WASHINGTON — The Iran nuclear deal will have “vast implications for the future security of the Jewish people,” former vice president and longtime Republican politician Dick Cheney warned Tuesday, shortly before Congress began debating the virtues and drawbacks of the agreement.
In an almost hour-long speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Cheney bashed what he called “President Obama’s agreement,” which he said “will provide Iran with funds and weapons the regime will use in support of terror and for dominance in the Middle East.”
The removal of restrictions on ballistic missile development as delineated in the deal, Cheney said, “will give Iran the means to launch a nuclear attack against the US homeland.” Cheney argued that as recently as a month before the deal was signed in July, Defense Minister Ashton Carter expressed concerns about Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“I know of no nation in history that has agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction will be in the hands of another nation, particularly one that is hostile,” Cheney protested, arguing that the Iran deal had done just that.
“What President Obama is asking the United States Congress to do is unique — historically and dangerously unique. The results could well be catastrophic,” he added.
“This deal gives Tehran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the US homeland,” he warned. “It threatens the security of our Arab allies across the Middle East. It threatens the security of Europe, and it should not be forgotten: This deal has vast implications for the future security of the Jewish people.”
In addition to his critique of the relaxation of ballistic missile development restrictions, Cheney slammed what he described as “the cave on enrichment.”
“[It] wasn’t’ just any concession. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, countries with peaceful nuclear programs do not have the right to enrich,” he said, arguing that the US’s initial concession to Iran to allow enrichment “guts the fundamental principle at the heart of the NPT.”
“President Obama… is now urging that the US accept an agreement that will undercut the most important nuclear arms control treaty in history,” Cheney added. He asserted that by legitimizing the Iranian enrichment program, “the deal will likely accelerate nuclear proliferation, as other nations demand the same right.”
Cheney was interrupted in the middle of his speech by a heckler, who yelled “Dick Cheney is a war criminal.” Members of the audience – which included hawkish freshman Senator Tom Cotton – yelled at the heckler to “get out of here,” and she was led out by security. Members of CodePink, the feminist anti-war organization, picketed the speech outside the building.
In advance of Cheney’s speech, the White House prepared a video attacking Cheney’s record which was distributed online as the speech was underway.
The video linked Cheney’s support for the much-maligned 2003 invasion of Iraq to his current opposition to the Iran deal, featuring the tagline “Former Vice President Dick Cheney: Wrong then, wrong now.”
Better deal a ‘fantasy’
Speaking blocks away and just minutes after Cheney, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid delivered a rousing pep talk in support of the deal, reiterating administration admonitions that the possibility of a better deal with Tehran was “fantasy.”
Less than a week after sufficient Senate Democrats announced that they would support the deal to sustain a presidential veto on a resolution of disapproval, Reid told attendees at the Carnegie Endowment-sponsored address that “I am gratified to say to our fellow Americans, negotiating partners and allies all around the world that this agreement will stand. America will uphold its commitments.”
His speech came an hour before three Senate Democrats announced they would back the deal, giving lawmakers the option of avoiding the vote via filibuster.
Referring to the upcoming votes in Congress, which are expected to be held later this week, Reid said that “the United States has a choice to make: We can enforce an agreement that forces Iran to walk away from any nuclear weapons program or we can walk away from that agreement and face the consequences.”
Among the consequences, he warned, were the uninhibited Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons devoid of international oversight or sanctions, and the loss of US credibility as a negotiating body on the international stage.
Reid stressed that even after the deal goes into effect, “Congress must continue to hold the line against Iranian arms trafficking and sponsorship of terrorism, and demand the release of Americans” held or missing in Iran, emphasizing that “these elements were never supposed to be part of the deal.”
The Minority Leader also highlighted his own long history of supporting Israel, “even against the administration,” and listed a series of steps that Washington could — and should — take to further bolster Israel’s security in the coming months and years.
He referred to a letter written to Senate members by Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month in which Kerry promised to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge, and to pending legislation from Senator Ben Cardin — who announced his opposition to the Iran deal late last week — that would provide “additional security assurances” to Jerusalem as well as guarantee defense funding.