By Robert P. Casey, Jr.
At the height of World War II, Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican and avowed isolationist, stood on the Senate floor and said, “We cannot drift to victory. We must have maximum united effort on all fronts. … And we must deserve the continued united effort of our own people.” Vandenberg was admonishing his colleagues to unite in the face of threats to the stability and security of the United States and our allies.
I was reminded of this message earlier this year, when I was sitting with a small, bipartisan group of my colleagues and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Washington. We talked at length and reaffirmed our unity of purpose in confronting the security threats facing Israel, including from the Iranian regime’s support for terrorist groups and its continued pursuit of ballistic missile technology.
Just a few weeks later, the Trump administration certified that Iran is complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The JCPOA, with the five members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany and Iran, substantially constrained the Iranian regime’s nuclear program and was the best available option to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. When I made my decision on the JCPOA, I knew that we could not trust Tehran’s commitments.
For this deal to be effective, we needed to be unified on four actions — verifying Iran’s compliance with the agreement, enforcing the deal, countering Iran’s aggression and deterring the Iranian regime from resuming their pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. I committed to advancing legislative efforts that prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, exporting terrorism in the region, and committing human rights atrocities at home.
Last month, the Senate came together across party lines to pass legislation that is a strong step in the right direction. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of S. 722, a bill that levies tough sanctions on Iran for its aggressive, provocative behavior. It is imperative that we hold the Iranian regime accountable for its destabilization of the region, its support for terrorist proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, its development of ballistic missile technology in contravention of U.N. Security Council resolutions and its atrocious human rights record. The administration’s diplomatic and military experts must also develop a strategy to counter Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
The bill also includes a robust package of sanctions and other measures to hold Russia accountable for its destabilization of Syria and Ukraine and its interference in our domestic politics. Although President Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a strong leader,” we know he is an authoritarian former KGB officer who puts his political opponents in jail or worse, and who stifles freedom of the press, freedom of worship and freedom of expression — all fundamental American values.
Last month, the Senate demonstrated what Vandenberg called “maximum united effort” when it comes to standing with our allies and holding our adversaries accountable. It is imperative that the House of Representatives takes action on this legislation, and I hope the president will sign it.
Robert P. Casey, Jr., a Democrat, is the senior U.S. senator for Pennsylvania.