WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Tuesday that if the nuclear deal with Iran being negotiated by the U.S. and five other countries is approved, the result will be war.
"This deal makes war a certainty," promised Cruz, a Republican contender for president in the 2016 election.
Cruz has repeatedly insisted that Congress require any nuclear deal with Iran to include recognition of Israel's right to exist. The Obama administration has held firm to the position that the negotiations should be narrowly focused on Iran’s nuclear program.
The effort to tie the nuclear deal to Iran’s recognition of Israel is currently pending as an amendment, authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), to a bill aimed at granting Congress oversight of the final nuclear agreement. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Thursday pulled an unusual procedural move to force a vote on this amendment.
Democrats and a handful of Republicans committed to preserving bipartisan support of the bill have balked at voting on the amendment, describing it as a “poison pill” that would ensure a presidential veto if included in the legislation.
Democrats are afraid to vote, Cruz told reporters in the Capitol. "They are terrified of casting a vote on whether the legislation would require Iran to recognize Israel's rights to exist as a Jewish state, and rather than have to go on record and make clear the Democratic senators’ opposition to supporting Israel, they're blocking every amendment on the Iran deal instead," he said. "This should be a matter that brings us together in unity, because a nuclear Iran represents the single greatest national security threat to America. Unfortunately, far too many Senate Dems are playing politics with this rather than focusing on the grave national security threats we face."
Cruz’s comments came as Republican members indicated that the Iran oversight bill was likely to come to a vote on Thursday -- without the controversial amendment on Iran recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
In the days following Cotton’s attempt to force a vote on the Israel amendment, Democrats called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to end debate and schedule a vote on the legislation in its current form.
While Democrats and their Republican allies could likely defeat the amendment, Democratic lawmakers have expressed frustration with being put in the position of publicly voting against pro-Israel legislation in order to preserve the Iran oversight bill.
On Tuesday, The Huffington Post asked Cruz to elaborate on what recognition of Israel had to do with eliminating Iran's nuclear program. "In the midst of these negotiations, a senior Iranian general said the annihilation of Israel was, quote, non-negotiable. One cannot negotiate with theocratic zealots who are explicit in their desire to murder you," Cruz said. "There is no common ground or middle ground on whether or not you are murdered. In the midst of these negotiations, Ayatollah Khamenei is leading the masses in chanting death to America."
If negotiations were impossible, does Cruz see any alternative other than war?
"This deal makes war a certainty," he said. "Because what President Obama is doing, if this goes forward, is unraveling the international consensus in favor of sanctions. That means the next president who enters the White House in January of 2017 is likely to encounter a world with Iran on the verge of having nuclear weapons where sanctions will have been taken off the table by Barack Obama, because they cannot be placed back with our allies in any reasonable period of time to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, which means in all likelihood the next president will face a binary choice: Either allow Iran to have nuclear weapons or use military force to prevent it.
"That's the consequence of this Obama-Iran deal, is it makes military conflict a certainty," Cruz said.
UPDATE: May 6, 6:20 p.m. -- Cruz took to the Senate floor Wednesday to tell his colleagues that the nuclear deal with Iran will lead to the deaths of "millions of Americans."
If President Barack Obama moves forward to provide sanctions relief to Iran as part of the deal, "the blood of the men and women and children who will be murdered by those terrorists will be directly on the hands of this administration," Cruz warned.
After being blocked from calling a vote on an amendment to the Iran bill to raise the threshold for congressional approval of the nuclear deal, Cruz accused senators of "abrogating our authority and responsibility."
Sign up below to get my quasi-newsletter in your inbox. I send it a few times a week. You can read back issues of it here to see what you're getting yourself into.
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more