ICYMI: Sullivan Calls for Return to Aggressive, Trump-era Iran Deterrence Policies

WASHINGTON—In an interview this morning on Fox News Channel, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) criticized the Biden administration for pursuing an appeasement strategy toward Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, and called for a return to the aggressive deterrence policies enacted during the Trump administration. His comments follow the recent strike carried out by Iran-backed terrorist proxies in Jordan that killed three U.S. service members and wounded nearly three dozen others. Sullivan is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).

“We’ve got to reestablish deterrence with regard to Iran,” Sen. Sullivan said. “Think about it: The Trump administration comes in with their strategy after the Iranians were killing Americans with impunity…[The Trump administration] reestablished deterrence with a very aggressive strategy of massive sanctions against their oil and gas sector, getting out of the JCPOA, killing Soleimani, which was really important—the Quds Force commander, but also launching a peace initiative in the Middle East with the Abraham Accords. [President] Biden comes in and literally reverses all of that—all of it, including the Houthis on the terrorist lists. We’re seeing the result. More Americans killed. Wars in the Middle East. The appeasement policy of the Biden administration has completely failed.”

Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade asked Sen. Sullivan if he thinks the Biden administration’s reactive posture to global threats has invited aggression from America’s adversaries.

“I think our enemies certainly smell weakness out of the White House. There’s no doubt about it,” Sen. Sullivan said. “The Afghanistan withdrawal was the signal that the authoritarian regimes are on the march…At the end of the Trump administration, Iran had about $4 billion in foreign reserves. That's not a lot. [President] Biden comes in, lifts sanctions, and they’re exporting oil like crazy, natural gas like crazy. Their foreign reserves right now are north of $70 billion—the Iranians. That’s what they're funding these terrorist proxies—Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis—with. That’s what you need to do for a comprehensive, strategic, long-term policy of reestablishing deterrence. It’s not easy. The Trump administration did it. Biden’s been weak. They’ve got to redo this.”

Finally, Sen. Sullivan warned the Biden administration not to respond to this attack by increasing pressure on Israel to restrain its war on Hamas in Gaza, which would likely be seen as a concession to Iran.

“The worst thing the Biden administration could do right now—and I worry they might—is, in reaction to this, say, ‘Hey, we’re going to put more pressure on Israel in terms of what they’re doing in Gaza,’” Sen. Sullivan said. “That would be a disaster.”

Sen. Sullivan also discussed the attack today on Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.”


  • On November 2, 2023, Sen. Sullivan led 12 of his Senate Republican colleagues in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, demanding the Biden administration press for a broader, more permanent framework of sanctions on Iran from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). 
  • On November 14, 2023, Sens. Sullivan and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and a number of their Senate colleagues, introduced a resolution emphasizing the fact that deterrence is most credible when the President keeps all options on the table, including the use of military force, to deter attacks from Iran and its proxies.
  • On December 12, 2023, Sen. Sullivan and a number of his colleagues again sent a letter to Secretary Blinken, urging him to re-designate the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), as well as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT).
  • On January 12, 2024, Sen. Sullivan expressed his support for the strikes on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which he said were “long overdue.”
  • On January 12, 2024, in an interview with NBC’s Kristen Welker, Sen. Sullivan reiterated his call on the Biden administration to reestablish deterrence with regard to Iran, and argued that tougher action against Iran and its proxies will help avoid a wider war, not appeasement.
  • On January 17, 2024, Sen. Sullivan said the decision to redesignate the Houthi rebels as an SDGT is a “step forward” that “doesn’t go far enough.”
  • On January 28, 2024, Sen. Sullivan called for a “clear, lethal and overwhelming response” to the strike carried out by Iran-backed terrorist proxies that killed 3 U.S. service members and wounded dozens of others.

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