U.S. Senator Tom Cotton on Iran Deal, Middle East Visit, Syrian Refugees

Sep 10, 2015

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) peers into the border with Gaza during his recent trip to Israel.
Credit Tom Cotton Twitter page

As Congress appears unable to block the Iranian nuclear deal, one of the agreement's primary critics says U.S. lawmakers could advance measures intended to further prevent the Islamic nation from seeking a nuclear weapon.

 In an interview with KUAR, Arkansas's junior U.S. Senator, Republican Tom Cotton, said Congress could pass a resolution defining exactly what it would mean for Iran to fail to adhere to the agreement.

“First thing we might do is make very clear and explicit the kind of activity that we would consider to be in violation of the agreement and the immediate consequences that would flow from that agreement,” he said. “Second, we need to work in an even closer fashion with allies like Israel and some of the Sunni Arab states in the region to share more intelligence.”


Cotton said intelligence gathering would assist the American government in not only monitoring the nuclear program of Iran, but also in seeking to fully understand its support for groups the U.S. deems terrorists.


“We [also] probably need to consider additional military support for allies like Israel who need to not only deter the Iranian nuclear threat but the immediate threat that Iran poses through support for terror groups on Israel's borders like Hamas and like Hezbollah,” he said.


Cotton, who is serving his first term in the U.S. Senate, recently made a trip to the Middle East, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, members of the Israeli parliament and other Israeli citizens. He visited the border between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas-controlled Gaza strip; the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which borders Syria; and one of the largest Syrian refugee camps, known as the Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan.


“[The visit] impressed upon me how immediate the threat is to Israel,” he said. “I mean, they live with a threat every single day of rockets coming over their borders or terrorists tunneling underneath those borders, that the American people would simply never accept.”


Cotton has also been a sharp critic of the Obama administration's response to the the Syrian civil war, where factions such as the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda-linked groups and pro-Western rebel groups control different territories, fighting against each other and the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.


According to the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 4 million Syrian refugees have fled the country since the beginning of the civil war there. Around 7.6 million are said to be displaced within Syria. Hundreds of thousands have fled to Europe.


Asked whether the U.S. should do more to resettle refugees here, Cotton responded that it is imperative that the U.S. should first topple the regime of Assad by providing military assistance to the country's pro-American rebel fighters. He called the refugee crisis a “symptom” of the “disease,” meaning the civil war, which he said must first be quelled.


“There are security questions because many of these refugees are coming from lands that do have a large Islamic extremist population,” he said. “And ultimately, the numbers of refugees are either too large for either the United States or Europe to accept and care for and assimilate into our society and many of these refugees don't want to do that to begin with. They want to make their life in their home, where they grew up.”


While visiting the refugee camp in Jordan, Cotton said he heard the perspectives of displaced persons who would prefer to stay in the region and see the conflict end. He also noted that the U.S. does take in refugees from not only Syria, but Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. Those countries he said, have suffered from what he called “failed U.S. policies.”


To date, about 1,400 Syrian refugees have resettled in the U.S. Shortly after Cotton's interview with KUAR, the Obama administration announced that the U.S. government would take in an additional 10,000 refugees from Syria in the coming months.