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Responsibility for Mideast unrest shared by senators

It’s no surprise that President Trump’s military strike against Iran’s top terrorist leader drew a negative reaction from New Mexico’s two senators. What’s escaped notice is the role Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich played in enabling the Iranian aggression that finally prompted U.S. retaliation.

Both senators supported President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in 2015. Heinrich in particular was one of the agreement’s most outspoken supporters. Neither senator objected when the agreement bypassed the Senate ratification that’s customary for treaties.

Whether the agreement slowed Iran’s nuclear weapons program is debatable. What’s indisputable is that lifting economic sanctions enabled Iran to finance unprecedented aggression throughout the Middle East. Instead of using its new-found wealth to help its citizens, Iran backed a genocidal regime in Syria, started a proxy war in Yemen, developed long-range missiles, supplied weapons for repeated attacks on Israel and attacked American forces in Iraq. Our senators’ support for lifting sanctions allowed Iran to buy those weapons and pay those fighters.

The agreement our senators supported did not make Americans safer. Iran has continued to seize American hostages. Iran developed the improvised explosive devices that have accounted for most U.S. casualties in the Middle East, and those casualties continued to mount after the nuclear deal was signed.

I’m sure our senators supported the nuclear deal with the best of intentions and did not anticipate its consequences. Yet they have been silent as Iran went on a rampage. Udall and Heinrich justifiably condemned Saudi Arabia for killing a journalist but ignored the dozens of journalists killed in Iran. Now they are blaming Trump, not Iran, for conflict in the Middle East. Perhaps they do not take Iranian chants of “Death to America” as personally as the rest of us.

Our senators – and the rest of us – certainly should hold President Trump accountable for the success or failure of his foreign policy. But members of Congress are accountable for their actions as well. Udall and Heinrich supported lifting sanctions and have refused to criticize Iran’s subsequent aggression. I do not expect them to admit that their actions have had consequences, but perhaps they will think about this the next time they visit a veterans’ hospital.

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