At the end of an exchange between Sen. Tom Cotton and Gen. Martin Dempsey regarding the number of American servicemen killed by the Iranians, Cotton asks if Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani was responsible for the explosively formed penetrators that took the lives of several hundred Americans. Yes, answers Dempsey. Then why, Cotton asks the secretary of state, is Suleimani being taken off the sanctions list. “Under the United States’ initiative,” says Kerry, “Qassem Suleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions.”
Kerry’s phrasing here is awkward—what does he mean by “initiative”? Suleimani is still on the U.S. list for non-nuclear related sanctions. But the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action removes the Quds Force commander from the U.N. list for nuclear-related sanctions. This seems to be the third time, even after the State Department set the record straight two weeks ago, that Kerry has insisted that Suleimani is still under sanctions.
The American blood that Suleimani drew in Iraq and Afghanistan is hardly the only reason that Cotton says “the United States should reject this deal.” In a keynote address for a conference at Hudson Institute on the JCPOA. (Full disclosure: I am a senior fellow at Hudson and moderated the ensuing panel.), Cotton explained why. “No deal, whatever its details, should leave the ayatollahs grinning,” said Cotton.
Iran is the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. It is led by an anti-American, anti-Semitic, jihadist regime that’s destabilizing the Middle East and has shed the blood of hundreds of Americans. We do not share interests, and we do not share values with this regime. Any agreement that advances our interests must by necessity compromise Iran’s—doubly so since they are a third-rate power, far from an equal to the United States. The ayatollahs shouldn’t be happy with any deal; they should’ve felt compelled to accept a deal of our choosing lest they face economic devastation and military destruction of their nuclear infrastructure. That Iran welcomes this agreement is both troubling and telling.