Foreign Affairs and Defense
In an increasingly volatile world it is crucial that the United States remain engaged on the world stage and maintain a strong defense. Such engagement prevents terrorist organizations from establishing themselves in weak countries. I have strongly opposed the President’s proposed cuts to our national defense and I am doing all I can to overturn the damaging cuts inflicted by sequestration as soon as possible. In June 2015 I voted to increase funding for the Department of Defense by $6.2 billion, including $3.2 billion to address shortfalls in military readiness.
ISIS is a vicious jihadist terrorist organization which continues to make advances in large parts of Iraq and Syria. ISIS in the Middle East today is stronger than Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan in 2001. It is far wealthier and battle-hardened than Osama Bin Laden’s henchmen. ISIS includes Americans in its ranks, and is actively trying to recruit more via social media.
ISIS has demonstrated its depraved, evil and barbaric nature toward Americans by killing aid worker Kayla Mueller, beheading journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and former U.S. Army Ranger Peter Kassig. In 2015 over 50 individuals have been arrested in the United States for their connections to ISIS. Many of these individuals were apprehended while planning attacks on New York, including Abdurasul Juraboev, Khror Saidakhmetov, Abror Habibov, Dilkhayot Kasimov and Akmal Zakirov who had planned to travel to Syria and join ISIS, bomb Coney Island, kill members of the NYPD and the President; Samuel Rahamin Topaz, Munther Omar Saleh, Fareed Mumuni, Alaa Saadeh, Nader Saadeh who, along with an unnamed minor, planned to attack various landmarks throughout New York City and provide material support to ISIS; and Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui, who1 were planning to attack a large law-enforcement event, like a funeral for a member of the NYPD.
I support the President’s air strikes that have blunted ISIS’ genocide. However, the President must be more open with the American people. The President should make it clear that this is going to be a tough and long fight and he must not be ruling anything out in achieving our mission, including the use of U.S. ground forces to target air strikes and coordinate Iraqi and Kurdish military operations.
Iran poses a grave threat not only to Israel and the Middle East, but also to the United States and the entire world. It is the world's leading state sponsor of terror and continues to violate United Nations Security Council Resolutions in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. That is why the recent nuclear deal that the Obama administration struck with Iran is a bad deal and the wrong policy for the United States to pursue.
This agreement allows Iran, after just ten years, to develop a nuclear weapon within one year. During these ten years Iran will retain its nuclear infrastructure and receive hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief which it can use to spread terrorism throughout the world.
This agreement also allows Iran 24 days to prepare for an inspection, ends the arms embargo in Iran after five years, and also ends the ICBM embargo after eight years. By doing so this agreement only institutionalizes Iran’s nuclear program.
The economic sanctions on Iran that were enacted with my strong support have been very effective. It was economic pressures caused by the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. Iran has not shown any good faith that they will stop financing terrorism or pursuing the development of nuclear weapons, therefore the United States should continue to pressure Iran instead of offering sanctions relief with minimal concessions. Below are letters and resolutions I have endorsed:
- On 3/20/15, I cosigned a letter to the President emphasizing that any nuclear deal struck with Iran must close any pathway for Iran to pursue a nuclear bomb. This letter also stressed that any sanctions relief for congressionally mandated sanctions would require new legislation.
- On 10/1/14, I cosigned a letter to Secretary Kerry to ensure that Iran is fully transparent regarding its nuclear activities.
- On 9/11/14, I cosigned a letter to House Appropriators urging action to extend the “Lautenberg Amendment” which helps religious minorities trapped in Iran.
- On 7/9/14, I cosigned a letter to President Obama stressing to the Administration that any long-term sanctions relief for Iran requires an affirmative act by Congress.
- On 4/11/14, I cosigned a letter to the President of the UN Security Council, Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu, urging the Council to hold the Iranian government accountable through sanctions for violating Security Council Resolutions by attempting to export arms to terrorist groups.
- On 4/4/14, I sent a letter to the State Department expressing serious concern about the appointment of Hamid Aboutalebi by Iran as their Representative to the UN due to his involvement in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
- On 3/5/14, I cosigned a letter to President Obama requesting the Administration keep all options on the table in order to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.
- On 5/24/13, I cosigned a letter UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to remove Iran as chairman of the UN Conference on Disarmament.
- A resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives in disapproval of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal) agreed to by the P5+1 and Iran on July 14, 2015.
- A resolution condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.A resolution urging the P5+1 to only accept a final nuclear agreement with Iran that definitively prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, ceases Iran's construction of advanced missiles and warheads, suspends Iran's support for terrorist organizations, and reduces human rights violations within Iran.
- The Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which strengthens existing U.S. sanctions against Iran by targeting Iran’s euro-dominated foreign exchange, curtailing all commercial trade with Iran. This bill would also require the President to add hundreds of Iranian entities to a key sanctions list.
Pakistan is of strategic importance to the U.S. and is crucial to U.S. security interests in the region. Areas along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are a haven for numerous extremist and terrorist groups including the FATA and SWAT and have been virtually run by Taliban and al-Qaeda. Recent reminders of this include the barbaric attack on the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan on December 16, 2014, that killed over 130 children and the August 16, 2015 suicide attack in Pakistan’s Attock district that killed the Home Minister of the Punjab province, Shuja Khanzada, and over 20 others. This situation presents a clear and present danger not only to Afghanistan and the region but the entire globe as they provide safe haven to terrorists. Drone strikes in Northwest Pakistan have been successful in eliminating many of al Qaeda’s key leaders. I fully support the use of drones to eliminate terrorists.
Pakistan has been and continues to be a key country in the war against Islamic extremism. Many of the senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership were captured or killed with the cooperation of Pakistan. But Pakistan’s actions have raised questions about its commitment, such as the fact that Osama bin Laden was living for so long in Pakistan and their recent failure to take sufficient action against the Haqqani network, which is affiliated with the Talban. It is also concerning that Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden, remains imprisoned by Pakistan. Hopefully the December 16th massacre and the assassination of Shuja Khanzada will convince Pakistan to take consistent action against Islamic terrorists.
In the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, the U.S. launched military operations in Afghanistan to remove the Taliban regime and to stop al Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.
Besides removing the Taliban, the core goal of the United States’ mission in Afghanistan has been to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent its return. Our troops have done an excellent job, but more remains to be done. An unstable Afghanistan will allow the Taliban to take over and al-Qaeda to establish a sanctuary similar to the situation before 9/11. That is why I have opposed the President’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan too rapidly. We have seen the unfortunate effects of a premature drawdown in the emergence of ISIS in Iraq.
That is why I supported the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act which expressed that a drawdown in Afghanistan should occur based on security conditions on the ground and the recommendations of senior U.S. military commanders, rather than an arbitrary timetable. I support the President’s decision to maintain the presence 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the remainder of 2015, though I oppose the President’s decision to remove all but 1000 troops by the end of his Administration.
The war in Iraq was painful and difficult. Every loss of American life on the field of battle was tragic and the brave men and women of our armed forces endured great sacrifice, as did their families. I voted for this war in 2002, and continued to support it when it became unpopular because I clearly believed it was in our national interest. We cannot hope to defeat Islamic terrorism until the Middle East is stabilized and that could never be done until Saddam Hussein and his capacity for weapons of mass destruction were removed.
Having been to Iraq on several occasions, I knew –even during the dark days of 2006—that the media were not accurately reporting the progress that had been made. I also believed, however, that it was important to revise our military strategy going forward. That is why in 2007 I supported the “surge” policy and voted against the misguided attempt to reduce funding to our troops.
The surge strategy worked. During my visits to Iraq, I met with America’s military commanders and with rank and file troops including National Guard and reservists from New York and Long Island. I saw firsthand the extraordinary effort made by our troops in defeating al-Qaeda, putting down the Sunni insurgency and creating meaningful governmental institutions. As President Obama stated: "Under tough circumstances the United States military has succeeded beyond any expectation."
It is in America's national interest to have Iraq be a sovereign and stable nation because the future of Iraq is closely linked to the future of the Middle East – which is now facing massive civil unrest. That is why I opposed President Obama’s decision to withdraw all our troops from Iraq. At least 20,000 troops should have remained to maintain stability and deter Iranian influence. We have seen the unfortunate effects of the President’s policy in the current destabilization of Iraq. The United States must take every possible action to combat ISIS, to ensure that the advances made by our troops in Iraq over the past decade are not undone.