We suspected Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) would have a positive effect on the Senate. The veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan did not disappoint in a speech today at the Heritage Foundation.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

He began with a simple reminder why we must oppose Iranian nuclear and territorial ambitions:

Iran is a radical, Islamist tyrannical regime. Upon coming to power, among its first actions was to invade sovereign American territory — our embassy in Tehran — and hold Americans hostage for over a year, an act of war for which it has never fully answered. The Iranian constitution states that Iran’s Army and Revolutionary Guard “will be responsible … for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world.” . . . . Iran has been killing Americans for over thirty-five years. In 1983, Iran helped finance and direct the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, killing hundreds of American military, diplomatic, and intelligence personnel. In violation of all civilized norms, Iran helped plan and direct the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which resulted in the death of a Navy diver. Iran has been implicated in the 1996 Khobar Tower bombings, which killed 19 American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia at the time. More recently, and more personally for me, Iran is responsible for the killing and maiming of thousands of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In short, Iran is at war with the West just as the Islamic State is. While operating a repressive totalitarian state at home, the Iranian regime “conducts many of these operations against America and our allies through terrorist proxies, as Iran remains the worst state sponsor of terrorism in the world, according to President Obama’s own State  Department. Iran is a lead financer and arms supplier of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, vile terrorist organizations dedicated to destroying Israel. Iran has supported opposition Islamists in Yemen. And Iran has thousands of fighters on the ground in Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad’s outlaw regime. While Iran likes to boast that it has joined the fight against the Islamic State, it’s done so only to protect Assad, and has threatened to attack U.S. forces currently fighting against the Islamic State if they target the Assad regime.”

Cotton warned about such a regime coming into possession of nuclear weapons and reiterated that the president’s policy of appeasement is easing Iran’s admission into the nuclear club. In addition to tripping over itself to flatter and butter up the vicious regime, the administration has extended the Joint Plan of Action “twice, giving more concessions to Iran with little to show in return despite Secretary of State John Kerry saying in September of 2013 that a deal could be reached in three to six months.” This he correctly points out is a nightmare in the making and needs to be reversed immediately. (“U.S. negotiators have surrendered repeatedly to Iran’s demands, conceding a right to enrich uranium, allowing Iran to keep its plutonium-producing reactor, asking only that its centrifuges be disconnected instead of dismantled, permitting research and development into advanced centrifuges, excluding the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and its ballistic-missile program from the scope of the negotiations, and even agreeing to an expiration date for any final deal. In return for these concessions to Iran, the U.S. has given and will give Iran billions of dollars more in sanctions relief. What’s wrong with this picture?”) He concludes: “What started as an unwise policy has now descended into a dangerous farce. One can only suspect an unspoken entente between the Obama administration and Iran: the U.S. won’t impose new sanctions on Iran and will allow it to develop threshold nuclear capabilities, while Iran won’t assemble a bomb till 2017.”

Cotton recommends adopting a clear policy of regime change; “cease all appeasement, conciliation, and concessions toward Iran, starting with these sham nuclear negotiations”; enact immediate, crippling sanctions; and make our military threat more credible. (“Congress can do so not only by imposing new sanctions, but also by offering to transfer advanced weapons like surplus B-52 bombers and 30,000-pound bunker-busting bombs to Israel. Perhaps Israel already has the capabilities to retard Iran’s nuclear program — I leave that assessment in the capable hands of the Government of Israel — but a congressional offer, whether or not accepted, can remove any doubts in the minds of Iran’s ayatollahs.”)

Cotton’s goal is what used to be administration policy — the complete dismantling of Iran’s illicit nuclear program. But of course President Obama will accept — is pleading for — a deal which will turn out to be much worse than that. Cotton therefore urges, “Congress should therefore insist, as our new leadership has, that we will vote on any final nuclear agreement with Iran. While our president believes he can go it alone on negotiat[ing] this deal, ultimately only Congress has the constitutional power to permanently lift sanctions on Iran. And if the president believes he can go it alone on a deal with Iran, Congress should act to prevent him from doing so. Indeed, we might even go as far as legislating that any deal found unacceptable would be undone or voided at the start of the next administration.”)

That is a bold and entirely appropriate rebuke to the administration’s capitulation to a power whose surrogates throughout the Middle East plot and attempt much worse atrocities than that we saw in France. Is it because these are carried out in non-Western countries that we don’t see the same response as was seen to the Charlie Hebdo massacre?

All of this would require some cooperation from the administration, which sources say is already strong-arming Democrats to circle the wagons around the White House. It will be a test of the sincerity and seriousness of the Senate Democrats and party leaders like Hillary Clinton to see whether they enable a policy of appeasement, that surely will end in a Middle East arms race, or a change of course.

As for the GOP presidential field, the minimal requirement to the status of “serious candidate” must include a full accounting of a candidate’s understanding of the menace of jihadists’ war on the West  and his view as to whether Iran is on the side of civilization or the side of barbarism. Then we should hear a commitment to repudiate any Iran deal that does not meet the minimal standards the administration itself  laid out originally and does not have congressional approval. We are down to the wire here: Who is serious about preventing an Islamic state becoming a threshold state? If not, don’t run for president.

You see, this is not about simply being a friend to Israel — although a Cotton-type policy would certainly fit that description. This is about whether a leader is ready to defend the West against the jihadist threat — whether it comes from Sunni or Shiite Islamists.