Lankford: “Mr. President, walk away from this. There is a reason that your own staff is walking out of the conversation, because you’re headed the wrong way.”
WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) took on President Biden’s weak foreign policies that have emboldened bad actors like Russia and Iran, even as the White House is currently working to re-instate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Lankford cited how re-entering the deal only helps Iran become a nuclear power and creates additional national security concerns for Americans at home and abroad. Lankford pointed out that many Americans have died in the Middle East because of Iran’s financing of terrorism.
Lankford and 48 Republican Senators came together to tell the Biden Administration that they will not support the revived Iran Deal, which, according to public reports, will weaken sanctions and lessen restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. Lankford is the lead sponsor of the Iran Sanctions Preservation Act, which would prohibit a president from lifting sanctions on Iran’s energy industry or financial services sector unless the Iranian regime ends its nuclear program, support for terrorism, or use of ballistic missiles.
A lot of Americans are tracking day by day what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine. As we watch the Russian Army continue to roll its way through Ukraine, and city by city, pummel innocent people, to literally shell homes, apartments, businesses, to level whole cities to the ground, for the sake of Russia’s aggression. This Congress and this body, and particularly the Senate, has spoken out often on this issue. I’m grateful that the President has engaged to be able to apply sanctions, to be able to cut off purchases with Russia, to be able to slowly open up the weaponry that we’re giving to Ukrainians as they continue to ask for more.
They’re looking for help. Oklahomans that I talk to want us to provide help. But it’s ironic, some people may not know, that while we’re isolating Russia in every way we possibly can, right now this Administration is working with the Russian representatives to be our spokesmen to Iran negotiating a revised nuclear deal with Iran. We’re not doing face-to-face negotiations with Iran. We’re working through the Russian representative to represent our beliefs to the Iranians.
Now, if anyone in this room could say they trust the Russians to represent our values at the table with Iran, please rise—because we don’t, and we shouldn’t, and it makes absolutely no sense that a revised nuclear deal is being done with Iran through the Russian negotiations while Russia is currently pummeling Ukraine.
I wish I could tell you that’s even the worst part of this deal. Iran has a couple of things that they need to be able to get to a nuclear weapon. The two things they need are time and money. They have the technology. They have the know-how. They have the facilities. They have the advanced centrifuges. They just need time and money. And my frustration with the Iran Nuclear Deal done in the Obama Administration is it gave them both, time and money. It set a 10-year window where they ‘couldn’t have’ nuclear material that would be usable for a nuclear weapon, but it allocated $100 billion in release of sanctions to the Iranians—$100 billion to the Iranian regime.
I have no beef with the Iranian people. They’re remarkable people, extremely well educated, but they live under the thumb of a horrible regime.
What did the Iranian regime do with that $100 billion they were given? Well, we saw the advance of the war in Yemen that happened, as the Iranians were supplying the Houthis to be able to attack the Saudis and the Emirates. We saw what happened in Lebanon with the support for Hezbollah to attack Israel and continue to destabilize. We saw what the Iranians did in Syria, supporting Bashir Assad and becoming his army in many areas across Syria. And that ruthless dictator is still there today because of Iranian support, because of the $100 billion that was given to Iran so they could prop up Assad and so he could stay in place. That’s what happened with the $100 billion that Iran was given last time.
Now, the Trump Administration came in and took away that and imposed maximum pressure on the Iranians, walked away from the deal, and said, ‘We’re not going to give the largest state sponsor of terrorism billions of dollars of access to capital.’ That seems like a terrible idea. And I can assure you the people of Syria understood that was a terrible idea.
But now what? President Biden has reopened negotiations, as I mentioned before, by using Russia as our proxy to be able to negotiate this. Today, we had negotiators that were brought on by the Biden Administration, that are former negotiators under the Obama Administration to renegotiate this deal that have quit the negotiating team, that have said, ‘This negotiation is going so bad,’ they will not be a part of it. And they have walked away.
We don’t know everything that’s in this deal. And I would tell you, quite frankly, I’m not encouraged by what bit of rumors that I’m hearing in this deal. I’m hearing this deal puts us back into the timetable that was done years ago under the Obama Administration to give the 10-year window, that we’re back into that same window, that allows them to be able to move to a nuclear weapon at an end-time period, that it doesn’t challenge their terrorist activities, that it doesn’t challenge their missile development.
Literally, they’re developing ballistic missiles designed to carry a nuclear warhead and that’s not part of this agreement apparently to restrict their development of a missile capable of carrying nuclear material, as long as they don’t actually work to develop that nuclear material. It releases sanctions to them, so again they get billions of dollars. And in the negotiation, we hear at this point, it lifts sanctions on the entities in Iran that took away the property and the homes from Iranian Jews in 1979, that we’ve had sanctions on.
We understand it takes the sanctions off of those responsible for the Beirut bombing in 1983 that killed 243 Americans, mostly Marines. We also understand it changes the status of Iran being recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism, even though they are, and there’s negotiation to take the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps off the list of a foreign terrorist organization. Are you kidding me?
This is not a good deal for the peace of the region. This does not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. This continues to destabilize our relationships with our allies in the region, as Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis and Israelis and everyone stares at the Americans and says, ‘Why in the world would you make this deal that would allow Iran to become a nuclear power in the days ahead?’
Let me tell you, this is personal for many American families who lost a loved one in the battle in Iraq. When Iran engages Iranian Revolutionary Guard to provide lethal equipment to the Iraqis so they can kill more Americans. Many Americans died in Iraq because of Iranian actions.
On March 11 of 2020, Technical Sergeant Roberts from Owasso, Oklahoma, was killed in Iraq. An Iran-backed militia group equipped by Iranians, supported by the regime, arbitrarily launched rockets at American forces in Iraq, killing Technical Sergeant Roberts. Listen, this is personal for a lot of families. This is not some theoretical negotiation. This is a problem. Why we would say to the Russians, ‘Negotiate on our behalf,’ while they’re slaughtering Ukrainians and we’re sanctioning those same Russians, makes no sense. But a deal that lifts the sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, on those that killed Americans in 1983 in Beirut, to give access to missile technology and to look away from their terrorist activities, and Hezbollah and Hamas and in Yemen and in multiple other places in the world, is not a deal Americans should make.
Mr. President, walk away from this. There is a reason that your own staff is walking out of the conversation, because you’re headed the wrong way.