July 19, 2024
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Gottheimer Breaks Ranks With Dems on Iran

Sometimes it’s the letters one doesn’t sign that send the strongest message.

That thought guided the thinking behind first-term Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s (D-NJ) decision to keep his name off two letters authored by House Democrats to President Donald J. Trump, both insisting that he not withhold the recertification of Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Indeed, Florida Rep. Ted Deutch and North Carolina Rep. David Price co-authored such a letter on October 4, with signatures from all but five House Democrats. Rep. Gottheimer is the sole Jewish House Democrat who didn’t sign the letter.

About a week later, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip, co-authored a similar letter to the president with ranking party members and over 80 signatures.

On the Senate side, Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, who, like Gottheimer, voted against the JCPOA, also sent a letter asking Trump not to decertify the Iran nuclear deal.

The letters insist that decertification could destabilize the Middle East and place the U.S. as the country breaking an international commitment.

The president announced last Friday his decertification of the deal, saying he did not think the JCPOA addressed Iran’s ballistic missile program and its growing military and political influence in the Middle East. The president also expressed that the Iranian regime’s threat to Israel, through its proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah, was yet another reason to decertify the deal. In other words, Iran is working to destabilize the region even with the agreement in place.

In the meantime, the president has given the task of modifying the American stance on JCPOA to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark).

For Rep. Gottheimer, the JCPOA’s decertification by President Trump was important for the security of Israel, its Middle East neighborhood and the US.

“Iran continues to flaunt inspection of nuclear sites,” Gottheimer told The Jewish Link. “They’ve capitalized on the sanctions released and they’ve brazenly tested intercontinental missiles. The resources they received are being used to fund heinous organizations as well as propping up the regime of [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad. Obviously I’m concerned that the deal doesn’t preclude a pathway to a nuclear bomb. I didn’t feel comfortable signing either letter.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “there were only four of us [other than Gottheimer] who refused to sign any letter on the Democrat side. For many of us, there was a concern that the JCPOA was a flawed deal. The President took steps to lay out a pathway and keep the pressure on Iran.”

It was just last week that Gottheimer sponsored a bipartisan bill with Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida introducing the United States-Israel Common Defense Authorization Act. The measure would authorize the president to protect Israel with the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bomb, which he said is capable of destroying Iran’s underground nuclear infrastructure.

“We must prepare for the serious threat of a nuclear-armed Iran when key provisions of the deal expire,” said Gottheimer. “That’s why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to defend Israel from Iran and Hezbollah and reinforce our ally’s qualitative military edge in the region with bunker buster munitions. Iran and its terrorist proxies throughout the region must never be able to threaten the US or Israel with a nuclear weapon.”

Concerning the President’s decertification of the JCPOA, Gottheimer said that the US has three “buckets of activity” it must pursue. First, he said, the US needs to lead its European allies in addressing the nuclear deal’s sunset clauses, which would permit Iran to reach its nuclear ambition in a matter of years.

Second, he said that the US has to “crack down on Iran’s increased terrorist threat. Iran gives $800 million a year to Hezbollah, and is now also supporting Hamas. I also think we need to do everything possible to cripple Iran’s revolutionary guards.”

Third, he added, “we have to halt Iran’s march across the Middle East. If you see the map, you can observe that they are on the march through groups such as Hezbollah and other forces.”

Finally, Gottheimer said that the mere fact that the letters sent to the President were not bipartisan was in itself a red flag. “It’s dangerous for Israel and for the region if we’ve allowed these issues to be partisan issues.”

The congressman agrees with the President that so-called “trigger points” need to be established that would prompt the US to bring back sanctions. “And those trigger points could very well include Iran’s ballistic missile launches and, most importantly, any refusal by Iran to extend constraints on its nuclear fuel production.”

For Gottheimer, Iran’s actions have justified the president’s decertification decision.

“I think Iran has skirted agreements that were made,” he said.

By Phil Jacobs

 

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