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  • Rep. Ted Deutch, Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
  • Moderator: Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies


Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Mark Argosh, and I am from Westport, Connecticut, and I have been a long-term investor in FDD. I have the honor today of presenting representative, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Deutch with an award named for an extraordinary thinker and statesman. Jeane Kirkpatrick spent her life studying and fighting totalitarianism. Her story is quintessentially American. Born in rural Oklahoma, raised by a dollar a day roughneck during the Great Depression, she became an action intellectual, a maker of global policy history. A friend, inspiration, and founding board member of FDD, she is best known for her service as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She was the first woman to serve in the post. She was a Democrat hand picked by Ronald Regan after she came to his attention for penning the now famous essay, "Dictatorships and Double Standards".

That essay was a bold call for unapologetic American leadership in the world. It expressed a conviction that -- that liberal idealism is not incompatible with the unrelenting defense of freedom in U.S. national interests. At the U.N. Kirkpatrick was a strong voice of reason and conscience, outspoken about Soviet adventurism and repression. The Russian dissident, Andrei Sakharov, once said, her name was known in every cell of the Gulag because of her candor about Soviet human rights violations. In recognition of her distinguished service, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest honor. We've created at FDD the annual Kirkpatrick Award to honor her legacy and her clear eyed understanding of the complicated challenges our nation faces.

One day after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Kirkpatrick called on Congress to issue a formal declaration of war against the entire fundamentalist Islamic terrorist network. She would be appalled to know that threat has spread to more corners of the globe since her death nine years ago. But I also think she would be heartened to know that there are resolute leaders, like the two of you, who share her conviction and steadfast leadership in the fight against global terrorism and tyranny.

Representative Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, and Representative Ted Deutch, Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee, have worked hand in hand to thwart Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Both are passionate advocates for human rights, and both have shown real grit and a laser-like focus in countering the rising tide of global terrorism.

Representative Ros-Lehtinen experienced tyranny first hand as a child before her family fled Cuba. She earned a doctorate in education, and after serving as a school teacher for many years became the first Hispanic woman to serve at Congress. Representative Ros- Lehtinen is a stalwart supporter of Israel. She offered the Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 and the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. This bill bans direct aid and contact with the Hamas controlled Palestinian authority until Hamas agrees to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by previous agreements.

A passionate defender of human rights, she offered the 2006 Iran Freedom Support Act and the 2012 Iran Threat Reduction and Syrian Human Rights Act. Setting a personal example, she adopted an Iranian prisoner of conscience; Rozita Vaseghi is part of the Tom Lantos Defending Freedoms Project. The congresswoman's track record on Iran goes back well over a decade when as chair of the International Economic Policy and Trade Committee she headed oversight of the implementation of the original Iran and Libya Sanctions Act. Since then, she has been a leader, author, or original co-sponsor of all of the major Iran sanctions bills in the House.

Like Kirkpatrick, Representative Ros-Lehtinen has been resolute and clear about stating the U.S. interests, quote, "The objective is to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to dismantle or destroy nuclear infrastructure, not simply pushing back its breakout time."


She went on to say, "It's not in the national security interest of the United States to provide Iran additional access to cash with which it can proliferate and expand other illicit activities, specifically its support for global terror." Congresswoman, we thank you for your leadership.


Congressman Deutch has been a long leader in efforts to stand up to Iran and its supporters. As a state senator in Florida, he stood up to Vitol, a company that supplied 60% of Iran's refined petroleum imports when it tried to build a facility in his district. He also helped pass the nation's first Iran Divestment Legislation. As a result, Florida divested $1 billion from Iran's energy sector. In Congress, Representative Deutch has been a strong voice on the necessity of a verifiable agreement with Iran before any sanctions could be lifted, quote, "This regime has unfortunately proven itself untrustworthy time and time again. We simply do not want to see an agreement that allows Iran to acquire a lucrative weapon right under our noses.", he said.

Representative Deutch also has been focused on Iran's dismal human right's record. He has documented the country's continued oppression of women, gays and lesbians, and members of the Baha'i faith. He offered the 2011 Iran Human Rights and Democracy Promotion Act, which is what has become -- which has become an important part of the 2012 Sanctions Bill that President Obama signed into law. He knows that human rights in Iran have fared no better since President Rouhani's election. Iran has been, quote, "Iran has been engaging in the most egregious of uses of its people for too long, and the international community must continue to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.", he said.

On a personal note, congressman, my wife and I met you several years ago when you were still a state representative, having lunch at a AIPAC Policy Conference and we said, watch out for this guy, you know, leadership in Congress someday. So it's great to -- you know -- you know, that you would be here today.


Ted, Ileana, today we express our deep gratitude to both of you for your work across the political aisle to ensure that the Iranian threat is countered in all of its dimensions. You've understood, perhaps better than most, that there is no technical algorithm that can save what is fundamentally a strategic problem, the nature, aims, and behavior of this Iranian regime. Please join me in recognizing the recipients of the 2015 Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Statesmanship Award, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Deutch.



Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Jonathan Schanzer. I'm the Vice President for Research at FDD. I welcome you to this afternoon's session with our Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Statesmanship Award winners. I'm particularly pleased to be sitting alongside both of you. I testified at your subcommittee. We've worked with your offices, and we are continually impressed with your dedication to the security of the United States of America and its allies, the seriousness with which you approach this work. And I want to dive right in to ask some point -- pointed questions in light of the things that are happening in foreign policy today.

Congressman Deutch, I would like to start with you this afternoon, to ask you -- if you would just please describe to us the compromise that was recently struck on Capitol Hill with regard to the Iran Nuclear Deal, whether this is a good compromise, why it's a good compromise, and what we might expect moving forward.


Sure. Thanks. And first if I may, I -- I want to -- I want to thank you for the -- very much for the award. I can safely say that in 1988, when I sat in the stands at Michigan Stadium, listening to Jeane Kirkpatrick deliver a commencement address at my college graduation, that I never could have imagined receiving this honor. So thanks so much to FDD for this. Also, I want to -- to just acknowledge your president, Cliff May, and I think -- is the chairman here? Where's Jim? Well your chairman was here, Jim Woolsey and certainly your executive director, Mark, for the incredible work that all of you do. Mark Dubowitz and I, and I know it's true for Ileana as well, work closely together as you do with Jonathan and so many others. The -- the kind of information -- the kind of information that we get at FDD in a timely and thoughtful and well- crafted way, helps up do our jobs better. It's a -- it's a commitment that we both make to move forward on all of these issues, and to have an ally and partner in that work like FDD makes us -- makes it easier for us to do our job. So thanks -- thank for the award, but more importantly, thanks for all of the incredible work that FDD does and to your leadership as well.

To yesterday's news, I -- I actually think that it was a significant -- this was a significant development. Think about where we were at our, I think most recent hearing that we held on the Iran deal. I expressed at the time that at that hearing, that the way that the framework was coming together, as we understood it, this was before the framework had been announced, it looked as if there was going to be a chance -- there was going to be a vote at the Security Council. We now see what that will look like, and we can talk about that more if you would like.But there was going to be a vote of the U.N. Security Council on sanctions relief in the deal, which meant that -- as I said at the time, that representatives of Malaysia, of Venezuela, of Nigeria were going to have the vote on the deal. The members of the U.N. Security Council were going to have a vote on this deal. Certainly, members of the United States Congress should have a vote on this deal as well.

And there was a question as to whether that was actually going to happen. And yesterday because of -- I think in large part the tremendous leadership of Chairman Corker, in working with the Ranking Member Ben Cardin, and also Senator Menendez, was -- they were able to work something out. They had recognized that Congress absolutely has -- has and should have a voice in this process. That's what we saw yesterday. I think it's a significant development, and it allows us to have -- knowing that there will be that -- the opportunity to vote first on that bill, probably as early as next week, certainly in the Senate next week, and perhaps as early as next week in the House. But it also allows us -- knowing that to zero in on the details of the framework and where this is going, and I know you'll have more questions about that, but that's really what the focus needs to be going forward.


Very good. So, Madame Chairman, can you tell us what it is that you are looking for in this agreement? When this comes to you and you get a chance to weigh in, what do you want to see?


Well, first of all, thank you Jonathan. And -- and -- and Ted and I are -- are both quite humbled to receive this award. The name that this award is -- is -- has on this beautiful plaque is a -- a name of a valiant freedom fighter and human rights advocate. And Ted has that personal connection to Jeane Kirkpatrick, being his commencement speaker. But I also have one as well because Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote the foreword for one of my dad -- he's since passed away, but he was a Cuban historian, and -- and he talked about Cuba and their malicious campaign throughout the world exploiting revolution. I think that the administration wants to skip over that history. But that's -- that's for another topic. And Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote the foreword to my dad's book, and it wasn't because of me, it was because of -- about my dad's great work. So to get an award with her name means -- means the world to me.

Now, first let me just-- I love Ted. He's my co-chair. I always tell him that, and he says, well, then let me set the agenda. He's not the ranking member. But I disagree....


I disagree a little bit with what -- with what Ted is saying about how this is such a significant movement yesterday with Congress having a say. Of course we should have a say, but I think that it's not a -- not a losing proposition for the President because were we to disapprove of the deal, and he'll have enough time to lobby Congress about that. Were we to disapprove, he would veto that bill, and to get 67 votes to override that veto is impossible, really to do in the U.S. Senate. So it really is a risk that he can afford to take because he's not -- he's not going to lose that bid. So I -- I don't -- I don't think that we should herald it as a big improvement.

It was ludicrous to begin with that Congress would not have a say. Of course the President wants to go back to the U.N., because remember the U.N. passed really tough sanctions. The U.N. bar on sanctions was up to here. The President, in this -- in this framework, he's lowered the bar. So he needs to go back to the U.N. so he can wipe away those resolutions and say, okay, this is going to be the new bar that we're going to measure it against, from here to here. And -- and it's even lowered the bar -- this framework has lowered the bar from the President's own words just a year and a half ago when he said about Iran -- the Iranian nuclear program, where his stance was. And now it's watered down so much that I fully expect Iran to comply with the -- with this framework. And when we get a deal, I think that Iran will comply. We've lowered the bar so much so, that it -- it would be foolish for Iran not to comply.

They can continue with the research and development. They have -- it doesn't even talk about the -- the Parchinfacilityor Fordow, well, that's what's going to be research and development. When Rouhani and the supreme leader said, lift off sanctions before we sign any deal. And they haven't seemed to have back tracked from that. What I'd like to see is the details of it before we get an opportunity to really sign off on that deal. And this is -- you know, look at what's just happened recently. Russia decided, hey, we're going to deliver these S-300s to Iran. That's clearly in -- in violation, but the administration says it's not in violation. We're willing to overlook the obvious.

China said recently they're going to help Iran build five new nuclear plants, similar to the one inBushehr. I mean, it goes on and on. We're just willing to look the other way because we want to believe in this fantasy. And -- and I'll make just this last point, and I think it's an important one because it's a little bit similar. I don't want to bring up the healthcare but -- the healthcare bill but -- Obamacare. But if you when it was a tax, when it was beneficial and not a tax, when it was beneficial in the Supreme Court argument, well, for removing sanctions, look at what the -- the administration said that all of it is nuclear related. Iran's support for terror. Oh yeah, it's ballistic missile programs, sure, it's conventional military program. Yes, all of this is nuclear related, when it's time to lift sanctions. But when -- when it was for the purposes of the nuclear negotiations they said no, we don't care about the support for terror, we don't care about any of that.

So we've got a double standard, and we've got to be honest about this deal. It's weaker than the U.N. deal. It's weaker than the President said it was going to be. It is just -- the more we know, the more we should get disturbed and anxious and worried.


Can I just -- can I -- I probably wouldn't chime in, but since the chair said I'm not her co-chairany more, I just -- I just wanted to make an observation. Because we -- on the big points there, I think Ileana and I are in agreement in terms of what we expect to see in the deal. And -- and that's what the coming weeks are going to provide the opportunity for us to determine. There are -- there are real questions, the questions that fact that Fordow remains open, that Arak is not completely shut down, those are concerns. Secretary Moniz has started with explanations of what will be done there. I think a lot more investigation is required on the part of members of Congress to understand exactly what will happen in both of those places. We didn't think either one was going to reopen.

It's now, I think, up to the negotiators to explain why that's a satisfactory result, and that's going to require, I think, some -- some further analysis. On the -- the issues of sanctions relief and the timing of sanctions relief, I absolutely -- I don't -- I couldn't support an agreement that provides immediate relief to sanctions. And I understand that -- you know, the Ayatolla would prefer an agreement that -- that -- and Rouhaniwould prefer an agreement in which sanctions are lifted immediately. That's -- that's not a deal that will get support on the Hill, and the negotiators have told us that's not going to be in a final deal. Again, this is one where yes, it's absolutely disconcerting to hear these statements coming out of Iran. But ultimately, I think we're going to judge what -- what winds up being the final deal.

And just one last piece of this, I -- the -- the one -- one other piece on the framework that we didn't really discuss is -- is the inspections regime, and the ability to fully inspect any site anywhere in the country. And again, the -- the framework -- there's some question in the framework, just as there's some question in the framework of the military dimensions of the program. But again, in my case as -- as one member of Congress, I know -- I think there are others who share my view. If -- if the deal as it's ultimately struck doesn't require Iran to fully permit inspections and more importantly it has -- and my position from the very beginning, if it doesn't require Iran to come clean on the military dimensions of their program, then there is no way that we can expect that -- that we should take the rest of the deal as a -- as a serious one, that would prevent their moving forward right at a time when they ignored all - but half of one of the twelve requirements and the questions that the IAEA posed to them.

So these are -- these are lots of, I think, very legitimate questions that over the coming weeks we're going to really dig in to see if it's possible to get to to a deal that addresses them, but I'm not sure that it is, but they might. And that's, I think, an important role that we're going to play as this process moves ahead.


Very good. I want to ask one more question on the -- on the Iran front. We talked about sanctions relief. There's a lot of concern about where Iran will be able spend those hundreds of millions and billions of dollars, of course we are talking about Hezbollah, we are talking about Hamas, the Houthis in Yemen, the various militias that are conquering territory in Iraq. What can Congress do to prevent this, if in fact Iran gets that sanctions relief? I mean, this has been one of the major criticisms that has come out thus far, apart from the expectation that Iran will quit or will cheat rather. The question is, how -- how can we stop this? Do we have ideas in the works?


Well, it's going to be very difficult. And in fact, one of the specific parts about this framework agreement leading up to the final deal, the only part that's very crystal clear and specific is when we're going to release all of this money to Iran. Boy, we're very specific about that. We're a little bit fuzzy on everything else, but we're really specific -- this is when you are goingto get this much money at this date. And I think lifting the sanctions is going to allow -- we open up the flood gates, all of this money pouring into Iran. What do you think they're going to be doing?

Well, look what they've been doing while we've been negotiating with them. They've been supporting Hezbollah. They've been -- they've been supporting the Houthis that are now spiraling Yemen out of control. They've been talking to the -- to the folks in -- in -- in Gaza, saying take up arms against -- against Israel. While we're negotiating -- we're supposed to be negotiating in good faith, all of this has been happening. You know, they blow up a mock up aircraft carrier of the U.S., and we just look the other way as if none of that matters. So how can we make sure -- how can we track the money to make sure that the -- the billions that we are releasing to -- to Iran will not be used to pursue its nuclear ambitions, will not be used to support its ballistic missile missions, to support terror. And just because they're now fighting ISIL, as -- as Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "The enemy of my enemy is my enemy." That axiom that we used to say, that person will be my friend is no longer true. Because the only reason that ISIL and Iran are in a fight is because who is going to establish the caliphate. Me, no you, me, you. Otherwise, they would be part -- they would be part of that destabilizing and terror network throughout the area.

So we should not be fooled. How can we track that money? We're actually putting up a lot of money that is going to be used against U.S. interests and its support of the terrorist network, and -- and I'm -- I'm very worried. I'm increasingly worried and increasingly agitated.


So, I want to ask one more question before we open it up to the audience. I'd like you both to answer. And that is the theme of today is whether America is an actor or a spectator in the Middle East. It's obviously become increasingly complex. You know, we have -- in Syria you've got the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda and ISIS, groups fighting against Assad in Iran. I had one Middle East observer telling me it's like the movie Alien versus Predator. You'd just rather sit back, open up a bag of popcorn, and enjoy the show. What is our role right now as the Middle East becomes this complex? Who are our allies? Who should be siding with -- do we a guiding principle at this point for the way forward?


Sure. First, let me just make one observation about the money. I -- I -- I think that there are -- there's somewhere between $100 and $150 billion of Iranian assets that are frozen. You don't need much of that -- they don't need much of that to have a very dramatic effect on their efforts to destabilize the region. If you look at what Iran is doing in Yemen, in Iraq, what they're doing in Lebanon, if you look at -- at their -- the role that they continue to play, they're propping up the Assad regime -- it wouldn't require an awful lot of that money to -- to really advance the destabilizing efforts. And part of what -- part of the things that I think we need to -- what I think we need to see before we get the end of this process is one -- the -- the chairman is right. When -- when does this money -- when is this money made available to them?

Now we're -- we have been told that -- that there will be no sanctions relief until they comply with their obligations. That's good. The question is, which obligations, what's the timing. And I think Congress needs to see in some detail exactly what they -- they have to do to have access to that because of the concerns about how that money will be used. Well, the last thing is, don't forget we've been releasing from their frozen assets $700 million on a regular basis. And I also think it would be helpful for us to know the extent to which we've been able to track that money over the period of time since November of 2013 when the interim deal was announced, to give us some sense of what we should demand in a final deal. I think that's -- that's an appropriate role for Congress to play as well.

I -- as far as our role in the region, what there are -- what -- what principles do we have? First -- first we acted what is in our own best interest. That's always the case, and keeping Americans safe is right at the top of that list. And -- and it may have been as a result of the horrific beheadings of U.S. citizens, but ISIS certainly captured America's attention, and -- and I think as probably a greater role for us in -- in the region. So the U.S. interest is obviously at the top of the list. We have -- throughout the region, we have longstanding relationships that matter, starting with the relationship between the United States and Israel. You cannot look at the Middle East and what our role should be without recognizing that there is just one beachhead of true democracy with respect for human rights and women's rights and LGBT equality and all of the -- all of the things and the freedoms that -- that we -- that matters so deeply to us, and that's Israel.

That U.S. and Israel relationship has to be paramount and central to -- to how we approach the broader region. That's another one. And I -- I have also to say that sometimes we lose -- we lose sight of the fact that throughout or history, human rights have always mattered to us. And as the new recipient of the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award, it's an appropriate time to recognize the importance of human rights in this analysis as well. In Syria, the fact that Assad has slaughtered well over 200,000 of his own citizens should matter to us on its face. That -- that should be offensive enough to us that we step up our role -- not in sending U.S. troops into -- in to defeat Assad, but in exerting the kind of leadership that we can exert as America's (inaudible) super power, military -- military leadership, strategic planning, economic -- economic warfare, economic sanctions. The kind of -- the kind of technological advances that we have -- that we can take the lead on. All of those matters would work in the region and to assume our interest there.


Madam Chairman.


Well, I sort of agree with Ted and I sort of don't, because you know he brings up -- he brings up Syria. I think some -- for -- for a long time, in this presidency, I think America has been a bystander. We really haven't asserted our role as a superpower. We are sheepishly accepting that -- that title, but don't want to -- don't want to exert it. And you know, I'm looking at just last week when -- when the President spends an hour with Raul Castro, and -- and yet when Prime Minister Netanyahu comes to Washington, doesn't even give him one minute. That tells you a lot about the values, and our allies see that. They -- they take note of that.

And I just got back last week from a -- a codel with the Speaker. We went to Saudi Arabia, we went to Iraq, we went to Jordan, we went to Israel, and -- and some of our allies are -- are questioning where we stand on --on these important issues because they see -- they see an administration that -- that doesn't quite note the difference between an ally and an adversary. And -- and it doesn't seem like that's America's role in the world. It doesn't seem like that's going to keep us safer. And we talk about Syria, the President said this is a red line if they use chemical weapons. Well, it was proven that they used chemical weapons and then -- and then we backed away.

And some will say, well, Congress didn't act but we -- we need a President who will be there and will be in the ring with us and say, this is why we need to act. And -- and so our allies are taking the fight, as they should, to fight -- to fight ISIL. But we are -- but it's not -- it's not for the good of the -- of the universe. I think that we need to see what our -- what our standards are and how -- how these moving parts are impacting us. We -- we thank Saudi Arabia for taking a fight in -- in Yemen. And we thank Jordan for taking a fight against -- against ISIL. So our allies are standing up, but they -- they expressed a sense of -- of -- of wonder about where America stands in this whole area. Are we losing our edge? Are we losing our leadership ability?

Yes, we want them all to stand up and fight the -- fight these bad guys, but we have a role to play there as well. We should not walk away from the world stage, and we should not be -- be willing so readily to make bad deals with all the -- all the bad guys in the world.


Okay. I think we actually have time for maybe one or two questions. I don't know if anybody here is walking around with a microphone, but we can take just some -- this gentleman here, if you'd like to ask...


I can project. So let's say the President (inaudible). What's -- what's the one thing I could say or do that would make me more credible in your eyes?

Ros-Lehtinen: Well, first of all, the fact that he would be coming to us and asking us -- it's sort of like fantasy football.


I don't see that playing out. The President has had a standoffish relationship, at best, with Congress, I think he considers us a nuisance rather than a helping partner, and I wish that he would engage with -- with us more actively on domestic and international affairs because it doesn't mean we're going -- we're going to always agree, but there should be more of a partnership. I think in terms of the Iranian deal, like what I would ask him is, live up to the promises that you made on your campaign. Live up to your own words when you said, "It's not how many centrifuges Iran is going to keep, but that we will do everything possible to make sure that they will never get, be nuclear capable." Live up to your own words, and that would make me happy.



Look, I think, on -- on Iran, because that's what we're focused on, there are -- there are a whole host. There are -- there are a good number of us in Congress who -- who believe that if it's possible to achieve a good diplomatic deal, that that's obviously the preferable approach. But the question is, is there enough in the framework, given some of the questions and some of the comments coming out of Iran, to characterize it as a good deal? The President has said, let's -- let's wait until we see what the final deal is to say. In my -- I -- I think I -- my response to that in terms of how to best approach these issues, let's actually -- let's -- let's not wait. Let's have the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about the concerns that we have, and those are the discussions that have started to take place this week with Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz. But ultimately, it's the President that is -- is leading on this, and it's a discussion that ought to take place, I think, directly with him, for him to make the case, not about -- not to justify what's in the final deal, but to give us the opportunity to make clear what we believe ought to be in that final deal.


Well, I've been told that we are unfortunately out of time for this panel. Madam Chairman, Congressman Deutch, I want to thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us today. We will continue to look to you for leadership and guidance on the Iran issue. We appreciate that you are able to work together toward the common goal, toprotecting our country and preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. I'm proud to give you these awards today. I'm very happy that they're going to the right people and we're pleased to present it.