‘Do You Apologize or Not?’: Kerry, Cruz Spar Over What Gold Star Families Should be Told About Iran Sanctions Relief

Patrick Goodenough | July 30, 2015 | 4:12am EDT
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Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp' Qods Force, responsible for terror operations abroad. (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – Wednesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement witnessed were some dramatic moments, especially as outspoken critics of the deal focused on one of Iran’s most notorious figures and his role in the killing of hundreds of Americans.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) got chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey to explain in stark terms the workings of an “explosively formed penetrator” (EFP), a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb used in Iraq.

Cotton also had Dempsey confirm that Iran’s Qods Force and its commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, were the “main perpetrators” of the use of EFPs in the killing of hundreds of American military personnel there.

Turning to Secretary of State John Kerry, Cotton – himself a veteran with combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – noted that as a result of the Iran nuclear deal, U.N. and European Union sanctions – although not U.S. ones – against Soleimani and the Qods Force will ultimately be lifted.

“What should we say to the Gold Star moms and dads of the over 500 American troops who were killed by an Iranian ball of fire traveling 6,000 feet per second?” he asked the secretary of state.

“Well, we should tell them, obviously first of all, how extraordinarily grateful we are for the service of their loved ones,” Kerry replied, adding that those families should also be assured that U.S. sanctions against Soleimani will “never” be lifted.

Later, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) returned to the subject of Soleimani – who the 2016 GOP presidential hopeful described as having “more blood of American service members on his hands than any living terrorist.”

“Now Secretary Kerry said to the families of those men and women who gave their lives, who were killed by General Soleimani, we should apologize,” Cruz said.

“I never said we should apologize,” Kerry said quietly as Cruz put questions to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter about the U.S. fatalities in Iraq.

Moments later Kerry tackled Cruz.

“Senator, I never said the word ‘apology,’” he began. “I said we should thank them for their extraordinary service. I never said the word ‘apologize.’ Please don’t distort my words.”

“Secretary Kerry,” Cruz shot back, “it is duly noted that you do not apologize to the families of the service members who were murdered by the Iranian military.”

“Not what I said, senator,” said Kerry.

“Do you apologize or not?” Cruz asked. “Are you – I, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so which one is it?”

“I thanked them,” Kerry said. “I thanked them for their extraordinary service and I would remind them that the United States of America will never take the sanctions off Qassem Soleimani.”

Cruz asked Kerry once again: “Do you apologize or not? Because you wanted to clarify that point.”

“I said, we thank them for their service,” repeated Kerry, glowering. “But we will not take the sanctions off Qassem Soleimani.”

During Wednesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. displayed a copy of this photo, showing a shrapnel-riddled Humvee after an 'explosively formed penetrator' explosion in Iraq.

Cruz also asked Carter to ensure that a list of some 500 Americans killed in Iraq by Iranian roadside bombs – which Cruz said he understood was in the possession of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency – be declassified and released to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee as well as to the families of those named on the list.

“Let me look into that and I’ll get back to you,” Carter replied.

During questioning by Cotton, Dempsey explained an EFP’s workings.

“A copper cone is melted at super-high temperatures and projected, and essentially burns its way through armor plate,” he said.

Dempsey said “several hundred” Americans had been killed by EFPs in Iraq.

Asked whether Iran was the main supplier of the bombs, and whether Soleimani and the Qods Force were the “main perpetrators,” Dempsey on both counts replied “yes.”

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