Cory Booker’s Courage on Iran: by Shmuley Boteach

President Obama has dropped the hammer on 16 Democratic senators who have joined Robert Menendez (D, NJ) and Mark Kirk, (R, IL), in co-sponsoring new legislation that will increase sanctions against Iran should it fail to follow through on its pledges to halt uranium enrichment.

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 has also attracted forty-three Republican co-sponsors bringing the total to 59. If they get to 67, they will have a veto-proof majority, something the White House is doing everything to prevent.

One of those brave 16 is my close friend Senator Cory Booker, who has had a unique and special relationship with the Jewish community since I met him as an undergraduate at Oxford University in 1992. As is well known, Cory served as president of my Oxford L’Chaim society, where he arguably became the first African-American-Christian head of a major Jewish organization in history.

This is a regime that recruited boys from the age of twelve to fight against Saddam’s armies in the ten year Iran-Iraq war. This regime even had ruthless Iraqi soldiers crying as they mowed down Iranian boys attacking them across battlefields. And Iran used children in the Iran-Iraq war to clear minefields, as detailed in Ami Pedahzur’s Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism.

It is the same regime that stones women to death for accusations of infidelity. It hangs homosexuals from cranes in the capital of Tehran. It is the regime that our State Department lists as the foremost global exporter of terrorism. It funds Hezbollah, which blew up 241 American peacekeeping marines, soldiers, and sailors in 1983 Beirut. It is the regime which mowed down their own people in the streets of Tehran in the Green Revolution of 2009, when innocent Iranians protested a stolen election. 

That Obama is placing all the pressure on 16 Senators from his own party rather than squarely on the Iranians where it belongs is, sadly, true to form. Whatever debatable successes the President has had in domestic policies, what is indisputable is his catastrophic foreign policy.

Last month, I and Birthright-cofounder Michael Steinhardt, who is also a former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, took out full page ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal promoting the message of my hero and friend, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, to insist that Iran’s nuclear facilities be dismantled. Inspections, Wiesel said, are not enough as we discovered with North Korean who agreed to a similar deal in 1994 only to lie and detonate a bomb in 2006. But even if that were not the case, imagine how courageous it must be, to be a Democratic senator like Cory Booker, to oppose, as one of your first acts as a newly elected Senator, the leader of your own party, the President of the United States.

In 1955 President John F. Kennedy published his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, which detailed gutsy actions on the part of United States Senators who followed their conscience on matters of principle even if it lost them votes or ran afoul of their own party. Since then the American people have significantly soured on Congress, which today has an approval rating of just nine percent. But what Cory and his 15 other Democratic colleagues have shown is that courage in the United States Senate is alive and well.