GOP senator rages on John Kerry: He 'acted like Pontius Pilate'

US Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said Secretary of State John Kerry acted like “Pontius Pilate” — the judge who is said to have presided over the trial of Jesus Christ — in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. 

Cotton and other GOP lawmakers have been railing against the Obama administration for what they call secret “side agreements” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They involve revelations over Iran’s past nuclearization efforts and on inspections at the Parchin military base, long a point of contention in the nuclear talks.

The contents of those alleged “side deals” are not public, though White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice told reporters on Wednesday that it would share the details with members of Congress during a classified briefing.

But Cotton, during a recent trip to Vienna, said he met with IAEA leaders, who told him that “two side deals” reached on Iran’s nuclear program “remain secret and will not be shared with other nations, with Congress, or with the public.”

“Iran’s had almost four years to reveal the past military work that they have done their nuclear program,” Cotton said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday. “This may have been a firm line that Iran would not draw, and the United States negotiating team simply was refusing to draw their own line or to walk away from the deal.”

“So John Kerry acted like Pontius Pilate,” Cotton added. “He washed his hands, kicked it to the IAEA, knowing that Congress would not get this information unless someone went out to find it.”

The Parchin complex is crucial to determining the extent of Iran’s nuclear program, it has been closed off to IAEA inspectors for a decade because it is considered a military facility. Upon reaching the separate deal with Iran, the IAEA said only that, “Iran and the IAEA agreed on another separate arrangement regarding the issue of Parchin.”

Kerry is set to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, along with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. That committee features GOP presidential candidates and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). Congress is in the process of reviewing the Iran deal and will have 60 days to vote on its approval.

Cotton, along with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday urging him to publicly disclose the details of the IAEA’s “side agreements.”

“Failure to produce these two side agreements leaves Congress blind on critical information regarding Iran’s potential path to being a nuclear power,” they wrote.


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