Republicans Laud Trump's 'Long Overdue' Iran Strategy; Democrats Warn of 'Grave Threat'

Responding to Trump's address, Democratic members of Congress urge against the deal's cancellation, call instead for alternative pressure tactics against Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after delivering a statement on Iran in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on October 13, 2017.
Al Drago/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - Republican lawmakers praised U.S. President Donald Trump's speech on Iran on Friday, while Democrats warned that it could have dangerous consequences for the U.S. and its allies. 

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said following the speech that "for years, Iran has literally been getting away with murder." He called the strategy presented by the Trump administration on Friday - which does not include a withdrawal from the nuclear deal - "a long overdue change" in American policy towards the Islamic Republic. 

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said that Trump's decision not to recertify Iran's compliance with the deal "is a welcome opportunity to address some of the major deficiencies within the deal, and ensure that Iran will never be a nuclear weapon state."

She added that, "we must work together to close the loopholes, get rid of the sunsets, stop Iran’s ballistic missile program, mandate inspections of Iran’s military sites, and, once and for all, attain the unconditional release of all the U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents being unjustly held in Iran." 

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), who is promoting new legislation to sanction Iran, stated that the "remaining part of the nuclear accord in its current form is not in the U.S.' national security interest. I look forward to working with the Trump administration in ensuring that the Islamic Republic is verifiably and permanently prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to our nation. We must take all steps to prevent one of the world’s most dangerous regimes from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapon.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition also expressed strong support for Trump's speech. The organization said that Trump "took an important first step delivering on one of his biggest campaign promises and bolstering the security of the United States, Israel and our allies." The organization, which is funded by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, added that it will work with Congress moving forward to promote Trump's new strategy. 

Two Republican Senators, Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Bob Corker (R-TN) proposed new legislation on Friday that corresponds with elements of Trump's speech and briefings by senior administration officials on its new Iran strategy. The legislation will create new conditions, beyond those included in the nuclear deal, for re-imposing sanctions on Iran. 

On the Democratic side, members who voted against the deal in 2015 have urged Congress not to cancel it now, but instead to keep it in place and look for ways to put pressure on Iran without harming the deal.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said: "I was the first member of Congress of either party to urge the rejection of the Iran deal, speaking on the House floor hours after it was published. But if the U.S. renounces the deal, Iran keeps the roughly $100 billion they got last year, while being freed from the restraints imposed by the agreement." 

Sherman added that "Our goal should be to enforce and extend the nuclear deal. If we renounce the deal at this point, we cannot enforce, monitor, or extend any nuclear restrictions on Iran; in fact, we may end them. I cannot think of a worse result than Iran being free to pursue a nuclear program without the limits of the [nuclear deal]." 

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who also voted against the deal in 2015, said that "a serious policy would keep the nuclear deal in place, demand rigorous enforcement and push back on Iran's non-nuclear aggression." Cardin also said that Trump's de-certification of the deal is "one of the most dangerous and consequential decisions he has made, imperiling U.S. national security interests." Cardin added that, "it is now up to Congress to show the world there is bipartisan support for the United States to uphold its commitments." 

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who supported the agreement in 2015, wrote in an op-ed published by the New York Daily News that "president Trump’s decision to decertify and threatened withdrawal is a win for Tehran in that they keep all the financial and diplomatic benefits of the deal while the United States is on the outside looking in."

Nadler added that "on both nuclear and non-nuclear fronts, decertification puts us in a worse position, and does nothing to address the serious issues that do exist. Iran is and remains a grave threat to security in the region, to the security of our allies, and to U.S. strategic interests. Yet this administration continues its made-for-TV political games."