East start looking to Moscow and Beijing to fill the vacuum.
“Of course, the biggest distraction keeping this Administration’s attention from protecting our interests in the Middle East has been its ongoing obsession with returning to the Obama Administration’s failed 2015 nuclear agreement.
“Since President Biden took office, he’s made rejoining the deal an overriding diplomatic objective.
“But by blaming their predecessor’s ‘maximum pressure’ approach and demonstrating an unwillingness to respond forcefully to Iranian-backed terrorist attacks, the Administration effectively took the threat of sanctions or military action off the table, neutering their own diplomacy at the outset.
“No wonder the hard-liners in Tehran are holding out for more concessions from the soft-liners in Washington.
“It’s not just Republicans who are concerned. Senator Menendez recently expressed similar concerns on the Senate floor and called upon the Biden Administration and our partners to – ‘exert more pressure on Iran to counter its nuclear program, its missile program, and its dangerous behavior around the Middle East, including attacks on American personnel and assets.’
“Recent reports suggest some of Biden’s own diplomats also share these concerns, and have withdrawn from the team over concerns the Administration’s top negotiator is taking too soft of a line on Tehran.
“Madam President, a year ago, Republicans made it clear to President Biden that if his administration was interested in bipartisan foreign policy, they’d find willing partners here in the Senate.
“For my part, I recommended that the President focus on securing bipartisan support for promises and threats so they could endure beyond his term in office. I urged him not to let the foreign policy of the most powerful nation on Earth be reduced to an etch-a-sketch, starting from scratch every four years.
“We don’t often agree, but I was grateful to hear Chairman Menendez concur this week that – ‘the best guarantee of a sustainable, diplomatic agreement with Iran and the international community is to build one that garners bipartisan political support.’
“I’m still hopeful that President Biden will finally recognize how uninterested Tehran is in negotiating in good faith. It’s certainly not too late to start heeding good advice.
“It’s not too late to start ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran and imposing serious costs when its proxies dare to challenge the United States.
“It’s not too late to try to craft a bipartisan approach to the Middle East.
“It’s not too late to have a plan to contest Russian and Chinese influence in the Middle East.
“It’s not too late to start nurturing the historic Abraham Accords and reassuring partners like Israel and the UAE that their engagement is backed by a rock-solid U.S. commitments.
“A year ago, I said Iran was the biggest threat America and its partners faced in the Middle East. Unfortunately, a year of Biden Administration foreign policy has made that even more true.”