Republicans Criticize Obama's Rhetoric on Iran

Republicans Criticize Obama's Rhetoric on Iran
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Republicans lawmakers were furious that President Obama touted the Iran nuclear agreement in his final State of the Union address Tuesday night – but neglected to mention the 10 Americans being held overnight by the armed forces of that nation.

Hours before Obama went to the U.S. Capitol to give his remarks, the U.S. learned that the U.S. sailors were being held after their boat drifted into Iranian waters due to mechanical problems, according to the Associated Press. The sailors, who were all unharmed, were released Wednesday morning.

But the incident wasn’t mentioned by the commander in chief and Republicans took note – and umbrage.

“Of course he should have” talked about it, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told RealClearPolitics after the speech. “The fact of the matter is, having been so supportive of the Iranian deal, I guess it probably was in his best interest to say nothing. But the reality is, having not been a supporter of the Iranian deal, I think it’s very important for us to recognize that once you sign the deal and yet they are arresting our sailors? Problematic, challenging and we need to have that resolved ASAP.”

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said he was “shocked” that the incident didn’t get mentioned by the president, and that he had expected it to be brought up early in the speech.

“The fact that 10 American sailors were abducted on the high seas today and the president is talking about how we’re more respected internationally than we’ve ever been is troubling to me,” Dent said. “He should have at least acknowledged that these sailors were abducted and that we’re going to get them back. We’re going to get them back and we’re going to stand with them and stand up to the Iranians who were responsible for this abduction.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) called it an “unfortunate juxtaposition” for the president that the incident was taking place as he was defending his foreign policy, and added that Iran is growing “increasingly more hostile to the West by the day.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and one of the staunchest critics of Obama’s foreign policy, said in a statement: “Ten American sailors have been taken into custody in Iran. But President Obama completely omitted this latest example of Iran’s provocative behavior so as not to interfere with his delusional talking points about his dangerous nuclear deal with Iran.”

Not all Republicans agreed that the situation merited mention in the address, however. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the party leadership, said it made sense to be omitted if the administration was actively working towards a solution.

“I don’t think he wanted to escalate it and if, in fact they have an understanding that they’re going to be released in a few hours, then it probably didn’t make a lot of sense to do that,” Thune told RCP.

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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