After President Donald Trump announced his new strategy with Iran, including decertifying the agreement made with that nation by the Obama administration, members of the Florida congressional delegation weighed in to offer their takes.
From his seat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., praised the announcement to some extent but said the agreement could have been scrapped altogether.
“President Trump made the right decision to decertify the Obama Administration's Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran (JCPOA). He is correct in finding that this deal is not in our national interest,” Rubio said after Trump made his announcement on Friday. “I know the White House has been working hard to craft a new law to fix the Iran deal, and I appreciate them and Chairman Corker seeking my input. I will reserve judgment until actual legislation is presented. But I have serious doubts about whether it is even possible to fix such a dangerously flawed agreement.
“Ultimately, leaving the nuclear deal, reimposing suspended sanctions, and having the president impose additional sanctions would serve our national interest better than a decertified deal that leaves sanctions suspended or a new law that leaves major flaws in that agreement in place,” Rubio added.
Other Florida Republicans on Capitol Hill also welcomed Trump’s decision.
“This decision is a welcome opportunity to address some of the major deficiencies within the JCPOA and ensure that Iran will never be a nuclear weapon state,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee. “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. We were sold a false bill of goods that promised international sanctions against Iran’s other illicit activity, yet too many in the international community, particularly our P5+1 partners, have given Iran a pass. There has not been one new EU sanction against Iran since the deal was implemented, despite Iran’s continued human rights violations, support for terror, and pursuit of ballistic missiles. Decertifying provides some much needed leverage and we need to use this opportunity to get the EU on board with sanctioning Iran’s non-nuclear related activity, including taking action against the IRGC, and protect the national security interests of the United States and our allies.”
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2018, also backed Trump's decision.
"President Trump made the right decision in refusing to certify the Iran deal under domestic law,” DeSantis said on Friday. “Iran has violated the deal and it’s clear that the deal is not in the vital national security interests of the United States. More work needs to be done to put Iran back in a box, but sanctioning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) as a terror group is a major step in the right direction and will do much to stymie Iran's pursuit of cash to fuel its malignant activities."
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., who leads his party on the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, had been one of the leading Democratic critics of Obama’s deal with Iran. But he has been urging Trump to stick with it, even getting more than 180 fellow congressional Democrats to sign a letter calling on the White House not to decertify Iran’s adherence to the JCPOA.
While Deutch criticized Trump’s decision, he added the president did the right thing by not scrapping the JCPOA.
“Today the president sent an unfortunate message to our allies by decertifying and threatening to terminate the JCPOA, but he appeared to heed the advice of his top national security advisors by not brazenly walking away from the JCPOA. He also left open the possibility of working with our allies - outside the JCPOA - to address Iran's ongoing threats,” Deutch said. “We should be clear-eyed about the threat posed by the Iranian regime including its role in the slaughter of half a million Syrians, its support for terror attacks around the globe, and its continued human rights violations against its own people. We have seen this play out over the past four decades, from the American hostage crisis to the embassy bombings to the brutal crackdown on Iranian citizens during the Green Revolution, where students were openly killed in the streets of Tehran. And we must always remember that Bob Levinson continues to be the longest held American hostage in American history.
“The president’s four specific points that he articulated today are in fact the bipartisan strategy that has been pursued as long as I have been in Congress: to work with our allies to counter Iran’s malign activities, impose punishing sanctions outside the nuclear deal, counter the proliferation of missiles and weapons, and deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon,” Deutch continued.
“In fact, today's long overdue sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are part of overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation that Congress passed in July – the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act – which mandated new sanctions against the IRGC and its affiliates. That bill also imposed new penalties on Iran’s ballistic missile program, weapons transfers, and ongoing human rights violations.”
Deutch applauded Trump’s actions against the IRGC and said the president should continue to take on Iran.
“There is nothing in the Iran nuclear agreement that should prevent us from targeting Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear activity, and we should be urgently debating new unilateral and multilateral tools to isolate Iran for its hostile behavior,” Deutch said. “Abandoning the nuclear deal would leave the U.S. isolated and make it impossible to do exactly what the president says we must do, lead our allies to counter Iran. I would also caution what should be obvious, that we cannot simply amend an international agreement through unilateral congressional action. But we must address the very real long-term concerns of an unrestrained nuclear enrichment program that could put Iran on the doorstep of a nuclear weapon. To do so, we will need to continue to work together with the IAEA and our international partners to fully enforce the provisions of the JCPOA to hold Iran accountable and to take the strongest actions possible to address our nuclear concerns.
“That is why I plan to hold the president to his word ‘to work closely with Congress and our allies.’ He can start by directing his national security officials who have been making the rounds on Capitol Hill to work with both sides of the aisle,” Deutch said in conclusion. “Stopping Iran’s dangerous activity and preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon is not a partisan issue. Let’s not make it one.”
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., who sits on the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and opposed Obama’s deal with Iran, insisted this was a “manufactured crisis” and she came out swinging at Trump.
“This dangerous action defies the counsel of his national security team, isolates America from our closest allies, risks provoking an Iranian race to a nuclear weapon, and undermines potential nuclear negotiations with North Korea,” Frankel said. “Rather than igniting an international crisis, President Trump should rigorously enforce the JCPOA and hold Iran accountable for its support of terrorism, human rights violations and ballistic missile program by enacting measures outside of the pact.
“In 2015, I opposed the Iran nuclear agreement because I felt it would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program after 15 years and give Iran access to billions of dollars without a commitment to cease its terrorist activity,” Frankel added. “These concerns remain. Moreover, since the adoption of the agreement, Iran has increased its destabilizing activities in the region, including ballistic missile testing, sponsorship of terrorism, propping up the Assad regime in Syria, and arming Hezbollah. With that said, Iran has already received billions of dollars in previously frozen assets as a result of the JCPOA and there is no credible evidence that it is in violation of its requirements. The International Atomic Energy Agency has continuously confirmed Iranian technical compliance with the agreement. Our European allies agree. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that if the U.S. were to pull out of the deal, it would give Tehran a pretext to resume its race to a nuclear capability. The president’s own national security team has urged him not to withdraw.
“Donald Trump is wrong to believe that we have leverage to bring the parties back to the table to negotiate a better deal,” Frankel continued. “Instead, by turning our backs on a multilateral agreement, we send a chilling message about the United States’ willingness to honor its commitments, throwing into question our reliability. We can’t afford such a dangerous gamble, especially when tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea are at an all-time high. Today’s action undermines the possibility, however unlikely, for a diplomatic approach to this ongoing crisis.
“Mr. Trump's reckless decision leaves Congress to decide whether the U.S. will reimpose JCPOA-related sanctions on Iran,” Frankel concluded. “If Congress were to take such action, the deal would likely collapse. Iran would walk away with the upper hand, leaving them an unobstructed path to race toward nuclear weapons. The consequences for peace and security in the Middle East would be catastrophic, and would put our greatest ally Israel at grave risk. We would lose the mantle of leadership in the international community. An issue of such seminal national security importance should not be co-opted to keep a campaign promise. Our fundamental objective should remain the same today as it was two years ago: Iran should never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. I call on Congress to refrain from reimposing JCPOA-related sanctions that would blow apart the deal. Instead, we must rigorously enforce it and work with our allies to push back against destabilizing Iranian behavior.”
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