The agreement early Tuesday between the United States and Iran over nuclear weapons and economic sanctions put foreign policy back into the political debate and drew a strong rebuke from the state’s congressional delegation.
Under the agreement, announced in Vienna, Austria, Iran agreed to reduce its stockpile of enriched nuclear material and ceased further enrichment.
The agreement would extend the time it would take Iran to make a nuclear bomb from about a year to 10 years and would reportedly put safeguards in place for the U.S. and other world powers to inspect and stop the development of nuclear weapons.
Also, nearly $100 billion in Iranian assets would be unfrozen, officials said.
During a speech at the White House, President Barack Obama spoke about the past in discussing the agreement.
“This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change – change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure. This deal is also in line with a tradition of American leadership. It’s now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.’ He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons,” Obama said.
“In those days, the risk was a catastrophic nuclear war between two super powers. In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in our world. Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.”
“This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off. And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place. Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb,” the president said.
ARKANSAS DELEGATION REACTS
However in discussing the agreement, members of the state’s congressional delegation said the deal creates a precarious future.
“When these discussions began, President Obama claimed we would be able to diplomatically dismantle Iran’s nuclear program. Initial reports on the details of the final agreement suggest this is far from the case. Leak after leak over the final weeks indicated that the President and his negotiating partners were willing — eager even — to give into every demand made by the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The goalposts have moved from dismantling Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program to containing it,” Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. said.
“The President claims that this agreement is built on verification, but that appears to be exactly where this deal is lacking any punch. It was hard enough to get the international community to commit to sanctions in the first place. With a reprieve of this nature, we will never be able to reestablish them should Iran not live up to their end of this agreement, which is a strong possibility given the Iranian regime’s duplicitous actions in the past,” he added.
“As a result of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, the President will not be able to unilaterally waive or suspend congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran before Congress has the chance to approve or disapprove of a final agreement. This gives my colleagues and me time to scrutinize each and every line of the deal. This agreement is likely to have a difficult time living up to that scrutiny. We have a responsibility to ensure that Iran never achieves its goal of becoming a nuclear power. This deal give us little confidence that we will be successful in this regard,” Boozman said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who serves on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said the agreement empowers Iran.
“The deal announced by President Obama today is a grievous, dangerous mistake. It will give Iran tens of billions of dollars to finance its sponsorship of terrorism against the United States and our allies. It will lift embargoes on conventional weapons and ballistic-missile sales to Iran. And, ultimately, it will pave the way for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. If this deal is approved, it will represent a historic defeat for the United States,” Cotton said.
“When I was a platoon leader in Iraq, my soldiers and I faced deadly roadside bombs, made and supplied by Iran. I tried to reassure them, but I could only tell them to hope it wasn’t our day to die by Iran’s roadside bombs. If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, I fear the United States will only be able to hope it isn’t our day to die by an Iranian nuclear bomb,” said Cotton.
“If President Obama wants to liken this deal to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty then he should have followed our constitutional process and negotiated it as a treaty. Instead, he went at it alone and is now threatening to veto any attempts by Congress to conduct oversight. Over the coming weeks, I will work tirelessly to protect America from this deal and to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear-weapons capability. I am confident that the American people will repudiate this dangerous deal and Congress will kill the deal,” he said.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said the agreement showed a feckless foreign policy by the Obama administration.
“This Administration has demonstrated time and time again its inability to work in the best interest of the American people and the interests of our allies abroad. From ignoring self-declared ‘red lines’ to ceding chunks of Eastern Europe to an adversary, the Obama administration’s dealings with the United States’ enemies has hurt our standing abroad and our safety at home,” Westerman said.
“There was a time when the United States of America, the world’s greatest superpower, didn’t negotiate with terrorists. The Administration’s negotiations with the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism was unlikely to ever produce a deal with terms satisfactory to the American people and our allies in the Middle East. If the terms of the deal reported by the media turn out to be true, it will be an easy choice to vote down this deal,” Westerman said.
Cong. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, released the following statement in response to the Obama administration’s announcement of a final agreement in nuclear negotiations with Iran:
“Iran is the world’s largest sponsor of terror. By paving the way for this most dangerous state to obtain nuclear weapons and a free flow of arms, this agreement will ultimately increase Iran’s influence in Iraq and Syria and its ability to support violent extremists worldwide. I simply cannot condone a deal that legitimizes and empowers this regime and jeopardizes U.S. security, the Israeli state, and stability in the Middle East. I pray for the safety of our nation,” said Womack.
Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, commented:
“Iran’s aggressive actions and statements against the US and our allies, particularly Israel, have shattered their credibility in the international community and open serious questions about their commitment to this deal,” Crawford said. “Rewarding Iran with concessions is not the appropriate response to their past actions, and the President’s threat to veto alterations to his deal confirms his own personal commitment to the deal’s completion without regard for the serious concerns presented by this congressional body and our allies. If the details of the negotiations released today match preliminary reports of the agreement, Congress can not accept its terms, which empower an untrustworthy and hostile nation in an already dangerously unstable region.”
Cong. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said:
“I have been skeptical about this negotiation from the beginning, as it has fundamental and long-term consequences for our Nation, our allies, and the region. Congress now must exercise its oversight responsibilities and assess the proposal’s most critical elements related to snap-back bilateral and multilateral sanctions, international inspections and access, the status of the four Americans currently held as prisoners in Iran, and the potential $140 billion windfall for the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
“As I have said repeatedly, Iran is not our friend, and, in my view, any deal that does not fully dismantle their nuclear program is not in the best interest of the United States and her strategic allies throughout the world.”