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Congressman John Duncan

Representing the 2nd District of Tennessee

Iran Vote Difficult

September 21, 2015

For most Republican members of Congress, the vote on the Iran nuclear agreement seemed to be a very easy one.  For me, it was one of the most difficult since I have been in Congress.

Throughout my career, I have favored diplomacy over war and have been very critical of “chickenhawks” who have been far too eager to send others to do their fighting.

My views on foreign policy can best be described as “Eisenhower Republican,” and I have been very outspoken about the waste and excesses of the military industrial complex.  I wish the Pentagon would become much more fiscally conservative.  

While the great majority of conservatives opposed the agreement, some may be surprised to know that several leading conservatives, for whom I have great respect, supported it.  Supporters included, for example, Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, the editors of the American

Conservative Magazine, and General Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Adviser in several Republican administrations.  

Conservative columnist William S. Lind, a supporter of the agreement, wrote a few days ago: “If we reject it, for whatever reason, we are on course for yet another war in the Middle East.” That is the last thing I want.

In addition, Presidents Nixon and Reagan entered into agreements with China and Russia when those countries were many times stronger and much greater threats than Iran is today.

Finally, several polls showed that a majority of the American Jewish community supported the agreement, as did a majority of Jews in Congress, certainly some of the Israel’s strongest supporters.

For these and other reasons, I wrestled with this decision and read everything I could, both pro and con.

In the end, I made the very difficult decision to oppose the agreement for many reasons.

1)     The President did not comply with the law Congress passed to disclose every part of the agreement, meaning even the side   agreements.  The American people will not support secrecy in something like this.

2)    We should have at least insisted on the release of the four Americans being held by the Iranian government.

3)    While the $150 billion is Iranian money that was being kept from them by international agreement, it should have been parceled out as Iran met different requirements of the agreement.

4)    Under our Constitution an agreement of this nature should have been done as a treaty, so there was a legitimate argument that this is unconstitutional.

5)    While I generally believe that sanctions against any country hurt the poor people and not the leaders, sanctions imposed by Congress should be lifted only by Congress.  It gives too much power to an already too-powerful executive to let any President do this unilaterally.  

6)    The Supreme Leader of Iran as late as the day before we started voting referred to the U.S. as the Great Satan and said Israel would not be here 25 years from now.  This was not language that I could accept, especially at a time the U.S. was trying to reach this type of agreement.

7)    And last, but certainly not least to me, is that I have never felt that I own this seat in Congress. I have always tried very hard to represent the views of my constituents, and the people of my District were overwhelmingly against this agreement.

Anyone who studied this agreement as much as I did would have to admit, I think, that there were good arguments on both sides.  While it is not the greatest thing since sliced bread, it is not nearly as bad as some of the more hysterical opponents have made it out to be.

There used to be a day a long time ago when it was said that arguments on U.S. foreign policy stopped at the “water’s edge.”  I believe that if this agreement had been made by a Republican President, almost all Republicans would have supported it and almost all Democrats would have opposed it.

Unfortunately, questions about war and peace have become far too partisan in this Country.  

Now that this agreement is going to go into effect, we should all hope that it works.  I hope we can reach a day in the near future when issues about U.S. foreign policy will become much less partisan.