This story has been updated with quotes from a letter written by retired generals who support the deal.
A newly created group of veterans is voicing strong opposition to the controversial Iran nuclear deal, pointing out that Iran was linked to hundreds of U.S. troops' deaths in Iraq and the new agreement could empower the anti-American regime.
The group, "Vets Against the Deal," launched this week with a media blitz featuring a video of medically retired Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett displaying his Purple Heart ribbon and talking about his injury from an Iranian-made bomb.
"It cut me in half, from the left corner of my temple down through my jaw," Bartlett says in the video, where his facial scars are visible. "That day is imprinted in my brain forever."
Bartlett urges viewers to "call your senator. Tell them 'No deal with Iran.'" The video provides a phone number for the Capitol Hill switchboard.
The issue will come to a head in September, when Congress is likely to vote on whether to strip President Obama of his authority to lift sanctions against Iran.
The deal struck in July between Iran and the U.S. and other Western countries would essentially limit Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting the financial and oil sanctions that have damaged the Iranian economy.
If Congress blocks Obama's authority to lift the sanctions, the deal with Iran will fall apart. For now Obama appears to have enough support to weather the stiff opposition and retain the authority to execute the deal.
The new vets group is just one example of how the military community is being drawn into the contentious debate over the Iran deal. Also this week, a group of three dozen retired generals and admirals issued an open letter in support of the deal.
"There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon," the letter states. "If the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year. The choice is that stark."
The letter's signatories include retired Marine Corps Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard Jr., a former head of National Defense University, and Rear Adm. Joseph Sestak, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.
The veterans group plans to run TV ads in several states targeting specific lawmakers who might be undecided on the Iran nuclear deal. It's unclear who is funding the group. It is reportedly a 501(c) (4), which is a tax-exempt group with confidential donors that is permitted to conduct limited political activity.
The veterans group is highlighting recently disclosed Pentagon data suggesting about 500 American deaths from the Iraq War were linked to Iran.
Many of those estimated 500 deaths occurred during the so-called surge in Iraq, when President George W. Bush ordered an influx of tens of thousands of troops to confront what had devolved into a sectarian civil war. Scores of American personnel were killed or maimed by highly lethal bombs, known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, that Iran manufactured and supplied to Shiite militias across the border in Iraq. Many EFPs were powerful enough to destroy U.S. Humvees and breach tank hulls.
The veterans group's executive director, Michael Pregent, a former Army officer and intelligence adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, said lifting Iran's economic sanctions would mean money would flow to the same Iranian groups who were targeting U.S. troops a decade ago.
"All this does is give an enemy more money," Pregent said in an interview Tuesday on Fox News.
"To us it's baffling and we want our veterans to be heard on this," he said.
The veterans group is highlighting the issue after Obama suggested that the only alternative to this deal is a likely war with Iran. Obama recently compared opponents of today's Iran nuclear deal to the 2003 supporters of the Iraq invasion.
That's a notion that the veterans group flatly rejects.
"Our veterans aren't war mongers. Our veterans are trained to prevent wars and we're also trained to win wars," Pregent said.
"Our veterans are former intelligence officers, soldiers and NCOs, combat arms officers. We actually know this enemy very well."
Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.