U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, who is generating national buzz as a potential Secretary of Defense, said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump has the authority to simply dispose of the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, a fierce critic of the deal, said President Obama’s administration has admitted that Iran has violated the terms of the deal and that Trump has the legal right to “rip it up.”
“That’s one of the points that I made throughout this debate that President Obama, by not submitting it as a treaty, didn’t give it legal status. So Donald Trump can rip it up since it’s a mere executive agreement,” he said. “The United States, can, in my opinion, should reimpose sanctions on Iran not just for violating the terms of the nuclear deal, but also for violating U.N. Security Councils (resolutions) related to ballistic missiles or its support for terrorism, or its abuse of human rights. Of course we’ll work closely with the president-elect to try to take a harder line on Iran and give them a new sense of limits when it comes to the United States’ interests in the region.”
Trump at times during the campaign said he would rescind the deal and at other times said he would renegotiate it. Walid Phares, a Trump foreign policy advisor, told BBC radio Nov. 10, “‘Ripping up’ is maybe a too strong a word. … He will take the agreement, review it, send it to Congress, demand from the Iranians to restore a few issues or change a few issues. And there will be a discussion. It could be a tense discussion. But the agreement as is right now, sending $150 billion to the Iranian regime without receiving much in return and increasing Iranian intervention in (foreign) countries – that is not going to be accepted by a Trump administration.”
Cotton said Trump will “draw a much firmer line” than Obama.
“Much of international relations is what our adversaries and our allies simply think about the president. I wouldn’t say it was a coincidence that on the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released all of those American hostages. I hope that Iran will realize that with a new president that we’re going to take a much tougher line on all of their malign activities around the world.”
He said the United States should impose “a sense of limits and boundaries” with Russia and other adversaries, as Reagan did early in his term with the Soviet Union.
During the campaign, Trump suggested that NATO allies must fulfill their financial obligations to the alliance if the United States is to continue to fulfill its Article 5 treaty obligations requiring members to come to each other’s defense.
Cotton said NATO allies must increase the strength of their militaries. However, he said, “Our Article 5 commitments to all NATO allies is ironclad. It’s important to remember Article 5 has only been invoked once in the history of NATO and that was to support the United States after the 9/11 attacks.”
In a press conference Monday, President Obama said Trump in their meeting had “expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships, and so one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the trans-Atlantic alliance.”
Cotton said Trump and congressional Republicans “campaigned on a lot of promises, and now we’ve got to start delivering on those promises.” Among the first, he said, are filling the Supreme Court vacancy, overturning “a lot of” President Obama’s executive orders, and an emergency supplemental military spending bill of “somewhere around $26 billion” for the remainder of the next fiscal year.
Cotton’s name was circulated in several national media outlets on Tuesday as a possible selection for U.S. Secretary of Defense. Cotton’s office has not responded to comment on the speculation.