Congressional Democrats, including several who initially opposed the Iran nuclear deal, lashed out Tuesday at President Trump’s controversial decision to end U.S. participation in the pact, while praise came from many — but not all — in the GOP.
Most Republicans accepted Trump’s argument that the landmark multinational agreement was fundamentally flawed and that efforts to contain Iran had to expand beyond its nuclear program.
But Trump critics lamented a move that they say only puts the world, and especially allies in the Middle East, at greater risk.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) vigorously opposed the deal at its inception in 2015 and then its execution the following year. On Tuesday, however, he said alienating U.S. allies who helped negotiate the deal will weaken joint efforts to rein in Iran’s support for militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“By dividing our allies … you’re making it harder to go after Hezbollah, you’re making it harder to go after Iranian activities that are really dangerous, and you’re probably making it harder to come to a North Korea deal.”
Numerous skeptics have warned that U.S. abrogation of the deal with Iran will cause North Korea to be wary of any agreement with the Trump administration, which plans nuclear talks with Pyongyang in the coming weeks.
Like Schumer, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, initially opposed the deal, but said Tuesday that walking away from it was a “grave mistake.”
“With this decision President Trump is risking U.S. national security, recklessly upending foundational partnerships with key U.S. allies in Europe and gambling with Israel’s security,” Menendez said. “Today’s withdrawal from the [Iran deal] makes it more likely Iran will restart its nuclear weapons program in the future.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, a fierce critic of Iran, supported Trump’s decision to withdraw from what the Florida Republican called a “flawed and dangerous agreement that is beyond fixing.”
“Today’s announcement will have an IMMEDIATE chilling effect on lucrative deals with [the] Iranian regime,” Rubio said via Twitter.
One of his (and Trump’s) principal complaints was the return of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets, which Rubio argues Iranian officials spent on producing ballistic missiles, not on improving the welfare of the country’s citizens.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) echoed those sentiments, although he said he would rather have fixed the deal than nix it.
But he added, “The president’s announcement today is a strong statement that we can and must do better.… The president is right to insist that we hold Iran accountable both today and for the long term.”
There were scattered voices of dissent, however, among Republicans.
Rep. Michael R. Turner of Illinois, chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee, said the Iran deal was “deeply flawed” and its provisions for inspections insufficient.
But he said that “without proof that Iran is in violation of the agreement, it is a mistake to fully withdraw from this deal.… Now we need to work with our allies to fix this flawed agreement to ensure the world is not facing a nuclear Iran.”
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would have preferred to give European allies more time to strengthen the deal.
“A strong, international effort is required to curtail Iran’s aggressive behavior in a number of areas,” he said.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he hoped Trump’s decision to exit the deal has not doomed future negotiations.
“It is disappointing that the administration was unable to reach an agreement with our allies,” Corker said. “However, based on conversations I have had in recent days, it is my sense that the administration will move quickly to work toward a better deal” that prevents Iran from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a frequent critic of Trump and one of his opponents in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, also said the decision was a mistake that “has gotten us nothing other than to remove constraints on Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons” and create disunity at a time when the United States must confront challenges from Russia and China.
Overall, most congressional reaction fell along partisan lines.
Within the California contingent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein was among 12 leading Democrats who wrote Trump urging him to stick to the deal. After his announcement, she blasted the decision as a “strategic mistake” that harms national interests and was made in Trump’s eagerness to “undo” everything President Obama achieved.
“Today’s actions may force the president to sanction the very same partners and allies who helped us negotiate the agreement in the first place,” Feinstein said. “Worse, Iran may choose to resume its nuclear activities, raising the possibility of yet another major conflict in the region.”
Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed his disapproval in similar terms.
“There is no question that in taking this action unilaterally, we have isolated ourselves and weakened our credibility on the world stage in a way that will be difficult to repair,” Schiff said.
Republicans from California, including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa and Darrell Issa of Vista, offered Trump their full-throated approval.
Staff writer Sarah D. Wire contributed to this report.
For more on international affairs, follow @TracyKWilkinson on Twitter
3 p.m.: This story was updated with reaction from Kasich, Feinstein and Schiff.
This story was originally published at 1:40 p.m.