'The president is creating a new nuclear crisis': Lawmakers are concerned about Trump's withdrawal from Iran deal

  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, causing a stir among lawmakers who believe the move damages credibility with the US’s European partners.
  • Vice President Mike Pence met with Senate Republicans on Tuesday to discuss potential future scenarios.

WASHINGTON – There is a growing concern that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will sour relationships with crucial allies and tarnish the US’s credibility.

Before Trump’s announcement on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence briefed senators on potential scenarios following a withdrawal, people who were in the room say. That was supplemented by other discussions with congressional leaders.

Sen. Bob Corker told reporters that Trump informed him on Monday evening of his decision but that it had been pretty much a done deal for a couple of weeks, even as foreign leaders and officials made their way to Washington to try to persuade the White House not to withdraw hastily.

“Appeal time was probably two weeks ago,” Corker said.

The decision, while unsurprising to lawmakers, irked them because of the potential ramifications.

“My preference would have been to give our European allies a few more months to strengthen the deal, but now that the president has decided that the United States will withdraw, we must have two critical priorities,” Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “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 behaviour in a number of areas.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said the withdrawal “isolates the United States from the world at a time when we need our allies to come together to address nuclear threats elsewhere, particularly in Korea.”

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said in a statement: “By violating the Iran deal, the president is creating a new nuclear crisis while we’re trying to address another one with North Korea. His decision to break from the deal makes our country less safe by damaging our diplomatic credibility, weakening our alliances, and reopening the door for Iran to start enriching uranium.”

Republican leaders are standing by Trump

Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, praised Trump’s decision.

“The president’s announcement today is a strong statement that we can and must do better,” Ryan said.

Other Republican brass dismissed the notion that an abrupt departure from the deal undermines the US’s relationships with allies.

“I think they knew we had a lot of issues with it to start with,” said Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican. “And I think, frankly, there’ll be an opportunity hopefully in the wake of all this to work with our allies on some of the things everybody seems to agree with on.”

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters that Trump was essentially in line with French President Emmanuel Macron on the Iran deal.

“Macron’s three points are exactly right,” Blunt said. “This deal does not prevent – in fact, it virtually guarantees that Iran would have nuclear weapons. It doesn’t stop the ballistic missile testing, and it has made them more supportive of terrorist activities, not less.”

Minutes after Trump announced the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal, Macron tweeted: “France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave the JCPOA. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.”

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