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‘That’s a Bad Deal’: Senators React to Trump’s Reported Interest in Easing Pressure on Iran

avatar by Laura Kelly

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst.

Republican senators spoke out on Thursday against reports that President Donald Trump was considering easing pressure on Iran in exchange for staying inside the nuclear deal with Europe, as Democrat lawmakers offered cautious optimism that Tehran could be brought back to the negotiating table.

“Well first off, that’s a bad deal,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), told The Algemeiner, referencing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) the nuclear deal signed by former President Barack Obama meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapon ambitions that Trump withdrew from last year.

“I don’t like the deal,” Scott said. “They never stopped supporting Hezbollah. I was just in Israel. They’re supporting Hezbollah, they are supporting Hamas, so I have zero interest in them getting back in that bad deal.”

Since May, Iran has announced its intentions to breach parts of the nuclear deal, including enriching uranium over negotiated levels and restarting research and development programs. French President Emanuel Macron, in a bid to keep Iran in line, has proposed extending a credit line of $15 billion to ease economic pressure as a result of hard-line US sanctions.

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It’s an idea that has reportedly piqued Trump’s interest, as he leaves open the possibility of meeting Iranian President Hasan Rouhani without preconditions when the two attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month.

“I’d want to see what that French plan was, first,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), told The Algemeiner. “So I’m not familiar with it. I still think we need to be very hard on Iran, we need to keep on with the sanctions. So, providing them relief, I’m not keen on that idea. I’d want to look at the plan first.”

Democratic senators, meanwhile, called on the president to articulate a clear strategy while chastising his pullout from the JCPOA.

“It’s certainly always good to be in talks with Iran,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), said. “But, obviously the president has put himself in a pretty difficult position after pulling us out of the JCPOA. He needs to do something. He needs to have a strategy. Right now, I have not seen any kind of comprehensive strategy out of this administration when it comes to dealing with Iran.”

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), called for negotiations. “We gotta figure out something to get them to the table,” he said.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the president was eyeing negotiations with Iran as a way to strengthen his position with North Korea.

“That his termination of the Iran deal, he is now realizing that it makes it harder to get a deal with North Korea, because if the US is walking out of one deal, why would North Korea do a deal?” he told The Algemeiner. He added that the departure of National Security Advisor John Bolton would help keep the US out of a military confrontation.

“But you know, my read of the recent news is just that the president is finally, maybe with the advice of some, coming to an understanding that the diplomatic path to try to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions is better than loose talk about military action,” he said. “The problem is, I don’t know whether he’ll say the same thing tomorrow.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) offered support for Trump’s overtures to Iran, saying he believed it fits in with the president’s overall foreign policy agenda.

“It’s pretty clear that the president sets his foreign policy,” he said. “He is the principle foreign policy architect in the administration and I think that the administration’s long-term plans have been laid out in the National Security Strategy, in 2017, and the National Defense Strategy, in 2018.”

“Both of those call for focus on the rising militarism of China and then secondarily Russia, they both call for a shift away from large numbers of ground troops in the Middle East,” Hawley added. “So, dealing with the Iran threat, the nuclear threat, is — I think really, significant, to enabling that to happen. And it seems like to me, that the president’s been pursuing that pretty good. There’s pretty straight line to what he’s been pursuing.”

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