Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)
Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee
April 11, 2015
I just returned from Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel where I participated with Speaker of the House John Boehner in an official congressional delegation charged with conducting oversight of “efforts to counter the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL)…and discuss national security issues of mutual concern with foreign allies and partners.”
It just so happened that our mission coincided with two major events in the region.
First, the Arab League announced it would form its own coalition army to battle ISIL and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Second, President Obama announced that “we have a political framework and an understanding” with the regime in Teheran regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
I would note that the “political framework” was unveiled a mere two weeks after the Supreme Leader in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, joined in the shouts of “Death to America!” The announcement touched off wild celebrations in city streets all over Iran. And why shouldn’t the Iranians be thrilled with this outcome? After all, their leaders had apparently succeeded in achieving serious sanctions relief from the United States and the West in exchange for a deal that will not dismantle any of its nuclear facilities or infrastructure.
This is a critically important point. While we have seen and heard differing accounts of the expected sanctions relief, comments made by senior Iranian negotiators indicate the most crippling sanctions against Iran's oil sector and central bank would almost certainly be lifted in the beginning of the agreement.
Why would we allow Iran to receive a positive jolt for its staggering economy providing more capital with which to support their advances in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and now Yemen?
The President’s explanations have been nothing short of bewildering. He told National Public Radio recently “How, if at all, can you prevent Iran from using its new wealth over the next several years to support Bashar al-Assad of Syria, to support Hezbollah, adventures in Yemen or elsewhere? I mean, there's been no lessening of their support of Hezbollah or Assad during the course of the last four or five years, at a time when their economy has been doing terribly.”
So, we should throw up our hands and actually stimulate their economy so they have even more assets to solidify their place, since 1984, atop the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism?
Not only will they have more resources to use their elite Quds Force and their proxy militias to actually lead the fight in Iraq against ISIL and to advance their goals in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, but they will have more motivation to do so. After all, this agreement seems to reinforce the lesson that this administration is willing to give away much in return for nothing in the way of changing behavior. We must never forget that Iran has had American blood on its hands since 1979.
Which brings me back to the first newsworthy development — the planned formation of an Arab League army, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to battle Iran’s proxies and the depraved terrorists of ISIL.
For a war-weary nation like the United States, this should be a positive development: Arab nations are picking up to sword to defend themselves, rather than relying on America.
I would like to be able to say that the Obama Administration’s informed foreign policy and firm hand convinced the Arab nations to act. However, my strong sense from listening to the region’s leadership is that they acted because the Obama Administration was ignoring their plight and their needs. “Willful neglect” is how former Defense Intelligence Agency head General Michael Flynn describes the confused policies coming from the President’s national security team.
Setting foot back on U.S. soil, it was more clear to me than ever that defeating ISIL and stopping the spread of the Iran’s terrorism will require a clear comprehensive strategy. Of course, we welcome other nations “to the fight.” But it is crystal clear that the United States must lead.
That is definitely not happening now.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen represents the 11th Congressional District