Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s appearance in Fort Mill came at the end of an eventful week in U.S.-Iran relations.
On Tuesday, 10 U.S. sailors were detained and soon released after crossing into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf, producing images that led Cruz and other conservatives to castigate the Obama administration for weakness in dealing with the Islamic Republic.
Then, just before Saturday’s forum on national security at the Morningstar Fellowship Church, news broke that four Americans long held by Iran were being released. Around 2,000 people seated in the church gasped and burst into applause when the news was announced at the beginning of the forum.
“First, I want to say ‘praise God,’” Cruz said, specifcally highlighting the case of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran for three and a half years.
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“Believers across the world have been praying with him,” Cruz said, adding that he’d spoken with Abedini’s wife several times. “There are two little kids desperate for their daddy to come home.”
But when the forum’s moderator, former ABC and CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve, asked if the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration had led to the thawing of tensions with Iran, Cruz reiterated his distaste for the agreement that will relieve sanctions on Tehran and unfreeze around $150 billion worth of Iranian assets overseas.
He promised to tear up the agreement on day one of his administration, and worried even the agreement to release the prisoners would have “ugly” elements to it.
“The only way to deal with Iran is from strength. Weakness and appeasement don’t work, and that has been the Obama foreign policy,” Cruz said.
Instead, he promised to reimpose the sanctions the U.S. agreed to lift along with five other world powers in a comprehensive agreement to end Iran’s nuclear program, which he said “undermined the international consensus on sanctions.” What’s more, “I filed legislation... to strengthen the sanctions to make them even more crippling.”
Cruz spent much of the forum attacking Obama administration policy on Iran, the Islamic State and border security. When Meserve pushed Cruz on what he would do on the issues he cited, Cruz said, “first, we have to understand what we’re doing wrong now.”
Calling Obama’s an “anti-Israel” administration, Cruz said the president had undermined the confidence America’s Middle Eastern allies have that the U.S. can provide for their security.
“This administration has managed to unite Arabs and Jews in saying, ‘You want to give Iran nukes? Are you nuts?’”
“We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism. We will call it by its name,” Cruz said. “We will hunt them down and we will destroy them.”