Cruz takes aim at Iran; seeks sanctions’ return

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas); Photo Courtesy of United States Senate

In a lengthy speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed the Obama administration’s stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict and nuclear negotiations with Iran – indicating that he will soon present a bill to re-impose the sanctions on Iran previously lifted by the United States.

Cruz said that U.S. efforts should be focused on supporting and ensuring the security of Israel and backing Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas, not forcing Israel to make security concessions to the Palestinians in pursuit of a ceasefire.

“[O]nly when the Palestinians take it upon themselves to embrace their neighbors and eradicate terrorist violence from their society can a real and just peace be possible,” Cruz said. “Until then there should be no question of the United States’ firm solidarity with Israel in the mutual defense of our fundamental values and interests.”

Up until the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, Israeli officials were clear that their main priority was to ensure that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not create a nuclear bomb – often putting itself at odds with the United States and Secretary of State John Kerry, who sought a more moderate approach that included allowing Iran to maintain a level of enrichment capability as part of a final deal.

In yesterday’s speech, Cruz linked his position on Iran to the safety of Israel, noting that Iran is considered to be a significant sponsor of Hamas. He called Kerry’s Joint Plan of Action, an agreement with Iran limiting its nuclear ambitions to energy production only, set to expire July 20, a “historic mistake.”

“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,” Sen. 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.”

Cruz’s proposed bill, which he said he will be introducing later this week, will include strong sanctions and mechanisms for their enforcement, as well as calling for a dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program.

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

Cruz is also the sponsor of another pro-Israel bill presented last week which would require the U.S. State Department to offer a $5 million reward for capturing the Hamas terrorists responsible for the murder of a dual American-Israeli citizen, Naftali Fraenkel, along with two other Israeli teens. The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and includes a version in the House, co-sponsored by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

That bill, along with another bi-partisan Senate resolution in support of Israel’s operation in Gaza, appeared in front of the Senate Foreign Relations committee on Wednesday morning.

[email protected]  @dmitriyshapiro contributed to this story.

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