McConnell Speaks on 'Brave' Middle East Protestors Challenging the Iranian Regime

'Even under threat of tear gas or even gunfire, the brave people of Iran are themselves displaying more willingness to criticize their own brutal rulers than we saw in the initial responses from some Democrats and so-called "experts" right here at home... It should not take the brave Iranian people themselves to remind American leaders that Tehran has long been the force for bad in this situation and the United States is a force for good.'

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Iran:

'It's been 10 days since the United States removed Iran's chief terrorist Qassim Soleimani from the battlefield. And it's been 5 days since the brutal violence, recklessness, and failed governance that defines the Iranian regime was put on full display with their shoot-down of a Ukrainian civilian airliner and the deaths of all 176 souls on board.

'After a brief stab at a failed cover-up, the Iranian government had to come clean and explain that its own recklessness had killed more than 80 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and the other victims.

'And despite the claims of supposed experts on Iran that Iranians would rally behind their oppressive regime, the truth is quite different.

'Instead, thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to celebrate Soleimani's death, condemn the regime's domestic repression, call for regime change in Tehran, and denounce their government's feeble efforts to lay its own violence at the feet of the United States.

'According to journalists, here is one chant that has been ringing out on the streets of Iran: "Soleimani is a murderer, his leader a traitor." Here is another: "They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here."

'The irony is rich. As Iran's master terrorist, Soleimani himself led efforts to brutalize Iranian protestors who dared challenge the regime. Just a few months ago, he boasted to Iraqi leaders, quote, "We in Iran know how to deal with protests."

'Well, that violent approach is exactly why Iraqis and Iranians alike are now celebrating his death and denouncing the regime that he helped lead. I'm sure the mullahs regret that Soleimani himself is no longer around to help intimidate and murder their own citizens into silence.

'These protests aren't limited to Iran, either. Protestors are back in Iraq as well – not phony, Iran-staged demonstrations, but real citizen-led protests across Iraq. Iraqis are demanding a government whose top priority is Iraqis' own interests rather than facilitating Iranian interference.

'Now given the death and terror that Iran has wrought in the Middle East for decades, this kind of reaction shouldn't be a surprise.

'But strangely, it seems it has surprised many of our fellow Americans.

'Here at home, many on the left and in the media had rushed to reflexively blame President Trump, and not the Iranian regime, for the recent violence.

'After only the earliest initial reports, the Speaker of the House rushed to blame our administration for, quote, "needless provocations."

'And following Iran's shoot-down of the airliner, one prominent House Democrat characterized the regime's violence as "collateral damage" resulting from American actions -- exactly how the Iranians themselves were trying to spin it.

'One Democrat running for president tried a similar, embarrassing equivocation. He said the civilians that Iran had blown up were, quote, "caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat."

'For several days you could not open a newspaper or turn on the television without prominent Democrats and so-called foreign policy experts setting aside decades of Iranian aggression to imply– or even say outright – that America, not Iran, was responsible for this "cycle of violence". That President Donald Trump was the real villain.

'So we are faced with a remarkable spectacle: Even under threat of tear gas or even gunfire, the brave people of Iran are themselves displaying more willingness to criticize their own brutal rulers than we saw in the initial responses from some Democrats and so-called "experts" right here at home.

'A remarkable spectacle – but a sad one. I hope this can be a lesson to anyone who has let their domestic political grievances pollute their judgment of world affairs.

'It should not take the brave Iranian people themselves to remind American leaders that Tehran has long been the force for bad in this situation and the United States is a force for good.

So, as I've said, the president's bold action has attracted significant political criticism from Democrats in Congress.

'Now, it is the Senate's prerogative to weigh in on foreign policy, and I fully expect we will debate a War Powers resolution from some of our colleagues very soon.

'I look forward to discussing the last administration's failed strategy that got us here. The Obama administration responded to Iran's violence and aggression with appeasement and retrenchment rather than pushback.

'I look forward to discussing the fact that senior military commanders did not just recommend the President take immediate action to disrupt Iranian plots against our personnel... They believed the U.S. would be "culpably negligent" if we didn't act to stop the plotting.

'I expect some of the Democrats who have rhetorically embraced the intelligence community when it's suited their political interests may now rush to criticize the career professionals.

'I look forward to hearing my colleagues who want to quibble over the word "imminent" explain just how close we should let terrorists come to killing more Americans before we defend ourselves.

'I assure you, if the President had not acted to disrupt a deadly attack, I'm confident these same critics would have blasted him for failing to protect American lives.

'Just a few days before the strike, the junior Senator from Connecticut was blasting the administration for "render[ing] America impotent in the Middle East." He complained that "no one fears us, no one listens to us."

'Naturally, after President Trump did take bold action, the same colleague has become a fierce critic of him for supposedly being too harsh. Not exactly a model of consistency.

'Our Democratic colleagues were very happy to give President Obama wide latitude to engage in strikes where American lives and American interests were far less directly at stake than with Mr. Soleimani.

'But now the same Democrats who embraced the Obama intervention in, say, Libya, say it is a bridge too far for President Trump to respond with limited force to Iranian-directed strikes against American interests and personnel that had been escalating for months.

'Okay in Libya, not okay here. The double standards are literally head-spinning.

'So I expect the Senate will soon debate Senator Kaine's war powers resolution.

'For a year now I've wanted the Senate to go on the record about our military presence and strategy in Syria and Iraq. I'm glad my Democratic colleagues may finally be interested in having that discussion rather than ducking it.

'I don't believe the blunt instrument of a war powers resolution is an acceptable substitute for the studied oversight the Senate can exercise through hearings, resolutions, and more tailored legislation.

'So I will strongly oppose this resolution.

'And I will urge all my colleagues to consider what message the Senate should send to Iran and the world at the very moment that American actions are changing the calculus in Tehran for the better.

'We appear to have restored a measure of deterrence in the Middle East. Let's not screw it up.'

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