Rep. Ted Deutch (D – Fla.), the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Mideast and North Africa Subcommittee, is seeking to ensure that the administration keeps its pledge to hold Iran responsible for continued terrorism.
Deutch, along with Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D – Mass.), introduced the Zero Tolerance for Terror Act last month, which would allow Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran if it should engage in terrorism, fund terrorist proxies, or acquire ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The bill has 16 bipartisan co-sponsors. Iran has insisted that it will any new sanctions as a pretext to stop abiding by the nuclear deal. During the congressional debate over whether to approve the deal, the Obama administration insisted that it would still be free to impose non-nuclear sanctions on Iran.
Deutch was asked by the New York Observer on Thursday if he expected the administration to support his bill given its past claims of insisting that it would “hold Iran’s feet to the fire” to ensure compliance with the deal and confront its non-nuclear violations. “I don’t know what the White House’s position will be,” Deutch responded. “They shouldn’t object to it. They’ve said that the Iran deal was never meant to address Iranian terrorism. [This bill] should be consistent with their position.”
Deutch’s bill comes amid a growing perception that the Democrats are weak on national security. A Pew Research poll in December showed that Americans feel that Republicans are better able to address national security issues than Democrats by a margin of 46% to 34%. The same poll found that 62% of Americans are very concerned about Islamic extremism. Rep. Steve Israel (D – N.Y.), former Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, recently observed to Politico that the perception of Democratic weakness on national security was real: “There’s no question that we’ve got to address that issue. There is anxiety about a global threat across the board.”
This perception has been fed by a series of missteps and news stories that have dogged the administration of President Barack Obama. These include Obama’s dismissal of ISIS as a “JV team” just before its rise two years ago, as well as his declaration that the threat of ISIS had been “contained” just prior to the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks last fall. The administration’s efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, which would allow a country that the State Department describes as a leading state sponsor of terror possibly obtain nuclear weapons as little as 15 years, even as it pocketed tens of billions of dollars to in sanctions relief that it can use to buy new weapons, hasn’t helped the perception.
Deutch was one of the few congressional Democrats to oppose the deal, saying when he announced his opposition, “No one denies Iran’s support for the world’s most notorious terrorist groups. No one disputes Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East or role in killing Americans. And because no one trusts Iran not to cheat in anyway it can, the fact that this deal makes it nearly impossible to reinstate sanctions of today’s intensity is beyond alarming. … This deal may temporarily slow Iran’s nuclear enrichment, but it speeds up the enrichment of the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian terror proxies that endanger security and stability in the Middle East.”
With the nuclear deal already in the process of being implemented, the Florida congressman is trying to ensure that Iran’s non-nuclear bad behavior can still be countered. “Clearly, I was in the minority in my position on the Iran deal,” he said. “But I don’t believe I’m in the minority with my colleagues on the threat that Iran poses.”
Josh Block, president and CEO of The Israel Project (which publishes The Tower), wrote in an op-ed in The Hill on Thursday that the administration’s failure to take action to help show “those living under the harsh boot of oppression [that] America was with them” was a failure of the progressive international vision that was, until recently, long supported by the Democratic Party.
[Photo: CongressmanTedDeutch / YouTube ]