Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton was on MSNBC early Tuesday morning to blast the deal that the United States and five world powers have reached with Iran to limit the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“This proposed deal is a terrible, dangerous mistake,” Cotton said moments after Barack Obama announced the deal to the American people. “[It’s] going to pave the path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon while also giving them tens of billions of dollars of sanctions relief, even lifting the arms embargo at a time when they’re destabilizing the entire Middle East.”
The deal would reportedly lift a United Nations weapon embargo in five years, and a ban on Iran buying missile technology would be lifted in eight years. The overall length of the accord includes 15 years of continuous monitoring from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Congress now has a 60-day window to review the deal and possibly vote on it, but Barack Obama has promised to veto any rejection of the deal, meaning opponents in both chambers would have to rally two-thirds majorities to override that veto. Cotton sounded confident that the deal would garner such opposition.
“The American people are going to repudiate this deal, and I believe Congress will kill the deal,” Cotton said.
The Obama administration started lobbying Congress before the deal was even complete, the New York Times reported, and a significant number of Democrats would have to directly repudiate the president’s signature foreign policy achievement in order for Congress to overcome a veto, which seems unlikely.
Cotton said that if Iran’s program were peaceful, Iranians would “grant us access” to sites “anytime, anywhere” rather than “when necessary, where necessary,” as Obama had described the accord. One MSNBC host quibbled that the criticism was just semantics, but this could prove to be the conservative line of attack of the deal.
“They are an outlaw, terrorist-sponsoring, anti-American regime,” Cotton said. “They have the blood of hundreds of American soldiers on their hands, who they killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Cotton said he believed that Iran could easily violate the terms of the deal despite a trigger that allows Britain, France, Germany, the United States, and the European Union to vote together to snap sanctions back into place if they find that Iran is violating the deal. He also said that Iran could get a nuclear weapon “in a mere 10 to 15 years” if it does abide by the terms of the deal.
Cotton, who famously circulated an open letter this spring encouraging Iran’s leaders to walk away from negotiations, faced harsh questioning from the Morning Joe panel in his brief appearance.
Mika Brzezinski was skeptical toward Cotton at multiple points, asking him what he believed 24/7 access to nuclear facilities meant and saying “it seems like you’re reading a different deal, with all due respect.”
Cotton wasn’t the first Senate Republican to attack the deal before all details could be thoroughly reviewed and assessed. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse released one of the earliest and direst assessments: “Sadly, the Administration just lit the fuse for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, meanwhile, said that he wanted to read the agreement in full, but was already skeptical that it would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.