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7 Lawmakers Who Opposed Iran Deal and Trump’s Decision to Withdraw From It

Democrats and Republicans worry about message move sends to allies and even North Korea

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., opposed the original Iran deal but also opposes President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., opposed the original Iran deal but also opposes President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal drew criticism from somewhat unexpected sources — lawmakers who opposed the deal then-President Barack Obama brokered in 2015. 

The following seven lawmakers are a sampling of those who stand by their opposition to the deal but believe walking away from it now is a bad move that sends a signal to other countries that the U.S. is not a reliable negotiating partner. Some worry about the impact Trump’s decision could have on upcoming negotiations with North Korea over its own nuclear arsenal. 

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Senate minority leader was a rung lower in Democratic leadership when he voted in 2015 to disapprove the Iran deal. Now the top Senate Democrat, Schumer sees no reason to withdraw from the pact.

“There are no reports that Iran has violated the agreement and to me, the greatest worries from Iran are not right now the nuclear side but rather what they’re doing in Syria, what they’re doing to arm Hezbollah with rockets, what they’re doing with ICBMs,” the New York Democrat told reporters Tuesday. “To me, the right thing to do would have been to try and come up with our allies with an agreement on those issues and let the nuclear part of this continue as is because it’s not being violated in any way.”

Schumer said Trump’s decision will divide U.S. allies and make it harder to go after Hezbollah and dangerous Iranian activities.

“And you’re probably making it harder to come to a North Korea deal,” he said. 

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

While the Senate Foreign Relations ranking member opposes the deal, he said it’s a “grave mistake” to walk away from it without a plan for preventing Iran from restarting its nuclear weapons program and for countering the regime’s dangerous non-nuclear activities, and without our allies and partners.

“The President initially had an opportunity to work with our allies and build follow-on agreements to address serious concerns with the JCPOA, including Iran’s nuclear capacity after certain restrictions expire,” Menendez said in a statement. “But now, President Trump owns the consequences of today’s decision.”

The New Jersey Democrat said U.S. withdrawal from the agreement makes it more likely Iran will restart its nuclear weapons program in the future and empowers Iran and other countries like Russia and China “to continue major weapons sales, deepen economic ties, and further challenge the United States and Europe not only in the Middle East but in other areas like North Korea.” 

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif.

The House Foreign Affairs chairman said during a hearing on Iran Tuesday that he opposed the Iran deal because it doesn’t shut off the country’s path to a nuclear weapon or stop the regime’s pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“And it gave Tehran an infusion of cash to support more of its terrorist activities around the world,” Royce said.

“That said, I believe the best path forward at this point is to continue pushing to fix these flaws as we enforce the hell out of the deal,” the California Republican said, noting he fears withdrawal will set back efforts to galvanize allies to do more to address Iran’s dangerous activities.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

The Foreign Affairs ranking member holds a similar position as his Republican counterpart. He, too, opposed the Iran nuclear agreement but believes withdrawing from it is a mistake.

“There’s lots of flaws in the deal and one of the flaws that Trump points out, I agree, is the fact that it sunsets and doesn’t prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon in perpetuity,” he said in a brief interview. “I think that has to be addressed. So that’s right. The question is how do you address it, how do you handle it. And I think by walking away from it, it’s the exact opposite of the way you should handle it because it puts the focus of the United States as the one breaking things up rather than Iran, where it should be. We are isolating ourselves from our own allies.”

Engel, who was briefed on Trump’s decision by the deputy secretary of state earlier Tuesday, said he would prefer to keep the deal “and sanction the hell out of Iran and then impose new sanctions for its ballistic missiles and human rights abuses and support of terrorism.”

“There’s all kinds of things we can do,” he said “I just don’t think blowing up a deal is the way to do it. And if every administration comes in from another party is going to go and destroy what was negotiated in the presidency before then why would anybody ever negotiate with us? Why would North Korea not negotiate with us?”

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas

The House Armed Services Committee chairman said the Iran agreement was flawed but he would’ve preferred continued work to strengthen it over withdrawal. 

“My preference would have been to give our European allies a few more months to strengthen the deal,” Thornberry said in a statement. “But now that the President has decided that the United States will withdraw, we must have two critical priorities.  One is to further enhance our own military capabilities.  The other is to strengthen our alliances.  A strong, international effort is required to curtail Iran’s aggressive behavior in a number of areas.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fl.

Frankel, who opposed the Iran deal because of its sunset clauses, suggested Trump is withdrawing from it to fulfill a campaign promise. She called it “a shortsighted and scary move that allows Iran back on the path to a nuclear weapons capability should it choose to do so.”

“This decision has the potential to destabilize the region, isolate the U.S. from our European allies, and undermine American credibility around the world,” Frankel said in a statement.

Frankel had previously called on Trump to work with European allies to fix the Iran deal’s shortcomings rather than withdraw from it.

Mike Turner, R-Ohio

Turner provided similar reasons as his colleagues for opposing withdrawal despite his opposition to the agreement. 

“As I have previously said, this deal has an insufficient inspection regime, insufficiently addresses long range ICBM missile development, and is limited to 10 years, giving the appearance of permission to develop nuclear weapons in the future,” he said in a statement. “However, 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.”

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