A handful of Republicans who support continuing to add sanctions on Iran issued statements on Sunday criticizing the first-step nuclear deal with Tehran after Iran and six world powers announced that they had agreed to begin implementing the accord.
Last November in Geneva, Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., U.K, France, Russia, China and Germany) agreed on a first-step deal that reins in many aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, in exchange for modest sanctions relief. The idea behind this interim deal was to essentially freeze Iran’s program for six to twelve months while a final deal could be worked out. The Geneva agreement’s implementation had been delayed while both sides could finalize technical details, and on Sunday, Iran and the world powers announced that the deal will officially take effect on January 20.
While Obama administration officials and other Democrats offered cautiously optimistic statements after Sunday’s announcement, many Republican lawmakers used the news to speak out against the deal. “This expected and overdue implementation only furthers a deeply flawed agreement that legitimizes Iran’s flagrant violations of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for the full suspension of its nuclear program,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (In fact, the Geneva deal does effectively freeze Iran’s nuclear program, as the U.N. resolutions had sought to do).
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who, along with Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is pushing a bill to place new sanctions on Iran, criticized the White House for giving “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism billions of dollars while allowing the mullahs to keep their illicit nuclear infrastructure in place. I am worried the administration’s policies will either lead to Iranian nuclear weapons or Israeli air strikes.”
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and supporter of additional sanctions on Iran, also said he’s “concerned” the agreement will lead to an Iranian nuclear weapon, adding that it’s “regrettable” that the Obama administration doesn’t want to add more sanctions on Iran at this time.
And the Republican allied group the Emergency Committee for Israel — which put out an ad last year suggesting the U.S. should bomb Iran — put out a statement saying that the agreement shows that Obama is weak on Iran and calling on the White House to support the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill.
Reactions to the Geneva deal implementation announcement further suggests an increasing partisan and ideological divide on Iran. While Kirk and Menendez initially promoted their new sanctions bill as a bipartisan one when they introduced it late last month, Democratic support for it has tapered off considerably. And the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes that many Senate Democrats haven’t said much about the Kirk-Menendez measure, perhaps “signaling they are not on board with the sanctions bill.”