It looks like the president is going to spend part of his State of the Union address trumpeting his foreign policy “leadership.” I find this baffling. Does he really believe the world has become safer and more secure since he took office?
Has he turned a blind eye to the Islamic State-inspired attacks in Philadelphia, San Bernardino, Paris and more? The continued existence of ISIL in Syria and Iraq despite his limited military effort to “defeat” them? The resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the rise of ISIL in Afghanistan? Iran’s repeated violations of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and its continued efforts to incite instability throughout the Middle East? China’s provocative island reclamation efforts? North Korea’s alleged testing of an even more powerful nuclear weapon? Russia’s continued occupation of Ukraine and their growing presence in the Middle East? Cuba’s refusal to end its human rights violations? Or our fraying relationships with key allies like Israel and moderate Arab Gulf states?
If he truly thinks we have a winning foreign policy, the president’s machinations are ignorant, bordering on delusional. America’s voice and more importantly, actions, are largely dismissed abroad. Foreign aggressors have taken this era of American weakness to do as they please, which has resulted in a more dangerous and anarchic international system.
Just look at Iran. Iran fired ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons two separate times in violation of several UNSC resolutions. Iran then fired rockets into the Strait of Hormuz near American navy vessels with only minutes of warning. Then, only days later, they unveiled a new underground missile depot following an order from President Hassan Rouhani to expand their missile program.
Only once during that entire time did the administration tell Congress that it would impose new sanctions on Iran. But then, a mere 42 minutes later, the administration backed down. By the end of the day, sanctions were delayed indefinitely.
Let’s be honest why this happened. The Iran deal is the cornerstone of President Obama’s legacy. The president will not risk his legacy to hold Iran accountable.
Then, days after the administration executed a stunningly fast diplomatic retreat on Iran sanctions, North Korea claimed to have detonated a hydrogen bomb. Though it’s unlikely North Korea has the technology for such a bomb, it’s increasingly clear that the world’s most secretive dictatorship is improving its nuclear technology. The administration has said it was considering sanctions, but that response would take time.
This is not enough. The administration’s repeated inaction as the world falls further into chaos is inexcusable. To the degree that we can, Congress is filling the void left by an absent commander in chief. This week, Congress will tell the president enough is enough. No more claiming victory in the face of defeat. We will vote on two bills to impose new sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
The Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act will stop the Obama administration from offering any sanctions relief to individuals or banks unless we are certain they don’t support terror, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or Iran’s ballistic missile and conventional weapons programs. Iran must earn sanctions relief. The Obama administration cannot give Iran another free pass.
The House will also vote on the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act to block the Kim regime’s access to hard currency and seize assets related to North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, illicit activities and human rights violations.
After seven years of failed foreign policy, the president should know that the world and America cannot be kept safe with strong words while leading from behind. The president’s empty rhetoric has failed to secure America’s interests at home and abroad — more of the same during his State of the Union address won’t change that.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy is a Republican from California and majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.