Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-Md.) declared his opposition to the Iran deal in an article in The Washington Post on Friday. He explained that “[t]he JCPOA legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program. After 10 to 15 years, it would leave Iran with the option to produce enough enriched fuel for a nuclear weapon in a short time.” He also criticized the agreement for not adequately addressing the concerns over Iran’s past work on weaponization, writing: “We know Iran was developing a nuclear weapon, and we must understand how far it went down the weaponization path before we can move forward with the JCPOA.” Other top Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have also expressed their opposition to the deal: top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member on the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), former Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and the presumed next Democratic leader of the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Additionally, a majority of Americans also opposes the deal reached with Iran. In the latest poll, 55% of registered American voters expressed opposition to the deal.
Despite the bipartisan majority in Congress that opposes the deal, reports continue to indicate that the Obama administration and the minority leadership in the Senate will orchestrate a filibuster of the resolution of disapproval regarding the Iran deal. Such a move has been broadly criticized. On Thursday, it was reported that the White House “badly” wants a filibuster to “prevent the Republican-controlled Congress from voting down the deal and requiring the president to use his veto.” On Friday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) announced, in a town hall meeting, his opposition to any filibuster. He declared: “My Democratic caucus does not like that position at all. I just think it’s too important to circumnavigate that thing because of political posturing, and I won’t do that.” Only days ago, Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) also commented that Congress should be permitted to have a voice, telling CNN that “it would be really regrettable if we didn't ultimately go to the floor and cast our votes for or against this deal.” Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told the Associated Press: “All but one senator voted in favor of having the right to vote on the final deal, so then to turn right around and filibuster it to me is very inconsistent and I think would be confusing to the people they represent.”
The recently reported arrest of Ahmed al-Mughassil, the head of Saudi Hezbollah, for the 1996 bombing of the United States military barracks at the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia has once again emphasized the heavy involvement of both Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah in orchestrating the terror attack. In a recounting of the bombing published earlier this week in Foreign Affairs, Matthew Levitt, director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, detailed the extensive Iranian support for the operation.
Mughassil, who was indicted in 2001 for his role in the attack, was forced to flee Saudi Arabia in the 1990’s for Lebanon. It was from Beirut that he began plotting the Khobar Towers bombing. The motive for the attack, according to the indictment (.pdf), was “to serve Iran by driving the Americans out of the Gulf region.”
The preparation for the bombing involved extended surveillance, in which Iran and Hezbollah both played a significant role.
The first team Mughassil assembled to execute the operation was caught and arrested. Forced to recruit a new team, Levitt wrote that Mughassil provided one of his recruits “a forged Iranian passport.” As the plot progressed, Levitt wrote that a “Lebanese Hezbollah operative” helped Mughassil’s team assemble the bomb. Once the terror squad had purchased a truck and arranged transportation, they launched the attack on June 25, 1996, killing 19 United States Air Force personnel and injuring nearly 500 people.
Though the events surrounding Mughassil’s arrest last month remain unknown, Levitt pointed out that his arrest could allow scrutiny of Iranian-backed terror in the Middle East, observing that, “the Farsi-speaking Mughassil is uniquely positioned to shed much-needed light on the covert activities of Iranian operatives and their agents and proxies in the region.” (via TheTower.org)