Exiting the Deal Part 5: Congressional Remarks

May 8, 2018
Updated

Members of Congress were divided over President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal. Many Republicans and Democrats criticized the president's decision or at least regretted not being able to reach a supplemental agreement with European allies. U.S. diplomats had been quietly negotiating with their British, French and German counterparts since January to address Trump's issues with the accord. "I have always believed the best course of action is to fix the deficiencies in the agreement," House Speaker Paul Ryan said. "It is unfortunate that we could not reach an understanding with our European partners on a way to do that," he added. "This rash decision isolates America, not Iran," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. "Our allies will hold up their end of the agreement, but our government will lose its international credibility and the power of our voice at the table."

Several Republicans, such as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, supported Trump’s decision. “I support smart diplomacy to keep America safe, but we must oppose bad deals that give our enemies a pathway to a nuclear bomb, which is why I applaud the President's actions,” he said. The following are congressional reactions to the president's announcement.

 

Republicans

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Speaker 

Paul Ryan“From the beginning, the Obama-era Iran Deal was deeply flawed. Iran’s hostile actions since its signing have only reaffirmed that it remains dedicated to sowing instability in the region. The president’s announcement today is a strong statement that we can and must do better. I have always believed the best course of action is to fix the deficiencies in the agreement. It is unfortunate that we could not reach an understanding with our European partners on a way to do that, but I am grateful to them for working with the United States toward that goal. The president is right to insist that we hold Iran accountable both today and for the long-term. There will now be an implementation period for applying sanctions on Iran. During that time, it is my hope that the United States will continue to work with our allies to achieve consensus on addressing a range of destabilizing Iranian behavior—both nuclear and non-nuclear."

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Leader

"The Iran Deal is a bad deal. Through his action today, President Trump sent a strong signal to Iran and other foreign adversaries that nuclear proliferation has consequences...I support smart diplomacy to keep America safe, but we must oppose bad deals that give our enemies a pathway to a nuclear bomb, which is why I applaud the President's actions." 

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman House Foreign Affairs Committee

“Later today, the president will announce whether he intends to keep the United States in the Iran nuclear agreement. This is earlier than expected.

Over the past six months, the Trump administration has urged France, Germany and Britain to help address the full range of threats posed by the Iranian regime. U.S. negotiators have rightly pushed for fixes to the deeply flawed agreement – including stronger inspections, new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missiles program and a solution to the deal’s sunset problem.

Addressing these serious shortcomings is a must to keep Iran from threatening the United States and our allies with a nuclear weapon. As I’ve said, this agreement’s fundamental flaw is that it trades temporary restrictions for permanent sanctions relief.

Today, this committee will examine the decision before the president. As the members of this committee know, I opposed the nuclear deal. And so did a bipartisan majority of the committee.

Why? Because the Obama administration ditched its key goals. The deal does not shut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. It does not allow inspectors ‘anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access.’ It does not stop the regime’s pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles. And it gave Tehran an infusion of cash to support more of its terrorist activities around the world.

That said, I believe the best path forward at this point is to continue pushing to fix these flaws as we enforce the hell out of the deal. The Obama administration has put us in a tough spot. Roughly $100 billion was given to Iran. At least $1.7 billion of that was an apparent cash ransom payment, stacked on pallets and flown – against the advice of the Justice Department and other officials – to the Iranian regime. Much of this has likely found its way into the hands of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Tearing up the nuclear deal will not recover this cash. That toothpaste isn’t going back into the tube. It also won’t help galvanize our allies into addressing Iran’s dangerous activities that threaten us all. I fear a withdrawal would actually set back these efforts. And Congress has heard nothing about alternative.

Last week’s move by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to unveil Iran’s secret nuclear-weapons archive reminds us all what is at stake. Despite its repeated denials, Iran had a comprehensive program to design, test and build a nuclear weapon.

Of course, this begs the question: what is Iran hiding today? Shouldn’t we have better inspections? Remember, the deal’s existing restrictions expire in the short years ahead. The key restriction – the ability to quickly enrich uranium – begins to phase out in less than eight years.

We should be able to get an agreement with the Europeans to fix these serious flaws. I understand we’ve made encouraging progress in recent weeks. If we don’t have an agreement today, let’s double down on diplomacy and get a deal in the weeks ahead. The Europeans need to get to ‘yes.’”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee

"I have no doubt that the JCPOA was flawed and that for years Iran has been deceptive about its nuclear and other programs. My preference would have been to give our European allies a few more months to strengthen the deal, but now that the President has decided that the United States will withdraw, we must have two critical priorities. One is to further enhance our own military capabilities. The other is to strengthen our alliances. A strong, international effort is required to curtail Iran’s aggressive behavior in a number of areas."

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), House Armed Services & House Intelligence Committee Member

“The Iran Deal is a deeply flawed agreement. As I have previously said, this deal has an insufficient inspection regime, insufficiently addresses long range ICBM missile development, and is limited to 10 years, giving the appearance of permission to develop nuclear weapons in the future. However, without proof that Iran is in violation of the agreement, it is a mistake to fully withdraw from this deal. Now, we need to work with our allies to fix this flawed agreement to ensure the world is not facing a nuclear Iran.”
May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)

"The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) flushed the Iranian regime with billions in cash while only temporarily delaying it as a nuclear-weapons state. Since the Obama Administration struck this disastrous deal, Iran has spent billions supporting its terror proxies throughout the Middle East—undermining regional stability, harming U.S. allies and endangering U.S. troops— all while the Iranian people suffer grave poverty and repression under the regime. The decision to walk away from this deal is the correct one. Congress voted overwhelmingly against this agreement in 2015 and I've since authored legislation to build leverage to help U.S. negotiators fix the major flaws of this deal, but our European partners have not committed to fixing the deficiencies of the JCPOA. Until Iran and our partners are willing to come to the table to truly solve this issue, we must take our first steps to combat the Iranian threat unilaterally.

“It's time to impose crippling sanctions on Iran and use available tools to weaken this regime and permanently prevent it from a nuclear weapons capability while encouraging our allies to do the same. We must reimpose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company, Iran Air and all other entities granted sanctions relief under the Obama administration while also targeting other regime-owned companies responsible for Iran’s other malign activities. The world’s most dangerous regime must never acquire the world’s most dangerous weapon."

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

 

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), House Foreign Relations Committee Member

 

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)

“I have said from the very beginning that the Iran Deal was a flawed, weak deal that served the interests of bad actors in Iran at the expense of our own. I strongly opposed this Obama-era executive agreement, and I support the Trump Administration’s efforts to ensure that we truly end Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“Moving forward, Congress must stand locked-arm in our approach to dealing with this rogue nation for the sake of our national security. I believe it is imperative that we reinstate the economic sanctions against Iran that were in place prior to this nuclear agreement. It’s no secret that Iran has not stopped its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, and we must take this threat very seriously in our future negotiations with the leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement 

 

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)

 

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)

“Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of delivering them – not only in the Middle East, but also across the Atlantic to the United States – is a serious threat to both the U.S. and our allies. Unfortunately, the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal struck by John Kerry and the Obama Administration does little to curb this pursuit. While it may sound good, there are not nearly strong enough measures in place to actually hold Iran accountable for compliance with the deal. If we cannot guarantee that Iran follows the rules, then it’s pointless. The Obama Administration traded billions of U.S. and foreign dollars in exchange for promises Iran clearly has no intention of keeping. To make matters worse, the current agreement does nothing to prevent Iran from testing ballistic missiles and much of the money Iran has received has been funneled directly to active terrorist organizations. This deal was a disaster from the start and it lets Iran off the hook. I support the President’s decision to withdraw the United States from this agreement.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), House Armed Services Committee Member

 

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)

 “Iran has proven to be an untrustworthy partner on the international stage and today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to upholding and defending peace and stability around the world.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC)

 

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)

“Not only has Iran already violated the terms of Barack Obama’s weak agreement, the regime has flagrantly violated U.N. resolutions restricting its ballistic missile tests and taken more American hostages, while others remained imprisoned. President Trump rightfully withdrew from the JCPOA, and we will work together to hold Iran to account for its nuclear program, terrorism and attacks on our allies.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), House Foreign Relations Committee Member

 

Sen. Mitch McConnel (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action represented a deeply flawed agreement which President Trump has determined is not in the national security interests of the United States. Iran’s malign behavior across the broader Middle East—support to proxies such as Shia militias within Iraq, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, and militias inside of Syria, use of cyber-attacks, support for terrorism, and pursuit of an advanced ballistic missile program—must all be addressed in a wider regional effort.

“Our European partners now have an opportunity to come back to the table with Secretary Pompeo and negotiate the best terms to create either a better agreement, or a maximum pressure campaign against Iran. I share the objective and commitment made by the President that Iran should never be able to acquire or develop a nuclear weapon.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 

 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Senate Armed Services Committee Member

Tom Cotton: I am confident that the President is not going to allow the nuclear deal with Iran to continue on the path we’re on, which is that Iran can obtain a nuclear weapon in no fewer than seven to twelve years.”

Hugh Hewitt: Let me talk to you, then, about what happens after he withdraws and sanctions snap back, if indeed they snap back. What happens if they snap back? Do you expect the Europeans to put them back into place, or go around us, Senator Cotton?

Cotton: I’m not sure that we know, yet, Hugh. So the exact decision the President is making this week is whether to continue waiving sanctions under U.S. law. It’s not the formal snap back mechanism under the nuclear deal with Iran. It can be up to Iran to try to invoke the dispute resolution mechanisms of that deal or simply to take their lumps and proceed, which they very well might do, because it’s a good deal for them, Hugh, or to simply say they’re going to walk out of the deal. Likewise, I think our European partners, although they were a little slow off the marks after the President’s speech in January, have been scrambling in these last couple weeks to try to preserve the deal. I suspect that’ll continue after the President’s remarks today, because they would prefer not to see Iran entirely walk away from the deal. But if that’s Iran’s choice, then we’ll be prepared for that choice, and we’ll take what actions are necessary, whether those are economic, political, diplomatic or military.

Hewitt: I want to remind people that at the time that the JCPOA was signed, you sent a public letter to the mullahs in your capacity as a senator, but as an individual saying just be aware, this isn’t a treaty, we’re not bound by this. Looking back at that, were you prophetic in your warning to the mullahs?

Cotton: Well, Hugh, to be exact, I didn’t send it. 47 senators, to include our majority leader and president of the Senate, signed it and released it to the ayatollahs. And I have to say, I think I told them so. I told them that if they did not get the assurances of a two-thirds vote of the United States Senate, as our Constitution mandates, that had just happened a few years earlier when the United States and Russia signed the New START treaty, then they should not be surprised if a new president did not stick with the terms of the deal that Barack Obama negotiated. That deal was a very bad deal for the United States. It gave all kinds of concession, it gave billions of dollars in sanctions relief, and it didn’t ultimately stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. It really didn’t even delay them, given their own technological development timelines. So I simply states, along with 46 other senators, the plain facts that if the United States Senate doesn’t ratify an international agreement as part of a treaty, then that counter party cannot be certain that a new administration will not reverse it.

Hewitt: Now let me switch to you for a moment about Israel and Iran. Do you expect Iran to in any way react via a display of force from either Syria or Iranian territory against Israel in the aftermath of this decision, because Jerusalem Post and others are reporting very tense situation on the northern border in Israel.

Cotton: If Iran takes military action against Israel, that would be a very grave mistake, and they will pay a significant price by both Israel and the United States. Now Iran has been continually taking more and more provocative actions in southwestern Syria and southern Lebanon. So unfortunately, no one should be surprised that Israel is becoming more aggressive in the defense of its people and its territory. Unless Iran changes its behavior, I fear that those actions could escalate. But if Iran takes military action in the aftermath of the United States’ decision about the nuclear deal, they would be committing a grave mistake.

May 8, 2018, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt

“If that’s Iran’s choice, then we’ll be prepared for that choice, and we’ll take what actions are necessary, whether those are economic, political, diplomatic or military.”

“That deal was a very bad deal for the United States. It gave all kinds of concession, it gave billions of dollars in sanctions relief, and it didn’t ultimately stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. It really didn’t even delay them, given their own technological development timelines.”

May 8, 2018, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, according to The Washington Times

 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl), Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Comittee Member

President Donald Trump will decide Tuesday whether or not to quit the Iran nuclear deal. He should not hesitate to nix this flawed and dangerous agreement that is beyond fixing.

The Iran deal is bad—so bad that bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress voted against it due to its many fatal flaws.

The deal’s first major flaw is that it enriched Iran and empowered it to destabilize the Middle East.

The agreement released roughly $100 billion in frozen assets to an Iranian government that the U.S. State Department describes as the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” It also required the U.S., European countries, and the United Nations to relieve key national and multilateral sanctions measures that had economically isolated Iran.

Instead of using the deal’s financial windfall to benefit the Iranian people, Iran’s mullahs aggressively built up their ballistic missile program.

They also used sanctions relief to ramp up their support to Lebanese Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, as well as to militant groups in Iraq and Yemen. Iran-backed Hezbollah today directly threatens Israel with over 150,000 missiles and rockets based in southern Lebanon, and is also responsible for killing 241 American servicemen in the Beirut marine barracks bombing of October 1983.

Iran’s mullahs also used the deal’s largesse to prop up the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, whose regime is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands, and has repeatedly used chemical weapons against innocent civilians, including women and children.

The deal’s second major flaw is that it paves the path for the Iranian regime—whose leaders have repeatedly vowed to destroy Israel—to eventually get nuclear bombs.

The deal’s modest and temporary limits on Iran’s capabilities to produce weapons-usable nuclear material will disappear in a few years. President Barack Obama even conceded in an April 2015 interview that a “relevant fear [under the deal] would be that in year 13, 14, 15, [the Iranians] have advanced centrifuges that enriched uranium fairly rapidly, and at the point the breakout times [for building nuclear bombs] would have shrunk to almost zero.”

The agreement also failed to mandate real “anytime, anywhere” inspections on Iran’s nuclear program. In particular, the Iranian regime has adamantly refused demands to allow unfettered inspections at its military sites—including the Parchin military complex, where inspectors previously found man-made uranium particles.

Absent a truly intrusive inspection system designed to find any undeclared activities, the danger remains that Iran could continue hidden nuclear weapons-related efforts even under the deal.

That danger became more real after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed last week that his government had obtained Iran’s secret “atomic archive”—over 55,000 documents and other materials that detail first-hand the regime’s vast covert efforts to develop nuclear weapons know-how and ballistic missiles.

This archive—which Israel spirited out of Iran in a stunning intelligence operation—apparently reveals the scope and scale of the Iranian regime’s secret efforts to master nuclear weaponization, especially for the day when the nuclear deal’s modest limits expire.

Perhaps the nuclear deal’s most unforgivable flaw is that its original architects chose to stand with and empower Iran’s mullahs over the Iranian people, whose opposition to their corrupt and criminal government continues to grow.

The massive protests that erupted throughout Iran in December 2017 and January 2018 may have surprised the Iranian regime and its allies. But the protests did not surprise everyday Iranians who, despite the government’s ongoing crackdowns, still find ways to show dissatisfaction, including the widespread movement of brave Iranian women who risk violent reprisals for publicly refusing to wear hijabs.

Some Trump administration officials have sought to negotiate with our European partners for a possible “fix” to the Iran deal. But the problem is that proposed “fixes” fail to deal fully with the agreement’s most serious flaws.

Proposed “fixes” would do little to nothing to stop Iran’s development of regional-range missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads against U.S. troops in the Middle East, as well as against Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other U.S. partners. Nor would they impose true “anywhere, anytime” inspections on Iran or mandate the regime to come clean on all nuclear activities.

President Trump should nix the flawed Iran deal and impose crippling economic and financial sanctions against the Iranian regime. The American people deserve better than a bad deal that paves the Iranian terror regime’s path to nuclear weapons. And the Iranian people deserve better as they continue to suffer under the regime’s criminal corruption, economic mismanagement, support for terrorists and the Assad regime, ballistic missile aggression, and systemic human rights abuses.

May 7, 2018, in a Fox News Op-ed

 

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member

 

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

“I applaud the President’s announcement. The Iran deal is deeply problematic in substance and design, and for too long, it has been a substitute for any broader US thinking on the region. With our withdrawal from the deal, we can now focus on working together, across the aisle and across the Atlantic, to counter Iran’s malign activities, from its nuclear weapons program to its human rights abuses.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member

 

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Senate Armed Services Committee Member

“The Obama administration negotiated with the Iranian regime under the terribly misguided operating principle that any deal—even a bad deal—was better than no deal. The end result was a bad deal that offered concession after concession to the mullahs and failed to cut off Iran’s path to nuclear weapons. It was not surprising that the agreement was met with strong bipartisan opposition from Congress, and the subsequent geopolitical fallout cannot be understated. When I visited the Middle East in 2016 to meet with foreign leaders, they all expressed fears that the deal would fail to halt Iran’s march toward nuclearization and empower the regime by lifting economic sanctions. Their fears have been realized, as Iran is now more emboldened than ever, sowing chaos and promoting their terror network across the region.

“The President’s decision today provides a new opportunity for America to alleviate the concerns of our allies in the Middle East by ending the experiment of appeasement and holding Iran accountable for its belligerence. The President is also reimposing sanctions, which were effective in weakening the Iranian regime and bringing them to the negotiating table in the first place. The Iranian regime’s threat to peace and stability is real: we cannot repeat the mistakes and miscalculations of the past.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)

 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senate Armed Services Committee Member

“I strongly support President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.  He made a strong and convincing case for this position. 

“The agreement has always been fatally flawed when it came to controlling Iranian nuclear ambitions.  With the mere passage of time, the deal allows Iran to enrich and reprocess uranium – without limitation – on its march toward a nuclear weapon.  This would have required our Arab allies to develop a nuclear weapon of their own to counter the growing Iranian threat. 

“There are some who blindly supported this deal, regardless of the risks it posed to our own national security.  They sincerely believed that by providing Iran with sanctions relief, the Iranians would change course and become a better member of the family of nations.  Those assumptions have proven to be a disastrous mistake. 

“Instead, Iran has used the funds provided by sanctions relief to significantly enhance their military capability and create havoc throughout the Middle East.  They also have used the funds to increase the threats posed to our ally in Israel.

“I hope President Trump will work with our allies around the world to find a better deal which will truly end Iran’s nuclear weapons ambition and hold them accountable for being the largest state-sponsor of terrorism."

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senate Armed Services Committee Member

 

Democrats

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader

Nancy Pelosi“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a great diplomatic achievement. Experts and our allies all agree that this landmark agreement has been successful in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and even senior Trump Administration officials have confirmed that Iran has remained in compliance with the agreement. Yet, the President has chosen to utterly ignore that reality.

"The President's decision to follow his misguided and uninformed campaign promise to destroy the successful Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action endangers global security and defies comprehension.

"This rash decision isolates America, not Iran. Our allies will hold up their end of the agreement, but our government will lose its international credibility and the power of our voice at the table. The President’s decision to abdicate American leadership during a critical moment in our effort to advance a denuclearization agreement with North Korea is particularly senseless, disturbing and dangerous.

“Democrats have no illusions about the Iranian regime. We remain strongly committed to stopping the advancement of Iran’s ballistic missile program, its egregious human rights abuses, and its support of terrorism and other nefarious activities in the region.

“Today is a sad day for America’s global leadership. The Trump Administration’s dangerous and impulsive action is no substitute for real global leadership.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Whip

“Iran remains a serious regional threat. Our approach to countering that threat should focus on its most immediate aspects: Iran’s growing presence in Syria and the danger that poses to our ally, Israel; its continued testing of ballistic missiles; and its sustained support for terror groups. At this moment, Iran has missiles pointed at Israel from Syria and is threatening violence against the Jewish State. Instead of injecting further uncertainty into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and manufacturing a crisis that will weaken our position, as today’s announcement does, the president ought to be pursuing efforts to thwart Iran’s aggressive activities. These include working in concert with our allies to develop a diplomatic strategy to extend substantially the JCPOA’s sunset provisions; imposing further sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile testing alongside our European partners; and enforcing vigorously existing sanctions on Iran’s dangerous and illegal activities.

Unilaterally abandoning the JCPOA undermines all of these efforts to meet the overall threat Iran poses. Further, this announcement sends the message to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word, whether it is a promise or a threat. I urge the President to confer with our allies and determine a strategy for the serious threat Iran poses.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. David Price (D-NC), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“In refusing to waive sanctions that were lifted as part of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, President Trump has manufactured an international crisis that risks an armed conflict with a nuclear Iran.

Since its inception, the JCPOA has implemented the most stringent verification and monitoring standards ever placed on a nation, successfully preventing Iran from developing or obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Despite frequent assurances of Iranian compliance from senior military and intelligence officials, independent inspectors, and our international partners, including Israeli security officials, President Trump consistently seeks to undermine the agreement and has yet to outline any plan to address his criticisms. With no strategy in Iran and no vision in the Middle East, President Trump’s reckless decision will increase tensions in hot spots around the world, push the United States closer to armed conflict with Iran, and severely diminish U.S. leadership and leverage. His actions serve only to isolate us from our allies, to encourage Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and to dissuade nations from negotiating agreements with the United States.

President Trump has consistently demonstrated his ignorance of the complexity of the world’s challenges and today’s decision further highlights his inability to protect U.S. interests abroad.”

May 8, 2018, in a joint statement

 

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)

“President Trump’s dangerous decision to tear up the Iran agreement puts America’s national security at risk and opens up a path for Iran to build a nuclear weapon. In making this decision, the President has ignored the facts and rejected the advice of top military and foreign policy experts.

“The Iran nuclear agreement’s sole objective is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Before this agreement, Iran had the capability to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months. But because of this diplomatic agreement, Iran gave up its stockpiles of enriched uranium and was subject to independent inspections to make sure they are complying with the deal. Like any negotiation, the Iran agreement is not perfect, but it has so far achieved its goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

“To be clear—Iran continues to be a bad actor on the world stage. Iran continues to unjustly imprison American citizens. For four and a half years, they held my constituent, Amir Hekmati, as a political prisoner. Iran has also taken disruptive actions in order to destabilize the Middle East region. These serious provocations by Iran must be addressed. But it is much wiser for the United States and our allies to diplomatically address these bad behaviors without Iran having nuclear weapons.

“The President’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement jeopardizes American credibility and closes off America’s diplomatic channels, not just with Iran, but with our allies around the globe. With other serious threats across the globe, including North Korea, President Trump today has made the world a more dangerous place.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

 

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

“The Iran Deal was an historic triumph of diplomacy. The United States, France, China, Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom came together and successfully prevented the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran without a single fired bullet or a single life lost. If kept in place, this Deal will ensure that Iran will never have access to a nuclear weapon. Under the Deal, Iran has relinquished about 95% of its uranium stockpile and decommissioned two-thirds of its centrifuges. The Iran Deal is working, and the Middle East and the entire world are much safer for it.

“Now, despite International Atomic Energy Agency experts certifying again and again that Iran is in compliance, President Trump is threatening to break an American promise and put the world in danger by leaving the Deal. Let us be clear – this would be nothing short of catastrophic. But Mr. Trump has not announced his decision just yet. I join the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain, China, and Russia, as well as peace-loving men and women around the world, in encouraging – even imploring – him to keep it in place.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)

“I strongly condemn President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. President Trump’s announcement shows his diplomatic incompetence and his technical ignorance of the scientific safeguards needed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This decision will make the United States and the world less safe, and it will also undermine the credibility of the United States as a stable and reliable negotiating partner. It will set a dangerous precedent for future deals and will damage our ability to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons through future international agreements.

As the only PhD physicist in Congress, I supported the Iran Deal after a review of its technical enforceability and its ability to functionally dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It has succeeded in every aspect of what was agreed to and has made the world safer thanks to the broad international coalition that made this deal a reality.

Contrary to President Trump’s claims, the Iran Nuclear Deal has been a success. This deal gave us the ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear capability, so Iran no longer has the capability to produce a nuclear weapon without our knowledge. Iran has disconnected, removed, and placed in IAEA-monitored storage, two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, reduced their stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, removed all fissile material, centrifuges, and enrichment infrastructure from the underground facility at Fordow. The calandria - the core of Iran’s heavy water nuclear reactor - has been removed and filled with concrete so it is now permanently inoperable.

President Trump’s decision to unilaterally cancel without a more effective replacement in place is another example of his technical ignorance and diplomatic incompetence.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)

“President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran Deal by not extending waivers on Iran sanctions is one of the most reckless and dangerous things he’s done since taking office.

“In the absence of any concrete evidence of an Iranian violation, the President’s rash decision to violate the JCPOA isolates us from our international partners who worked diligently with us and negotiated in good faith to bring about this landmark agreement that closed all pathways to Iran’s nuclear weapon activities. Ironically, Iran might now decide to resume its quest for nuclear weapons and can rightfully blame the U.S. for violating the agreement.

“Walking away from the JCPOA will add to escalating tensions in the region and the threat of war or military confrontation with Iran becomes more likely. Successfully confronting Iran’s hostile actions elsewhere has just been made more difficult now that Trump has abandoned the JCPOA.

“Just weeks away from U.S. talks with North Korea aimed at decreasing tensions and limiting the nuclear threat posed by that country, President Trump has demonstrated that his word and the credibility of the United States cannot be trusted.

“By abandoning the Iran Deal, as well as adding other poorly-conceived unilateral sanctions and conditions against Iran, President Trump has put America’s national security at risk and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran back on the table.

“Americans deserve better from their leaders. I urge President Trump to immediately reconsider this dangerous move and put the safety of the American people first by reversing this terrible decision.”
May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)

“President Trump’s unilateral decision to remove the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached between our allies and Iran is reckless and unwarranted. This agreement has been in the best interests of the United States and the world. It walked Iran back from its status as a threshold nuclear power. It required the removal of the nuclear material needed for a bomb, and prohibited anything but peaceful nuclear power in the future. It is the best option we have to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.

“The President’s actions damage the United States’ credibility as a good-faith negotiating partner as we embark on multi-lateral discussions over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. His decision makes the world more dangerous and Americans less safe.”

―May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), House Intelligence Committee Member

“President Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA is dangerous, shortsighted, and will undoubtedly make America—and our allies—less safe. Despite the deceptive rhetoric and degradation of the JCPOA by its critics, the facts remain: JCPOA is working as intended and is containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“The decision to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal will not only impact our relationship with Iran and spur a ripple of consequences across the Middle East, but it will also affect our ongoing negotiations with North Korea. The creditability of the United States must be maintained in both word and action, and when we walk away from the table, that creditability is seriously damaged. In turn, we weaken our ability to lead effective change elsewhere in the world. As we prepare to break this pledge that will only serve to destabilize the region, our European partners have made it clear that they will stay a party to JCPOA, further isolating America from the world and the vital decision-making that determines our shared fate.

“The U.S. should embrace the opportunity to lead a more comprehensive, international strategy towards Iran, North Korea, and all countries with nuclear aspirations. The world must move together in an effort to abolish nuclear weapons and promote a global policy of non-proliferation. In the absence of Presidential leadership, Congress must step in to fill the void and uphold our commitments to defend national and global security alike.”
―May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-MA), House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member 

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Minority Leader

“No, there are no reports that Iran has violated the agreement and to me, the greatest worries from Iran are not right now the nuclear side but rather what they’re doing in Syria, what they’re doing to arm Hezbollah with rockets, what they’re doing with ICBMS and to me, the right thing to do would have been to try and come up with our allies, with an agreement on those issues, and let the nuclear part of this continue as is because it’s not being violated in any way. By dividing our allies and I’ve just heard the president say he would impose secondary sanctions on European and on Asian allies, you’re making it harder to go after Hezbollah, you’re making it harder to go after Iranian activities that are really dangerous and you’re probably making it harder to come to a North Korea deal.”

May 9, 2018, at a media availability 

 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Whip

“President Trump’s decision yesterday to basically exit the United States from this Iran Nuclear Agreement, I believe, is not only wrong, but reckless.  By walking away from this agreement, we are forsaking the opportunity to continue to monitor in detail the work done by Iran to make certain that they live up to its terms,” Durbin said.  “Equally important – and you’ve acknowledged it – our allies are important to us around the world.  Our allies joined us in sticking their necks out – France, Germany, U.K., the European Union, China, and Russia joining us – to make certain that this agreement had a kind of universal support beyond Iran.  And now the United States is walking away from it.  That, I cannot believe, will inspire any confidence among our allies about our word and our reliability in the future when it comes to these agreements.”

May 9, 2018,during a defense appropriations committee hearing

 

“So here we are today, with President Trump plunging us and our allies into uncertainty when it comes to an Iranian nuclear weapon and the credibility of America’s word around the world.”

“Not good timing, I might add, when trying to negotiate a deal to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons. What will President Trump do if Iran restarts its nuclear weapons program? Will he start another war in the Middle East? Certainly we will have no inspectors there anymore in such a case, and at best only set back Iran’s nuclear program for a number of years. So President Trump and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who support this move or are unwilling to speak against it, the situation being created by walking away from the JCPOA is now in your hands.”

May 8, 2018, on the Senate floor

 

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member

“With this decision President Trump is risking U.S. national security, recklessly upending foundational partnerships with key U.S. allies in Europe and gambling with Israel’s security. Today’s withdrawal from the JCPOA makes it more likely Iran will restart its nuclear weapons program in the future.

“I remain proud that I helped lead the bipartisan work in Congress to pass a series of sanctions that -- more than anything else –were responsible for Iran’s willingness to come to the negotiating table in the first place. While I strongly opposed the JCPOA, it is a grave mistake to walk away from this deal without a plan for ensuring that Iran does not restart its nuclear weapon program, without a strategy for countering Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear activities, and without our allies and partners. The President initially had an opportunity to work with our allies and build follow-on agreements to address serious concerns with the JCPOA, including Iran’s nuclear capacity after certain restrictions expire. But now, President Trump owns the consequences of today’s decision.

“The governments of Iran, Russia, and China will seize this opportunity of self-imposed U.S. isolation to continue major weapons sales, deepen economic ties, and further challenge the United States and Europe not only in the Middle East but in other areas like North Korea.

“Congress is still waiting for the Administration to deliver the legally-mandated strategy for countering Iran that was due in January.

“As a result of today’s announcement, the President must immediately send his national security team to Congress to explain how his Administration will continue long-standing U.S. policy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon outside of the JCPOA without partners; how the pre-JCPOA sanctions regime will be rebuilt without a coalition of the willing; and how the Administration plans to address the range of ways in which Iran continues to threaten the security of the United States and our allies.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)

“I often say that real leaders don’t build themselves up by tearing other people down. From the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Paris Agreement and now the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump seems to be solely driven by his desire to tear down good policies simply because they are President Obama’s achievements.

“Yet again, our self-proclaimed ‘dealmaker’ president is irrationally walking away from a carefully crafted international deal with absolutely no alternative deal in place. President Trump’s irresponsible and shortsighted decision today ultimately increases the odds of armed conflict with Iran, and could needlessly provoke a nuclear arms race in the region.

Trump’s dangerous obsession with dismantling President Obama’s legacy, rather than building on the progress we’ve made, puts our national security at risk. It also puts what could be a historic agreement with a far more volatile country like North Korea even further out of reach. If the United States cannot be trusted to uphold its commitment to our allies – despite the fact that, by all accounts, Iran has upheld its end of the nuclear deal – there is no reason to believe that other countries, let alone nuclear armed ones like North Korea, will be willing to negotiate with us in good faith. President Trump’s action today has set back future diplomatic efforts by ensuring that the United States’ word is worth far less.

“Thomas Friedman has described the Trump doctrine as, ‘Obama built it. I broke it. You fix it.’ It is clear that analysis still holds true and that, in the short term, President Trump is willing to sacrifice our standing in the world for political gain. However, I am hopeful that, despite the damage President Trump seems determined to inflict, this carefully crafted agreement will ultimately withstand. That requires Iran and our allies to remain committed to this agreement now so that the United States may re-enter it when cooler, more rational heads prevail.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member

 

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)

“I strongly disagree with the President’s decision to end U.S. participation in an agreement that constrains Iran’s nuclear program and helps prevent the regime from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. U.S. military officials, past and present, have said that Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement and that it is in the best national security interest of our nation to keep it in place. This Administration’s national security leadership has repeatedly confirmed this. On October 3, 2017, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis spoke about the agreement and said, “I believe at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something the President should consider staying with." In testimony before Congress in April 2018, Secretary Mattis specifically referred to the intrusive nature of our ability to examine Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

In the Senate, I led efforts to sanction and hold the Iranian regime accountable for its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, its development of ballistic missiles and its support for terrorist proxies. I supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) because it was the best available option to substantially constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to improve oversight of their technology. At that time, Iran’s breakout time was only a matter of months. I have also worked to ensure full verification and enforcement of the Iran nuclear agreement and strongly counter their non-nuclear destabilizing actions. Pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the Administration is required to report to Congress if there is a breach of the deal. That has not yet happened.

By taking a step that violates the JCPOA, President Trump has taken a drastic step that will increase the possibility of Iran resuming its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and make it much more difficult to reach a diplomatic agreement to constrain North Korea’s nuclear program.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senate Foreign Relations Commitee Member

“The President’s announcement is nothing less than an abdication of American leadership that jeopardizes our national security, makes the world less safe, and increases the prospect of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

“Make no mistake, I had concerns about the Iran nuclear agreement when I voted on it, but an imperfect deal with years remaining to conduct further diplomacy was and remains better than a nuclear-armed Iran. The President’s decision puts the U.S. in default of our commitments to the international community and our closest allies. It jeopardizes the ability of the IAEA to keep inspectors on the ground in Iran and maintain continuous monitoring of Iranian nuclear sites, putting the security of our allies, including Israel, at risk. And it is an unequivocal blow to our friends and a gift to our adversaries, moving the United States further down a path of isolation and retreat and adding further instability to the Middle East. That’s why countless national security experts of both parties, including retired military officers and former diplomats, have spoken out in support of remaining in the deal.

“America’s commitments should be ironclad, and enforced. Instead of leading from a position of strength, President Trump has chosen weakness and political expediency, time and again, at the expense of American security and credibility. From walking away from a historic global climate agreement, to denigrating our closest allies in NATO, to now reversing course on the Iran deal, President Trump’s actions have been detrimental to global stability and maintaining peace in the world, and have left the American people worse off and at greater risk.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member

 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

“While the Iran nuclear agreement was far from perfect, it has been successful in pushing back Iran’s timeline for nuclear weapons development, which was a key goal of the agreement. Donald Trump’s reckless announcement today not only threatens to destroy years of important non-proliferation efforts, it also isolates us from our allies and undermines our country’s ability to use diplomacy to negotiate future agreements, leaving us with less leverage on the world stage. That’s alarming, especially at this critical time as we attempt to reach a diplomatic solution to the north Korean crisis. Our nation’s top defense and military officials agree that Iran is in compliance with the agreement and recommended we remain in this deal. It’s unfortunate that on this critical matter of national security, the President has decided to cast aside their advice.”

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senate Armed Services Committee Member

 

Independents

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

 

President Trump’s speech today was the latest in a series of reckless decisions that move our country closer to conflict. By reimposing nuclear sanctions on Iran and withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement, President Trump has put our nation on a dangerous path.

We should understand that the JCPOA is not just an agreement between the United States and Iran, but one negotiated alongside other members of the international community including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, along with China and Russia. The United Nations Security Council also endorsed it.

Trump’s decision isolates the United States from our most important European allies who all continue to support the agreement and have consistently said that it is in their own national security interests to see it upheld.

With today’s announcement, President Trump has also ignored the public statements of his own national security officials like Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford and Defense Secretary Mattis, both of whom have repeatedly said that staying in the agreement is in the national security interests of the United States.

This agreement is supported by an overwhelming consensus of national security experts around the world. And, I would note, that includes in Israel. Last month, 26 former top-ranking Israeli military and security officials signed a letter urging the United States to maintain the agreement, stating unequivocally that the deal is working and that a U.S. decision to pull out would undermine not just U.S. security, but Israel’s security as well.

These Israeli security leaders wrote, “The consensus among military and intelligence agencies around the world — including Israel’s own defense community — is that the pact is working… Israel’s security interests would be served best if the United States chooses to remain in the agreement, and work with its allies and other parties to the agreement on further diplomatic actions to address other aspects of Iranian policy in the Middle East.”

Withdrawing from the agreement could not only free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would seriously harm America’s ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements, such as one with North Korea. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States, and make the touch concessions, if they thought that a reckless president might simply discard that agreement a few years later?

If we are genuinely concerned with Iran’s behavior in the region, as I am, this is the worst possible course. It will make addressing all of these other problems harder. Unfortunately, I heard no strategy from Trump today, just the usual bluster.

But bluster and Iran-bashing will not get us to a better future. Ultimately, we must seek a better relationship with the Iranian people and a more constructive role for Iran in the region. Trump’s bellicose rhetoric today makes achieving those goals more difficult. It will strengthen the regime’s hardliners, who are much more comfortable dealing with a hostile America than with a reasonable, peace-seeking one.After 17 years of war in Afghanistan and 15 years of war in Iraq, the American people do not want to be engaged in never-ending wars in the Middle East. I am deeply concerned that that is exactly where President Trump is taking us with regard to Iran. And for anyone who tries to dismiss those concerns, I would remind you that his newly installed National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote an article a few years ago entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Now Donald Trump seems to be creating his own excuse for doing exactly that.

Importantly, I would remind my fellow Americans that the road to the Iraq war did not simply begin in 2003. It was laid down brick by brick over a number of years, with policy decisions that might have seemed relatively small at the time, but that ultimately led us to the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of our country. The Iraq war had enormous unintended consequences that we are still dealing with today, and will be for many years to come. Indeed, one of those unintended consequences was the empowering of Iran in the Middle East.

It is folly to imagine that, having unleashed these problems through the misuse of military force, we can solve them in the same way. Real American leadership, and real American power, is not shown by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring parties together, to forge international consensus around shared problems, and then to mobilize that consensus to address those problems. That is what this agreement did.

Unfortunately, today President Trump put us on a very different, more dangerous path.

May 8, 2018, in a statement

 

 

Click here for President Trump's remarks. 

Click here for the U.S. Treasury's statements on sanctions. 

Click here for Iran's response. 

Click here for world reactions. 

Click here for Obama-era officials' reactions. 

Click here for analysis by foreign policy and non-proliferation experts. 

Click here for responses from around the Middle East. 

Click here for Iranian media coverage. 

Paul Ryan Portrait By United States Congress [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Nancy Pelosi By United States Government (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/pictorial/index.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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