AJC New England 2020 Candidate Survey: Question 9
International Relations and the U.S. Role on the Global Stage
Question 9: Should a new administration come to Washington, a discussion may result concerning a return to the JCPOA. Given new evidence of Iran’s secret undeclared nuclear facilities and Iran’s: (1) refusal to allow inspection of these facilities, (2) ongoing efforts to destabilize countries across the region,(3) continuing to financing and arming of Hezbollah and other radical actors dedicated to Israel’s destruction and (4) repeated bellicose attacks on Western values and interests, are there conditions you would want to attach, beyond those stipulated in the JCPOA, to any proposal to return to the JCPOA?
I believe a nuclear-armed Iran remains the single biggest existential threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East. I support the complete and unobstructed implementation of the JCPOA to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. I believe President Trump’s abandonment of the JCPOA — with no alternative and no apparent strategy to prevent Iran from restarting their nuclear program — was a terrible miscalculation and betrayal of our own allies and members of the Israeli security establishment. We must prioritize diplomatic re-engagement with Iran and ensure that both the US and Iran come back into compliance with the deal. In addition, we might consider the following additions to the JCPOA: restrictions on the development of ballistic missile technology, international inspections to ensure compliance with these restrictions, and explicit language to curb Iran’s foreign military adventurism (e.g., aid to the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Houthis in Yemen), within the scope of the JCPOA.
I am honored that Ben Rhodes and other experienced national security leaders have endorsed me in this race. With so many lives on the line, we cannot afford anything but informed and educated action.
A nuclear-armed Iran presents the greatest threat to Israel and the region. It is in our national security interest and in the interest of Israel to never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Undoubtedly, the Trump Administration’s impulsive decision to abandon the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with no credible plan to attain a better alternative, has hurt that goal, regardless of one’s belief if the JCPOA was the best way forward. When the JCPOA was intact, observers found that Iran was complying with the terms; Trump’s withdrawal freed Iran to take steps toward development of nuclear weapons and isolated us from our European allies. President Trump’s reckless action has hurt the United States’ standing with our allies around the world and has taken us backwards in our goal of peace and security for Israel. I worry now without any agreement in place that Iran is building up its enrichment infrastructure.
I will do everything I possibly can to stop a return to JCPOA, because it will only empower the Iranian regime dedicated first to the destruction of Israel and then the destruction of the United States. The one condition I would insist upon in regime change through a truly free and democratic election, because the current regime has not honored the stipulations of any deal.
As the son of an immigrant from Iran who left a country of dictatorship for a country of freedom, I take very seriously Iran’s human rights abuses at home, its egregious record of state-sponsored terrorism, and the threat it poses to the Middle East – Israel, in particular. Iran undermines regional security not only by pursuing nuclear weapons proliferation, but by assisting the Assad regime in a genocidal war against his own subjects, and by funding and supporting organizations like Hezbollah. All promise for peace could be lost if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, threatening Israel’s existence, destabilizing the entire region, and posing a massive security challenge to the West.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is clearly not up to the task of confronting Iran strategically and with a united front from our strongest allies. In spite of its limitations, the Iran deal united the P5+1 countries to curtail the regime’s uranium enrichment and institute an inspections regime. It also sent a message to the 70 percent of Iranians who are under 30 and those that oppose the regime, that the United States and our Allies, while insisting that Iran not be allowed to have nuclear weapons, were open to using strong diplomacy backed up by a strong military to resolve our disputes. By unilaterally and impulsively withdrawing from this agreement—without any coordination or consultation with our allies—the Trump Administration damaged the credibility of the United States, further alienated our strongest allies, isolated America and increased the likelihood of Iran attaining nuclear capabilities. And President Trump’s failed negotiations with the totalitarian regime that controls North Korea leaves no confidence that he is capable of negotiating a better alternative to the JCPOA.
Ultimately, there is no substitute for rigorous diplomacy. And it is best for the U.S. to pursue a coordinated strategy with our lead allies to try and build off of the JCPOA to achieve a diplomatic solution which denies the Iranian regime nuclear weapons. If Vice President Biden takes office, I woul support efforts to reenter the JCPOA understanding that conditions have changed since Trump has been in office. I would work with President Biden and leaders in his administration, many who I know and are likely to be in senior positions on what a new JCPOA should look like. In addition to constraining Iran’s nuclear program, we must look to limit its sponsorship of terrorism, and limit its campaign to destabilize the Middle East. We must also encourage the people in Iran who want freedom and democracy. Seventy percent of the Iranian people are under the age of thirty, and were not even born when the 1979 revolution happened. Many Iranians love Americans and, as protests going back to the Green Revolution of 2009 and more recent anti-regime protests clearly showed, want freedom and democracy. The right comprehensive strategy, using all of the tools we have available to us, can yield productive results for the U.S., the region, and the world.
The Trump administration’s decision to abandon the JCPOA was one of the worst foreign policy blunders of this administration. Unfortunately, the administration’s decision to pull out of the agreement will fuel distrust of future American commitments not only from Iran but from our allies as well. To begin to rebuild trust America’s global commitments and eventually address some of the shortcomings of the deal, I support measures to bring the US back into compliance with the JCPOA and diplomatically engage Iran. Such engagement will not bear fruit immediately, but it will begin the process of re-engagement with Iran, rebuilding global trust in US commitments, and addressing challenges that were not fully addressed by the JCPOA.
The current situation in Iran and Iraq is deeply concerning and I oppose the Trump administration’s effort to move the U.S. to a dangerous war footing. As it relates specifically to Israel, however, Iran has openly threatened the state of Israel and is a sponsor of terrorism across the world. The U.S. must work to prevent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weaponry for the sake of Israel, the Palestinians, and the world.
I believe that the Trump administration made a dangerous error in pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While imperfect, the deal was succeeding in restraining Iranian nuclear development while simultaneously working to counteract the actions of a dangerous, anti-democratic Iranian regime. Furthermore, by abruptly pulling out of the agreement, the Trump administration undermined U.S. credibility around the world. The U.S. cannot possibly become an honest broker in the Middle East by breaking promises aimed at securing peace and stability in the region. I am hopeful that the Iranians will agree to come back to the table to negotiate a new deal. I am particularly hopeful that a negotiation in the future will address the full scope of Iranian malfeasance, including their support of terrorism.
In Congress, I would take any steps available to encourage the U.S. to come back to the underlying principles of the JCPOA and to find a way forward that ensures the international community is working together to reach a better deal.
Regarding inquiries 1-9, I plan to work with US Government Officials, Institutions and other subject matter experts to work towards addressing these important topics.
I strongly support limiting Iranian influence in the region, especially in Syria and Lebanon, and will fight to ensure Iran never has nuclear capabilities. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran continues to test ballistic missiles, abuse human rights, and provide weapons, including rockets and missiles to its terrorist proxies all over the region - in places such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and Yemen - in order to attack Israel, destabilize the Middle East and bring chaos around the world. Iran has called for the extinction of Israel and the destruction of the United States.
Until Iran stops sponsoring terrorism, I will fight to ensure that it is never able to import or export any advance weapons. As the leading disruptor of Middle East peace and stability, I will fight to make sure that the United States Arms embargo against Iran is not lifted. A lifting of the embargo would likely increase an arms race in the Middle East, which would only benefit its terrorist proxies, especially Hamas and Hezbollah. I also support encouraging our international friends to follow in the footsteps of the United States and designate Hezbollah for what it is - a terrorist organization.
Regardless of whether the United States is part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or any future agreement with Iran, the United States must hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses, threats against our allies and attempts to destroy Israel and destabilize the region.
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