Republican responses to Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the 2015 Iran/Russia/China/Europe “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” nuclear agreement seem to share a central conviction: That Iran is dangerous and needs to be bound by some sort of cooperative international agreement to limit its nuclear activity.
• House majority leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News, in the network’s words, that he looks forward to Trump using the 90-day grace period that will precede the restoration of U.S. sanctions against Iran to negotiate an agreement “that prevents Iran from ever having a nuclear weapon.”
• Tennessee Sen. and Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said he is excited about working with Trump and “our foreign partners” on “preventing Iran from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.”
• Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney said that he looks forward to leveraging “the cooperative action of our allies” into an agreement with Iran to suspend nuclear-weapon research.
• Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said that Iran “poses an immediate threat to the United States” and that he looks forward to working with “America’s allies” in “crafting and implementing a comprehensive strategy” to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.
(Credit to Simon Maloy for flagging several of these.)
What these gentlemen are describing, of course, is the agreement that Trump just abandoned, which took 28 months from start to finish to negotiate. Current indications are that our international partners will attempt to keep it in place despite the U.S. withdrawal.
What appears to be happening to congressional Republicans is the collision of two convictions: That Iran is extremely dangerous and that anything Obama did is bad. One way to resolve those convictions would be to admit that Obama’s JCPOA, while it may be flawed, is the only available path to restraining the Tehran regime, and to work within its parameters. The other is to live in an alternate reality in which Trump—who has only been able to pass one major piece of legislation in 16 months despite his party controlling both chambers of Congress, and who frequently seems to have no idea what his own administration’s position is on any given issue—is poised to lead the rest of the world in totally reworking a massively complicated multi-lateral agreement. Good luck with that, guys!