Dear Mr. Gavin,
Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the P5+1, European Union partners, and Iran. I appreciate hearing from you and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
Let me start with the obvious: Iran should not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. It is the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, lending support to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Assad regime in Syria. As disturbing, if Iran becomes a threshold nuclear state, it is expected that other countries in the Middle East will seek nuclear weapons, leading to proliferation throughout an already unstable and dangerous region.
That's why the vote on the nuclear deal with Iran was one of most important votes I have faced in my public career. In that regard I spent the 60-day review period, allotted to Congress by law, engaged in intensive and thorough hearings, briefings, and discussions with administration officials, colleagues, constituents, as well as global leaders.
I believe that a diplomatic solution is the best course of action and value the tireless dedication of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the U.S.-led negotiating team in that effort. With that said, I voted against approving the deal because I felt that it legitimized Iran's nuclear program after 15 years and gave Iran access to billions of dollars without a commitment to cease its terrorist activity. It was a price too high to pay.
As members of Congress we placed ourselves in a complicated situation by weighing in after a deal had already been agreed to by top U.S. negotiators, five partner nations, Iran, and the United Nations. It is an agreement that even ardent supporters admitted was far from perfect, but argued that rejecting it would entail sobering consequences, including isolating the United States on the international stage, unraveling sanctions without any gain, and allowing Iran back on the path of building a nuclear weapon.
As wrenching as this vote was for some lawmakers, it does not compare to the agony of the men, women, and children suffering at the hands of Iran's terrorist regime. With this nuclear agreement, the Iranians will receive billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and future revenues that undoubtedly will be available to intensify their support of horrific activity aimed at innocent human beings.
Stripped of its technicalities, this deal essentially rewards—in fact, enables— a terrorist regime without extracting sufficient concessions. Concessions that could have made me support the resolution of approval would have been permanent nuclear disarmament and a cessation of non-nuclear terrorism.
The release of sanctions without requiring a stop to terrorist activities is disturbingly counterproductive. We will be releasing billions to a destructive terrorist regime, while spending billions trying to keep peace in the Middle East. And we will be financially rewarding high ranking officials of Iran's Revolutionary Guard who have rich interests in businesses that will profit from the sanctions relief.
The U.S. government classifies the Islamic Republic of Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran has a long history of sponsoring terrorist attacks against the United States and Israel. Iran's proxy Hezbollah, the first terrorist organization to use suicide bombing in the Middle East, has killed hundreds of U.S. citizens and Israelis at home and abroad. Iran also lends support to Hamas, the Taliban, and militias in Iraq. By supplying weapons, bombs, and militia to Assad in Syria, Iran is in large part responsible for the greatest humanitarian crisis of recent times.
There should be no doubt why Israel, our best friend and greatest ally in the Middle East, has determined that Iran poses an existential threat. Iran's Supreme Leader has not only called for the annihilation of Israel, branding it a "cancerous tumor," but reportedly recently published a 416 page book detailing the means by which Israel's effacement should be achieved.
In 2006, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets and missiles at towns and villages across Northern Israel. With their augmented arsenal courtesy of Iran, Hezbollah now points over 100,000 missiles at Israel with launchers strategically placed in densely populated areas throughout Lebanon.
Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas terrorists have fired more than 11,000 rockets into Israel with Iran's support. Over five million Israelis are currently living under threat of these attacks. In Sderot, located less than a mile from Gaza, children, 75 percent of whom suffer post-traumatic stress disorders due to the violence, have less than 15 seconds to seek shelter when rockets are fired.
New reports indicate that Iran is funding the rebuilding of Hamas' sophisticated tunnel network to attack Israeli civilians. Despite sectarian differences, Tehran and Hamas are united in their call for the extinction of Israel.
While the struggle of Israel has been at the forefront of the Iran deal debate, the horrific stories coming out of Syria must not be ignored. Iran props up the brutal Syrian dictator Assad who carries out mass torture on his own population in order to maintain power. Barrel bombs with nails and chlorine, sarin nerve gas, starvation, and rape are just a few of his sadistic methods of repression. His regime is responsible for the deaths of over 250,000 people and the displacement of 10 million from their homes as they try to escape in terror, pouring into neighboring countries and Europe.
The world has witnessed their desperate plight: thousands fleeing for freedom, children's lifeless bodies washing up on shore, refugees suffocating in trucks. Along with the moral calamity, displaced Syrians are straining the resources of nearby countries and Europe.
What's more, Assad's brutality has become a rallying cry for ISIL recruitment.
Proponents of the Iranian nuclear agreement argue that it was never meant to address Iran's terrorist and expansionist activities—that only nuclear related sanctions will be lifted and those aimed at terrorism will continue to be enforced. The tradeoff proponents advance is unsatisfactory: at best a 15 year delay on nuclear enrichment, unlocking the next generation's door to a wealthier emboldened Iran on the threshold of nuclear breakout.
As you may know by now, after a vigorous and contentious review, Congress did not block the JCPOA. All parties to the deal are apparently moving forward with its implementation. Now, it is time for those of us on both sides of the debate to work together to make sure that Iran lives up to the agreement and stops its carnage of terrorist activity.
Thank you again for sending me your thoughts. I encourage you to visit my website at http://frankel.house.gov/ to read my policy statements and learn how I voted on past legislation.
It is a privilege to serve you as Representative for Florida's 22nd District. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with other issues that concern you in the future. I welcome your input as I share ideas with my colleagues in the 114th Congress.
Lois Frankel Member of Congress
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Letter to Representative Lois Frankel in Response to Her Vote Against Peace
My Congressional Representative, Lois Frankel voted against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which forces Iran to divest itself of nuclear weapons in return for having sanctions against it removed. I feel that this deal should go forward and to have my representative vote against it does not meet with my approval. To that end, I contacted her office (by email) and told her I wanted her to vote in favor of the proposal. She did not, however the measure passed without her.
The following is her letter to me explaining her decision, as well as my response to her. I apologize for the length but each letter is about two pages long.
My reply to her follows:
In response to your letter of October 2, explaining your reasons for voting against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), I have to say that I am appalled. Your reasoning and logic do not take into account certain relevant facts, and I have to wonder if you are truly that misinformed or if you choose to believe lies that support your opinions.
You mention Iran's support of both Hezbollah and Hamas. Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon in 1982 as a reaction to the ILLEGAL invasion of that country by Israel. It was created as a direct response to Israeli hostility and were it not for Israel, that organization would not exist.
Hamas was formed in Palestine in 1987, coming out of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. Again, this organization was created as a reaction to the ILLEGAL actions of Israel, this time in stealing land from the Palestinians.
As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee it is vital that you understand this history and that you understand that the actions of Israel in the Middle East have exacerbated the hostilities in that region.
You claim in your letter that Iran cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. Yet, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel, who is NOT a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) currently has 80 nuclear warheads. Why are we allowing ANY non-NPT country to have nuclear weapons? Why have we singled out Iran and completely ignored Israel?
You claim that Iran supports the Assad regime in Syria, which is true (Iran uses Syria to funnel weapons to both Hezbollah and Hamas), however Iran is not responsible for the crisis in Syria today. Syria is. This is a civil war and even if Iran were to completely divorce itself from that country, the war would continue. Iran did not start it. It was a dictatorship that is being fought by its own people. Civil wars are horrible things; our own country had one. But they can also be necessary and they resolve themselves over time. Iran's intervention in the war in Syria is no better or worse than our own. They just happen to be on the other side and there is no right or wrong side in this war. The best we can do for Syria is to open our own borders to the refugees. We should strike the Assad forces because of their use of chemical weapons, but beyond that, this is a war for the Syrians to fight themselves. We cannot prevent Iran from participating any more than we can prevent Russia from participating. What we could do is peacefully negotiate with Syria and Russia to step back and allow the Syrians to settle this themselves. Which means we should also stay out of it.
You cite that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has written a book calling for the effacement of Israel. You fail to mention the man's name, however, or the title of the book. The book is titled, "Palestine" and yes, he does call for low-level warfare against Israelis to remove them from the land and regain it for the Muslims. This is one person's opinion, not the work of the nation of Iran. And I would expect that as an American you would respect the constitutional right of all people to Freedom of Speech. Khamenei is entitled to his opinion, just as you are entitled to yours. To cite this as a reason to vote against this deal is anti-American at best and treasonous at worst.
You state that since 2005 Hamas "terrorists" fired 11,000 rockets at Israel. What you fail to mention is that the majority of "rockets" coming out of Palestine are homemade. Why not face the truth, Lois? From 2001 until April 2014 rockets out of Gaza killed a total of 44 Israelis. From 2000 until 2014 a total of 1,198 Israelis were killed by Palestinian attacks throughout the entire region of Palestine/Israel. By contrast, 9,151 Palestinians were killed. Nearly ten times as many.
Let's break those numbers down further. In Israel 129 children were killed. In Palestine, 1,523 children were killed. Palestinians killed 731 civilians compared to the 3,535 civilians that Israelis killed. In Israel, 596 people died on their own land. In Palestine 6,756 people died on their own land.
The numbers do not support your claims. Palestinians are freedom fighters, trying to keep their lands and their lives in spite of a much stronger army that is invading them. Israel are the terrorists who are stealing that land. Since 1948, when Israel first became a state, not one inch of land has been taken back from then. Considerable land has been stolen by the Israelis and remains occupied to this day.
You consistently support Israel, even though Israel has been the cause of unrest in the Middle East ever since the Zionist movement began illegally taking land from the Palestinians. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee you MUST know this. If you do not, you are not qualified to sit on this committee and I call on you, as your constituent to remove yourself from this panel. If you do know this information, then I expect to see legislation presented to move forward a peace process in the Middle East.
To begin with, we must stop financially supporting Israel. A country that is able to stockpile nuclear weapons is not a country that needs our support, either financially or militarily. Today we give $3 billion annually to Israel. This is far more than we give to any other country and this needs to be reduced to zero. There is no reason for the United States to continue to support a terrorist nation. And yes, Israel is a terrorist nation. History has already proven that. In fact, to date the United Nations has passed 79 resolutions against Israel for illegal actions, and that does not include the nearly 30 additional resolutions against Israel that the United States managed to veto.
We must lead the United Nations and other military forces in enforcing Israel's 1948 borders; which means the withdrawal of ALL Israeli occupation from Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and all Palestinian lands outside of those borders.
We must lead the United Nations in the establishment of a country of Palestine, respecting the 1948 borders of Israel and work with all nations in the Middle East to ensure that WITH THESE BORDERS these countries all have a right to exist. We must work toward ensuring that peace ensues.
We must impose the same sanctions against Israel that we imposed against Iran until Israel relinquishes its own nuclear weapons program. It must divest itself of its current stockpile of nuclear weapons and disassemble its plants so no additional weapons are created.
I will expect to see this legislation coming from your office, Lois. You claim that your vote against JCPOA was because of the potential for terrorism in the Middle East, then I expect you to live up to your words. Stop Israel's state-sponsored acts of terrorism. Prevent Israel from any further violence against the Palestinians and Muslims of the Middle East. Ensure that Israel is made to live by the same rules of war as the rest of the developed world, something Israel has never done.
Anything less than this is unsatisfactory and will be met with your dismissal at the next election. And all of AIPAC's money will not be enough to help you to win when your constituents are confronted with the truth.
Links I Recommend
- Common Dreams
- Crooks and Liars
- Democracy for America
- Democratic National Committee
- Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
- Media Matters
- Mick's Blog
- Nation, The
- News Hounds (we watch Fox so you won't have to)
- Patt's Adventures in Cooking
- Political Research Association
- Progressive Majority
- Public Citizen