Political leaders react to Iran nuclear deal
News of the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran elicited strong reactions from both parties. Here’s a look at what Congressional leaders, presidential candidates, and others are saying.
Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday as an ‘‘important step,’’ saying the agreement would end up ‘‘putting the lid on Iran’s nuclear program.’’
Clinton was on Capitol Hill for a series of closed-door meetings with congressional Democrats, where she’s been detailing her early work on the landmark agreement and expressing her support for the final deal — the result of nearly two years of intense negotiations.
House Democrats who met with Clinton described her as a strong backer of the program, which aims to curb Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade in exchange for billions of dollars in international sanctions relief.
‘‘She endorsed it. Full-throated,’’ said Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, who attended the closed-door meeting.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said Clinton ‘‘talked about the fact that no deal is ever going to be a perfect deal. But we have to have a deal that not just works but measurably moves us in the direction that we hope to achieve.’’
Still, Clinton warned that the agreement would not end Iran’s ‘‘bad behavior’’ in the region, such as sponsoring terrorist actors, and noted that the country remains a major threat to Israel.
‘‘This agreement will have to be enforced vigorously, relentlessly,’’ she said, noting that President Barack Obama called her last night to inform her that a deal had been reached. ‘‘As president, I would be absolutely devoted to assuring the agreement is followed.’’
Clinton told House Democrats that Iran ramped up its nuclear capabilities during President George W. Bush’s two terms, building covert facilities and intimidating its neighbors. Earlier this month Clinton called the Bush administration’s response through diplomacy ‘‘somewhat half-hearted’’ that left punitive sanctions on Iran as the ‘‘only response.’’
Once Obama entered the White House, ‘‘we inherited an Iranian nuclear weapons program and we had to figure out what we were going to do about it,’’ Clinton said. An agreement, however, would not be a cure-all, she said.
‘‘Just because we get the nuclear deal, if we can get it done, doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to be breathing a big sigh of relief,’’ Clinton said.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called the international nuclear agreement with Iran “unacceptable” as President Barack Obama warned he would veto any legislation that would block the deal.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said that if party members decide the deal is as bad it initially appears, “We’ll do everything we can to stop it.”
Asked by reporters whether he had already rejected the deal without examining it, Boehner said, “I’m going to review all the facts. Based on what I know now, I’m highly skeptical.”
He said Obama had abandoned his own goals and the deal would likely fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the agreement was flawed. ‘‘Given what we do know so far it appears that Republicans and Democrats were right to be deeply worried about the direction of these talks,’’ he said on the Senate floor.
Democrats, without endorsing the deal, said it must be looked over carefully and praised Obama for reaching the agreement.
“We have no illusions about the Iranian regime -– or the destabilizing influence Iran continues to have in the region. We must maintain our vigilance,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “All options remain on the table should Iran take any steps toward a nuclear weapon or deviate from the terms of this agreement.”
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee defeated by Obama in 2008, said the pact was built “on the belief that somehow the Iranian government will fundamentally change in the next several years.” That is “delusional and dangerous,” McCain said.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in an interview that the plan will give Iran “cash to feed their war machine” and predicted that Congress will overwhelmingly reject it.
“This deal ensures that there will be a nuclear arms race in the Mideast” and “is going to threaten the very existence of Israel,” Graham said.
Republican presidential contender Chris Christie hopes Congress will reject the Iran nuclear deal.
The New Jersey governor says the deal will lead to a nuclear Iran and Middle East, threatens Israel and the U.S., and ‘‘turns 70 years of nuclear policy on its head.’’
Christie says President Barack Obama’s team should have walked away from the talks. Instead, says the governor, Obama is ‘‘playing a dangerous game with our national security.’’
Republican presidential rival Marco Rubio also turned thumbs down on the agreement, saying the U.S. gave ‘‘concession after concession to a regime that has American blood on its hands, holds Americans hostage, and has consistently violated every agreement it ever signed.’’