The Slatest

Fact-Checking the Republican Candidates’ Iran Deal Claims

Not surprisingly, the recently negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran was a major topic of conversation at Wednesday’s GOP debates, but a lot of specifics appeared to get lost in the back-and-forth among the candidates. So who was stretching the truth, getting things right, and making stuff up? Here’s some context for the claims made on the stage at the Reagan Library.

Ted Cruz:

This deal will spend $100 billion, making the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.

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The U.S. isn’t spending $100 billion on anything. According to the Treasury Department, Iran will recover roughly $100 billion of its own money that has been piling up in international banks due to sanctions. Once the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies Iran is complying with the deal, it will be able to access that money.

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Abandons four American hostages in Iran and will accelerate them acquiring nuclear weapons.

Four AmericansWashington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and former FBI agent Robert Levinson—are believed to be held in prisons in Iran. The nuclear deal does not address their cases.

Claims that the deal will accelerate or slow Iran’s nuclear program are unprovable, but for what it’s worth, quite a few prominent scientists and former military officers think it’s the best way to prevent an Iranian bomb. 

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What President Obama wants to do is, he’s run to the United Nations and wants to use the United Nations to bind the United States and take away our sovereignty. I spent five and a half years as the solicitor general of Texas and U.S. Supreme Court and I went in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and took it on and we won a historic victory saying the world court and U.N. has no power to bind the United States, no president, Republican or Democrat, has the authority to give away our sovereignty. If there is anyone up here who would be bound by this catastrophic deal with Iran, they are giving up the core responsibility of commander-in-chief, and as president I would never do that. 

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Cruz is talking about the Medellin vs. Texas case in which the court found that international treaties are not binding domestic law. What this has to do with the Iran deal is a little unclear—U.S. presidents make executive agreements with other governments all the time and control the U.S. vote in the United Nations. Cruz is right that the fact that the law was not a treaty ratified by Congress means it would be easier for the next president to abandon it, though as Ohio Gov. John Kasich noted, this would certainly upset the other governments involved in negotiating the agreement, which would be unlikely to reimpose their own sanctions on Iran.

We won’t know under this agreement, there are several facilities in Iran they designate as military facilities off limit off together. Beyond that, the other facilities, we give them 24 days’ notice before inspecting them.

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It’s true that under the deal, inspectors will have to request access from Iran to investigate suspected nuclear activities at unofficial nuclear sites. The administration counters that the traces of major enrichment work would be impossible to completely clear up in that time, and that such activities would be easy to monitor.

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Most astonishingly, this agreement trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves. That makes no sense.

As reported initially by the Associated Press last month, under a deal between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian officials would be allowed to take samples from the Parchin military site, where there have been past allegations of nuclear activity, in the event new inspections were called for. However, U.S. officials stress that the IAEA will supervise those inspections and if Iran is found to be obstructing those inspections, sanctions can be reimposed. Officials also say that this arrangement pertains only to the question of Iran’s past nuclear activity, not the future inspection regime.

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President Obama is violating federal law by not handing over the side deals.

Conservative GOP senators, led by Cruz, argue that that the Obama administration violated the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, under which Congress had the right to review the agreement and vote against it, by not sharing the “secret side deals” between Iran and the IAEA. But again, such deals pertain to Iran’s past activities, not the future enrichment the deal is meant to prevent. And such deals are not unusual: The IAEA has similar confidential arrangements with 180 state parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the United States. 

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John Kasich:

If they cheat, we slap the sanctions back on. If they help Hamas, we slap sanctions on, and if we find out they may be developing a nuclear weapon, the option is on the table.

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Kasich suggested in his answer that while he believes in the utility of negotiating with hostile foreign governments and would keep the deal, he doesn’t like it, though it’s not entirely clear why. Kasich’s pledges to reimpose sanctions if necessary sound a bit like the “snapback” mechanism included in the deal, which would allow U.N. sanctions to be reapplied, without a vote by the Security Council, if Iran is found to be cheating. The reference to Hamas is misleading, as the deal doesn’t lift sanctions on Iran related to its support for terrorist groups and, as GOP critics have frequently pointed out, doesn’t require Iran to cease that support.

Scott Walker:

This president allowed Iran to get closer and closer. I would love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds with everything on Iran.

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If Walker means that Iran is getting “closer and closer” to acquiring a nuclear weapon, that contradicts the IAEA, which has stated that Iran is complying with the interim deal negotiated in 2013 and has halted much of its enrichment activity.

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Jeb Bush:

We need to re-establish our commitment to Israel, which is tattered and we make sure they have the most sophisticated weapons to send a signal to Iran that we have Israel’s back.

The government-to-government political relationship has undoubtedly gotten rockier under Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, but U.S. aid to Israel has continued to increase and will amount to $3.1 billion this year.

Mike Huckabee:

To give them this agreement, that the president treats like the Magna Carta but Iranians treat like toilet paper and we must simply make it very clear that the next president, one of us on this stage, will absolutely not honor that agreement and will destroy it and will be tough with Iran because otherwise, we put every person in this world in a very dangerous place. 

This is mostly a matter of opinion, but it’s hard to see how tearing up a deal would make Iran less likely to try to develop a nuclear weapon.

Donald Trump:

I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the worst contracts I’ve seen.

Really? Worse than Trump University?

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary.

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