With all the tumult surrounding the American presidential election, virtually unnoticed was the departure of one of Israel’s best friends in the Senate. The mainstream pro-Israel community lost a great champion of the US-Israel relationship: Senator Mark Kirk.
Senator Kirk fought tirelessly to strengthen America’s support of Israel, insisting that Israel is America’s indispensable partner in region. He was passionate about fighting the boycott movement, recognizing its goal as the destruction of the State of Israel, not a two-state solution. But his chief claim to fame was his relentless campaign to denounce the Iranian regime as a threat to American national security interests.
Mark Kirk is owed a great debt of gratitude for repeatedly taking the lead to bring together members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to fight against the ill-conceived Iran deal. He exposed the administration’s obsessive desire to create a new US-Islamic Republic of Iran relationship to reorient the Middle East, while criticizing the “daylight” President Barack Obama sought between the US and Israel. Mark presented overwhelming evidence that Iran’s détente with America was for the Islamic Republic only a route to secure hundreds of billions in sanctions relief and economic reengagement with the world community, while never being required to rein in its hegemonic ambitions or support of terrorism.
When the Obama administration aggressively lobbied Congress against imposing Iran sanctions in the president’s first term, or when President Obama waived many congressional sanctions provisions, weakening their effect, Kirk spoke out often and loudly.
When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) guaranteed Iran the ability to develop nuclear weapons in 10-15 years with international approval, or when the administration downplayed and ignored Iranian transgressions, Kirk worked to rally support to demand American consequences for Iran’s behavior.
Mark continually reminded the American people that Iran was and still is the greatest threat to American national security interests in the Middle East.
His prescient analysis looks all the more compelling in hindsight.
He was one of a handful of Senate leaders continually warning the American public that the Iran deal ignored Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, support of terrorism, and human rights abuses. He complained that the hundreds of billions of dollars injected into the Iranian economy directly funded the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a designated terrorist organization.
We live in a time when we only complain, and rarely thank people for their service. An elected official that loses an election is easily forgotten.
Senator Kirk deserves to be remembered and most importantly thanked for his service to our country, for standing up for America’s most important ally, Israel. Mark had three very special foreign policy legislative aides who remained behind the scenes, but were invaluable to his six-year-long efforts.
Thank you Bobby Zarate, Richard Goldberg and Igor Khrestin.
An American patriot, Kirk served as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve from 1989 until 2013, in the House of Representatives from 2000- 2010, and was elected Senator from Illinois in 2010, in the seat President Obama briefly held.
Tragedy stuck in early 2012 as Senator Kirk suffered a devastating stroke, undergoing many surgeries to relieve swelling in his brain. With the same perseverance with which he confronted the menace of Iran, after a year of intense rehabilitation, Mark returned to the Senate and immediately restarted his quest to highlight how Iran endangers American security interests. His body was weak but his mind remained sharp; he remained focused on challenging the emerging Iran deal, working across the aisle to protect American national security interests.
A partial list of his accomplishments: 1. Menendez-Kirk Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran, the most powerful economic sanctions ever imposed on Iran 2. Co-authored the Iran Freedom and Counter- Proliferation Act with Senator Menendez (D-New Jersey) 3. Authored the amendment forcing the EU to disconnect designated Iranian banks from the SWIFT financial system 4. Co-Authored the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Promotion Act with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) 5. Co-authored the Iran Transparency and Accountability Act with Senator Gillibrand 6. Convinced the US government to transfer the X-Band Radar to Israel After the Iran deal, with mounting evidence of Iranian nuclear and missile violations, Kirk and many fellow member of Congress continued to condemn the administration’s negligence in enforcing the deal. He complained that Iran had tested nuclear- capable ballistic missiles in defiance of international law, boosted its support for Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists, illegally imprisoned American citizens and continued efforts to illicitly buy nuclear and missile technology. Iran still is the most destabilizing nation in the Middle East, emboldened by a one-sided deal that was fought tooth and nail by the Senator from Illinois.
In October Mark said, “We must learn the lessons from the 1930s... take the threats of Israel’s enemies seriously, and understand that appeasement only emboldens them... It is the moral test of our generation to stand up and do what we can to protect this special nation.”
A great debt of gratitude is owed this fine man and his talented staff. Thank you Mark, for your six years in the Senate, which truly made a difference.
Your friends will miss you and your leadership.
The author is the director of MEPIN™. He regularly briefs members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.