WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding national security priorities:
“Two weeks ago, after nearly 150 Iran-backed attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, a reporter asked President Biden if he had a message for Iran. The President confidently replied, ‘I’ve already delivered the message to Iran. They know not to do anything.’
“Well, the Commander-in-Chief had the temerity to suggest that the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism was effectively deterred.
“Well, repeated attacks since then – including a deadly attack in Jordan that killed three American soldiers and injured dozens more – suggest otherwise.
“Sergeant William Rivers, Specialist Kennedy Sanders, and Specialist Breonna Moffett now rest with generations of brave Americans before them who have given their lives in service to our nation. I know my colleagues join me in grieving with the families and comrades they leave behind.
“For three years, the threat of Iran-backed terror against American personnel and interests in the Middle East has been growing. Iran is emboldened, and believes it can use its proxies to attack America with impunity.
“And the Biden Administration has hastened this erosion of deterrence. Their public hand-wringing and fear of escalation sends exactly the wrong message to Tehran and other enemies of America.
“To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, when our primary objective becomes avoiding war or escalation, we are at the mercy of our most ruthless adversaries.
“The United States’ objective is not to avoid escalation at all costs. If it was, the quickest way to achieve it would be to retreat and cede the Middle East to Iran.
“Instead, our objective is to compel Iran and its proxies to stop attacking American forces and our interests in the region, and to preserve American influence in a critical part of the world.
“But to achieve this objective, we have to convince our adversaries that we are prepared to escalate and to threaten the interests they hold dear.
“If the Iranian regime thinks America is most afraid of escalation, it will use that fear because it believes it will drive us from the Middle East – just as we were driven from Afghanistan.
“It was reasonable to hope that the eruption of proxy violence against American forces in the wake of the October 7th massacre in Israel would convince the Biden Administration to start seriously exercising American strength. It was reasonable to hope that a global superpower might finally begin to act like one.
“That hasn’t happened yet. But perhaps the gut-wrenching tragedy of American casualties will finally wake this Administration from its delusional approach to Iran.
“Yesterday, the Secretary of Defense echoed President Biden’s hollow assurance from earlier this month, insisting that the Administration ‘will not tolerate attacks on U.S. forces, and we will take all necessary actions to defend the US and our troops’.
“Unfortunately, this sentiment isn’t yet backed by action. The fact that Iran’s proxies have targeted Americans 166 times in the past three months demonstrates that the Biden Administration is willing to tolerate attacks on U.S. forces.
“The question for the Commander-in-Chief is whether his actions in the coming days will convince Iran and its proxies that America’s tolerance has been exhausted.
“It is time for the Administration to provide Senators with a briefing on the current situation in the Middle East.
“As I’ve said before, the President has the necessary authorities to strike those responsible for killing and wounding Americans, targeting our interests, and threatening our allies in the region. He has the capacity to go after the Iranians who sponsor and direct this campaign.
“But his Administration has an obligation to inform Congress of its objectives and strategy, and to explain why their attempts to deter Iran and its proxies have, as yet, been unsuccessful.
“Of course, the failures of their own approach to the region haven’t stopped Washington Democrats from trying to police the internal politics of a close ally fighting for its security or from trying to tie Israel’s hands as it works to eradicate Hamas terrorists.
“Some of our colleagues have apparently mistaken themselves for members of the Knesset. They’ve started using the press to cast bizarre, unsolicited votes of no confidence in a sovereign democracy’s duly elected prime minister.
“Talk about foreign political interference!
“And their Bibi Derangement Syndrome isn’t just unseemly behavior for an ally. They want to compel Israel to pursue policies that even prominent leaders of the Israeli left have insisted they have no time for!
“It is increasingly, glaringly clear that a headlong charge forward to a two-state solution puts the cart before the horse.
“Israel needs a partner in peace before it can be expected to make peace. Palestinians need leaders and a government worthy of the name before they can expect a state.
“As I’ve said before, responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, for the weaponization of hospitals and schools, and for the corruption of aid agencies charged with helping the Palestinian people belongs to Hamas.
“Each time Hamas has faced a choice between improving Palestinian lives and taking Israeli lives, it has chosen the latter. And last week, we learned the horrific degree to which international humanitarian agencies have been corrupted by Hamas’ hate.
“No fewer than a dozen credentialed staff members of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency are linked directly to the slaughter of Israelis on October 7th.
“So let me say that again – at least twelve paid staff of the UN agency that purports to lead humanitarian efforts in Gaza moonlit as Hamas terrorists on the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.
“According to news reports, Israeli intelligence indicates that a full 10% of UNRWA’s staff have ties to the Iran-backed terrorist group that steals aid shipments to build terrorist tunnels.
“And yet, instead of reckoning with UNRWA’s complicity, the head of the agency responded with a whining statement that emphasized just how few of the supposed relief workers under his authority had been caught killing Israelis on company time!
“In fairness, UNRWA comes from the same anti-Israel family of organizations as the self-proclaimed ‘global champion’ for the empowerment of women – a UN entity that took 57 days to condemn Hamas’ rape and brutalization of Israeli women and girls.
“The United States and our allies need not search for moral authority in such a fallow field as the United Nations.
“Unfortunately, even the Biden Administration’s announced pause on additional funding to UNRWA may fail to carry sufficient weight. As one outside analysis points out, $51 million already allocated by the State Department for use this year will be delivered as scheduled to an organization that clearly lacks the means to fulfill its most basic purpose.
“As I’ve said before, there is no room for the tired cast of corruption and terrorism in the future of the Palestinian people. As such, Senate Republicans will not accept any legislation that allows taxpayer dollars to fund UNRWA.
“And America’s ally, Israel, deserves the time, space, and support it needs to remove Hamas from the equation – root, stem, and branch.”