Rep. Gabbard: More Clarity Needed On Iran Deal; Committees Hung Up On Anti-ISIS Support

July 29, 2015 12:22 PM - Updated: July 29, 2015 3:53 PM
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia (left) are greeted by Falah Mustafa Bakir (center), Minister of Foreign Relations for the Kurdistan Regional Government. Photo courtesy Rep. Gabbard's office.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia (left) are greeted by Falah Mustafa Bakir (center), Minister of Foreign Relations for the Kurdistan Regional Government in a recent trip to the Middle East. Photo courtesy Rep. Gabbard’s office.

“The devil is in the details” in deciding whether the current deal with Iran to bar it from building or acquiring nuclear weapons is acceptable, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said “the worse thing we can do is stake out positions” based on partisan concerns before fully examining the deal.

The most common concern is whether there truly is “a strong verifiable inspection regime” in place, she said. That question came up several times earlier in the week, at Tuesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Linked to that concern is the 24-day period that Iran is given to respond to a request for an inspection, she said.

“The answers seem to vary … on what are the consequences if Iran does not comply” and allow representatives from the United Nations to thoroughly inspect a site for potential violations, she said.

Gabbard also wants more clarity from the administration on how the “snapback sanctions” would work if Iran is found to be in violation.

Lawmakers must also consider the bigger picture and ask, “what if there is no deal?”

“We need to understand what happens if Congress rejects the Iran deal,” she said.

The House Armed Services Committee was holding a hearing later Wednesday on the nuclear agreement.

Also during the event, Gabbard addressed current operations against the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL. Having deployed twice to Iraq as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, she said from her experiences, “the idea of a single unified government in Iraq is a fantasy.” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi “continues to ask Iran [a predominantly Shiite country] for support,” she said, and “Shiia militia have the run of Baghdad.”

For the minority Sunnis, they need the “promise of self-governance and the ability to secure themselves.”

Having recently returned from a congressional visit to Iraq, she said, “we need to strengthen our relations with the troops … particularly the Pesh Merga [Kurdish forces],” who have had success in stopping ISIL from advancing into its territory and also driving them from areas they once controlled.

Gabbard said that ISIL is increasingly using 5-ton trucks loaded with explosives in their attacks on civilians and opposing forces.

“The only thing that will stop those vehicles is heavy weapons,” she said.

She called it “frustrating and heartbreaking” to hear stories of Kurdish fighters running out of ammunition when fighting the Sunni extremists that make up ISIL.

Gabbard sponsored an amendment included in the House version of the defense authorization bill that would speed delivery of weapons and necessary supplies to the Kurds and vetted Sunni tribes. But that provision is a point of contention in the conference committee working to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills. The conference committee has been working all month to resolve differences in the bills.

A co-founder of the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus, she opposes a redeployment of an additional 10,000 American military advisers to Iraq. Gabbard also remains cautious about sending in American special forces to direct air strikes.

“Kurds have been very effective in providing precise targeting” information, she said
“This is not a black-and-white situation” where more U.S. forces is the answer.

“The bottom line is this is not a war that can be won on one front,” she said, but rather the goal is to “take away the oxygen that allows ISIS to exist.”

Gabbard said the announcement of the 50,000 troop cut in the active-duty Army highlights the danger of Budget Control Act spending reductions. While members of the armed services committees know how this affects military readiness and planning, “the rest of Congress does not understand the urgency of this.” She said if Congress does not take action this session, again using the Army as the example, 30,000 more soldiers will be forced to leave active duty.

John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense,,,, Government Executive and USNI News.

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