In an interview on “Breitbart News Saturday,” Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tried out some new rhetoric on last week’s historic Iran nuclear deal.
Huckabee called President Obama’s foreign policy “the most feckless in American history,” and called Obama naive to trust the Iranians.
“By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,” he reportedly said. “This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people.”
The former Arkansas governor said that he had “read the whole deal.” His analysis? “We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped.”
Huckabee’s campaign doubled down on the quote, even fashioning a graphic out of the quote later on Sunday:
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) July 26, 2015
The National Jewish Democratic Council issued a statement denouncing his comments later on Sunday “in the strongest possible terms.” They said while they had been forced to respond to inappropriate and offensive Holocaust comments in the past, Huckabee’s “may be the most inexcusable we’ve encountered in recent memory.”
The write-up of the interview on Breitbart’s site referred to Huckabee as an “amenable statesman.”
The deal reached between world powers and Iran offers the proverbial carrot of lifted sanctions which unfreezes $100 billion in Iranian assets. Should Iran violate the deal, however, those sanctions go right back in place. After five years of compliance, Iran could buy and sell conventional arms on the international market, and the same for ballistic missiles in eight years.
The stick has to do with Iran’s nuclear capability — it agrees to curb the amount of time it takes to produce a nuclear weapon from a few months to over 10 years. Iran agreed to sell or dilute all enriched uranium it has, and also not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. The agreement would cut the amount of Iranian low-enriched uranium from about 7,500 kilograms to 300 kilograms — a 96 percent drop. This is well below the level of concern displayed by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the U.N. in 2012.
Iran has to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access all sites, including military sites.
Huckabee’s current rhetoric criticizing the Obama administration’s approach to Iran contrasts sharply with his pro-diplomacy philosophy during his first presidential run in 2008 .
“We haven’t had diplomatic relations with Iran in almost 30 years, my whole adult life,” Huckabee said in a 2007 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “A lot of good it’s done us. Putting this in human terms, all of us know that when we stop talking to a parent or a sibling or a friend, it’s impossible to accomplish anything, impossible to resolve differences and move the relationship forward. The same is true for countries.”
In a 2008 essay in Foreign Affairs, Huckabee said that one way to contain Iran would be through “aggressive” diplomacy, especially through efforts on sanctions with China, Russia, and Europe. This is exactly what the Obama administration has done. He said “many Iranians are well disposed toward us,” and noted Iran helped the U.S. during the Afghanistan war. And he concluded with a note of rationality:
Whereas there can be no rational dealings with al Qaeda, Iran is a nation-state seeking regional clout and playing the game of power politics we understand and can skillfully pursue. We cannot live with al Qaeda, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch. But before I look parents in the eye to explain why I put their son’s or daughter’s life at risk, I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict. We have substantive issues to discuss with Tehran. Recent direct negotiations about Iraq have not been productive because they have not explored the full range of issues. We have valuable incentives to offer Iran: trade and economic assistance, full diplomatic relations, and security guarantees.
The U.S. Senate has 60 days to approve or disapprove of the deal, and it is not clear there are enough votes to override a promised presidential veto.
Former Israeli security heads have expressed support for the deal. Chuck Freilich, a former deputy national security adviser, said “the inspections provisions provide a high degree of confidence that Iran will not be able to renew the nuclear program without its being detected.”
Retired Major-General Israel Ziv is the former head of the Israeli Army’s Operations Directorate branch, and he admitted that it’s not a great agreement, but it’s “the best among all other alternatives.” A military strike on Iran, he said, “would not have delayed even 20% of what the agreement will delay.”
This post has been updated to reflect the Huckabee tweet and the reaction from the National Jewish Democratic Council.