2016 Candidates on Iran Nuclear Deal
After President Obama announced the agreement on a long-awaited a nuclear deal with Iran, the men and women seeking to become his replacement were quick to respond to the news.
Republicans harshly criticized the agreement, arguing that Iran’s terror-exporting leaders will never abide by the agreed-upon constraints, that it jeopardizes Israel’s security, and that the pact could unleash a nuclear arms race in the region. Many of 2016 Republican candidates vowed to nix the accord if elected president.
Democrats, by contrast, applauded the president and Secretary of State John Kerry, contending that the deal is an important first step.
Although subject to congressional review, Republicans lack the votes to override an Obama veto—without help from some Democrats on Capitol Hill. Presidential contenders from the Senate will have a chance to amplify on their positions when the upper chamber votes on the deal.
The former Florida governor tweeted, “The Obama Administration’s negotiating strategy with Iran is called appeasement. We should walk away.” The tweet linked to a video clip from an interview earlier this week with Christians United for Israel, where Bush said, “We need to have a deeper debate about this in the recognition that past is prologue. History is full of examples of when you enable people or regimes that don’t embrace democratic values without any concessions, you get a bad result.”
In a statement, he reiterated this view and said, “A comprehensive agreement should require Iran to verifiably abandon – not simply delay – its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. Based on initial reports and analysis, it appears this agreement does not ‘cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon’ – in fact, over time it paves Iran’s path to a bomb.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:
Calling the deal “America’s worst diplomatic failure,” Walker released a statement with apocalyptic predictions: “Instead of making the world safer, this deal will likely lead to a nuclear arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. What’s worse, the deal rewards the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with a massive financial windfall, which Iran will use to further threaten our interests and key allies, especially Israel.”
He also responded in a tweet: “Barack Obama’s Iran deal gives Iran’s nuclear weapons capability an American stamp of approval.”
Initially, the real estate mogul and reality TV star addressed the deal obliquely, posting a video to Instagram which cycles through unattractive photos of Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, President Obama, and Secretary of State John Kerry, portraying them as untrustworthy in negotiating with Iran. Later, he released a statement: "Every promise the Obama Administration made in the beginning of negotiations, including the vow (made at the beginning of the negotiations) to get our great American prisoners returned to the U. S. has been broken. This is a bad deal that sets a dangerous precedent."
Sen. Marco Rubio:
Marco Rubio took to Twitter to state his opposition to what he calls “Barack Obama’s deal” and expects Congress to shut it down. Rubio also said it is up to the next president to “return us to a position of American strength.”
In a statement, he added, “I have said from the beginning of this process that I would not support a deal with Iran that allows the mullahs to retain the ability to develop nuclear weapons, threaten Israel, and continue their regional expansionism and support for terrorism. Based on what we know thus far, I believe that this deal undermines our national security.” He also started a petition against the president’s deal.
In a statement, Carson predicted, “The Iran deal announced today with fanfare and another heaping dose of false hope is almost certain to prove an historic mistake with potentially deadly consequences. A careful review of the 100-plus pages is in order to fully understand the lengths to which the negotiators were willing to stoop to secure a deal at any cost with the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and a regime dedicated in word and deed to bringing death to America. Without anywhere anytime surprise inspections, a full accounting of Iran’s past secret nuclear arms pursuits, elimination of Iran’s uranium stockpiles and the lifting of any sanctions only upon verification of Iranian compliance, this is not a good deal, but a recipe for disaster and the first fateful step toward a frenzied nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
The former Arkansas governor made it no secret that he did not want the deal to go through, especially with his “sign the letter to John Kerry” campaign that attacked the deal. In tweets posted just one hour after Obama’s announcement, he wrote, “Shame on the Obama administration for agreeing to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’” He also promises to stand with Israel to keep “all options on the table, including military force” as president.
Last week, Huckabee released a campaign advertisement featuring Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” ad, in which the ordained Southern Baptist minister warned that any deal with Iran would threaten Israel.
The Kentucky senator responded to the deal later than his GOP rivals, but was just as forceful in his condemnation, calling the agreement “unacceptable” and vowing to vote against it because “sanctions relief precedes evidence of compliance … Iran is left with significant nuclear capacity … [and] it lifts the ban on selling advanced weapons to Iran.”
“While I continue to believe that negotiations are preferable to war, I would prefer to keep the interim agreement in place instead of accepting a bad deal,” Paul continued.
“Today, the international community led by the United States has agreed to not only legitimize and perpetuate the Iranian nuclear program, but also to further arm and enrich the brutal theocratic regime that has oppressed the Iranian people for more than thirty years – a regime that is wrongfully holding United States citizens captive, that is sponsoring radical Islamic terrorism across the globe, and that regularly promotes the destruction of both Israel and America throughout its streets,” Cruz said in a statement. “But thankfully, it is not a done deal.”
“President Obama’s decision to sign a nuclear deal with Iran is one of the most destructive foreign policy decisions in my lifetime," Perry said in a statement."For decades to come, the world will have to deal with the repercussions of this agreement, which will actually make it easier for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
He also criticized Hillary Clinton’s role in the decision, saying, “Clinton … will have to justify to the American people why she supports allowing a known state sponsor of terrorism to move toward obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Gov. Chris Christie:
The New Jersey governor released a statement echoing his opponents’ criticisms of the pact as another example of American capitulation on the world stage. “Iran joins the sad list of countries where America’s red lines have been crossed,” he said. “The president is playing a dangerous game with our national security, and the deal as structured will lead to a nuclear Iran and, then, a nuclearized Middle East. The deal threatens Israel, it threatens the United States, and it turns 70 years of nuclear policy on its head.”
The former Pennsylvania senator appeared on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning to decry the final package. “It empowers the Iranians,” Santorum said. “The Iranians came to the negotiating table, if you will, at a very weakened state, and they are going to leave with hundreds of billions of dollars, the ability to project terror -- which they are the chief sponsor of terror. We’ve legitimized them. We’ve given them legitimacy in the international community, something that they deeply wanted here, and they’ve done basically nothing in exchange for that.”
Fiorina appeared on “CBS This Morning” to express her disapproval. “Iran has demonstrated bad behavior for 30 years. We know they have been trying to cheat on this deal. We know they have been funding proxies with a strategic objective of destabilizing the region. We know that when sanctions are lifted, they’ll have more money to fund those same proxies.”
She added, “We know that China and Russia have not been negotiating on our side of the table, because it has been in China and Russia’s interests to open Iran’s economy. So there is a lot of reason to be suspicious here. It would be different if Iran was a good actor and had negotiated in good faith all this time, but they haven’t. And we’ve caved.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal:
In a statement, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal contested the president’s claim that the agreement ensured verifiability and called on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton to oppose it. “If Secretary Clinton goes along with President Obama's efforts to appease Iran, it will make our enemies stronger, endanger our ally Israel and trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that will destabilize the region … The agreement does not provide for anytime-anywhere access to Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
He concluded, “While Secretary Clinton has been the architect of President Obama’s foreign policy, she can do the right thing and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and oppose this deal.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham:
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the South Carolina Republican said, “With this deal, you’ve ensured that the Arabs will go nuclear. You’ve put Israel in the worst possible box. This will be a death sentence over time for Israel. If they don’t push back, you put our nation at risk. Every goal the president expressed two years ago has absolutely not been met … This is a terrible deal. It’s going to make everything worse, and I really fear that we set in motion a decade of chaos.”
Democratic candidates expressed more favorable attitudes.
Clinton avoided making an impromptu statement regarding the agreement during her visit to Capitol Hill today. A Vine by CNN Politics showed reporters asking the former secretary of state about Iran on her way to meet with the Democratic delegation. Her response: “Good morning, good morning.”
Speaking after her meeting with congressional Democrats, Clinton did not say specifically whether she supports the deal: “I think this is an important step that puts the lid on Iran’s nuclear programs, and it will enable us then to turn our attention, as it must, to doing what we can with other partners in the region and beyond to try to prevent and contain Iran’s other bad actions.”
Clinton claimed credit for taking part in the early stages of negotiations during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013. She also stressed the importance of “undermin[ing] Iran’s bad behaviors in other arenas” in the aftermath of the agreement. The former New York senator and first lady did not take questions from reporters.
“I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the leaders of other major nations for producing a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” said the Vermont senator in a statement. “This is a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling and could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East. I look forward to learning more about the complex details of this agreement to make sure that it is effective and strong.”
Chafee also articulated his support in a statement: “I salute President Obama and Secretary Kerry in this historic breakthrough. Cuba and now Iran, both good. Strong, patient diplomacy should continue to be the model for resolving conflicts.”
In a tweet, Webb did not specifically say whether he supports the deal: “This is an important moment in terms of the future of American foreign policy. I look forward to reading and examining the agreement.”