Cruz to introduce bill to renew Iran sanctions

In lengthy floor speech, Texas senator calls on White House to disavow adviser Gordon’s ‘misguided’ Tel Aviv address

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaking on the Senate floor. (photo credit: AP/Senate TV/File)
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaking on the Senate floor. (photo credit: AP/Senate TV/File)

WASHINGTON — With Iran talks days away from their original July 20 deadline, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned Tuesday that he would introduce legislation to renew sanctions on Iran, arguing that the move would also help to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and quiet the current violence in Gaza.

In the same speech, Cruz castigated the Obama administration’s response to the current crisis in Gaza, calling on the WHite House to disavow a speech made last week by key policy adviser Phillip Gordon.

During a floor speech Tuesday, Cruz said that he would introduce legislation that renews strong sanctions on Iran, including an enforcement mechanism to ensure these measures are implemented, and calls for the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program.

Calling the administration’s decision last year to relax Iran sanctions and engage in negotiations under the Joint Plan of Action an “historic mistake” that entailed “conceding everything at the outset and hoping for good faith,” Cruz said that his legislation was part of an attempt to roll back the relaxation of conditions under which Iran is negotiating.

His plan would see the US immediately reimposing sanctions “until Iran makes fundamental concessions” including ceasing enrichment of uranium, handing over enriched uranium stockpiles and dismantling centrifuges. In addition, Cruz demanded that a further condition would demand that Iran cease state-sponsored terror attacks against US allies, including Israel.

Cruz’s proposal will also delineate an enforcement mechanism and “a clear path that Iran can follow to evade the sanctions,” which Cruz described as “to simply behave in good faith and stop its march toward nuclear weapons capabilities.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who returned Monday from Vienna, is expected to present Congress later this week with the current state of nuclear talks, less than 100 hours before time will run out on a first deadline for a comprehensive agreement. Iranian diplomats have reportedly requested an extension, while Western negotiators have emphasized that significant gaps still remain between the Iranian positions and those held by the P5+1 member states.

Cruz criticized the Obama administration for continuing to participate in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran while Hamas openly acknowledged that Iran supported it in its bombardment of Israeli civilian targets. Cruz quoted a Hamas official as saying that “Hamas’s connection today with Hezbollah and Iran is much stronger today than what people tend to think.”

“Neither Hamas nor Iran is even trying to hide the connection,” Cruz noted, arguing that “it seems the height of foolishness for the United States to be participating in nuclear negotiations with Teheran at this time.”

“Iran is the chief state sponsor of terrorism on the globe today,” he continued. “Our focus should be on thwarting Iran’s support of terror across the world, and not exchanging niceties over chardonnay in Vienna.”

“The connection between Hamas and Iran is a sobering reminder of the larger context in which the events of the last month have taken place,” Cruz said. “They are not an isolated local issue that could be managed if only Israel would act with restraint. Both the United States and Israel want the Palestinian people to have a secure and prosperous future free from the corrosive hatred that has so far prevented them from thriving.”

“A negotiated settlement is not an absolute prerequisite to Israel’s security, as the administration has claimed, but rather establishing Israel’s security may well be the only way to eventually reach any such settlement.”

In addition to criticizing Washington’s continued negotiations with Iran toward a nuclear settlement, Cruz also attacked a speech made last week by top Obama adviser Phillip Gordon in Tel Aviv, in which the National Security Coordinator for the Middle East warned, as a friend, that Israel must resume negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Gordon told attendees at a peace conference, who shortly beforehand had taken refuge during a rocket attack, that Israel “confronts an undeniable reality: It cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability,” Gordon said. “It will embolden extremists on both sides, tear at Israel’s democratic fabric and feed mutual dehumanization.”

“I’m not sure about the role that Mr. Gordon suggests friends should play but undermining our allies is not one of them,” Cruz responded during the Tuesday speech, also referencing Kerry’s warning that Israel would become an apartheid state if it did not reach a negotiated settlement for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

He called on the White House to “explicitly disavow Mr. Gordon’s misguided speech, haranguing and attacking our friend and ally.”

The Texas senator suggested, however, that Gordon’s speech was part of a larger “coordinated messaging effort” that also included President Barack Obama’s opinion piece published in Haaretz, the newspaper that sponsored the conference at which Gordon spoke.

“These statements demonstrate that the administration’s longstanding policy of pressuring Israel into a peace deal with the Palestinians remains unchanged by the harsh reality in which Israel finds itself,” Cruz said, admonishing that “now is not the moment to urge restraint or to try to broker yet another temporary ceasefire that doesn’t stop the threat of Hamas murdering innocent civilians.”

Cruz accused the policy of “ignoring that the Palestinian Authority bears the real responsibility for the crisis by including Hamas in their so-called unity government and then urging the international community to accept this deal with the devil.”

Accusing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of harboring terror groups and intentionally radicalizing the Palestinian population, Cruz said that until the PA ceases to do so, “it should forfeit any and all material support from the taxpayers of the US.”

“Only when the PA takes significant and affirmative steps to stop incitement, eradicate terrorism, and demonstrate its leadership’s ability to honor their pledged commitments in the past and affirms Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state should this aid be reconsidered,” Cruz asserted.

Cruz also placed the blame for the current crisis on the Palestinian Authority’s decision to include Hamas in a technocratic unity government.

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