Politico – Sen. Rand Paul, who opposed the nuclear deal with Iran two years ago, wants the United States to stay in the agreement — even as President Donald Trump sends clues that he is preparing to derail it.
In an interview Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican said he believes evidence shows that Iran has been complying with the terms of the deal, cut by former President Barack Obama and aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Instead of withdrawing from the nuclear deal, Paul argued that the administration should instead look at a deal that would target Iran’s continuing ballistic missile program.
“Most of the complaints about Iran don’t have anything to do with the agreement. They complain about ballistic missiles and other things, but that’s not part of the agreement,” Paul told POLITICO. “I think while the agreement’s not perfect, my main concern has always been compliance. But if they’re complying with it, I think we should stay in it.”
Trump’s visit to the United Nations this week has drawn increased attention to the fate of the controversial nuclear deal, particularly on Wednesday when the president told reporters that he had already decided whether the United States will remain in the agreement — but declined to disclose his decision.
Trump shredded the Obama-era deal in his address to the U.N. General Assembly one day prior, calling the agreement “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” That prompted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to demand an apology from Trump.
Despite the rhetoric, the Trump administration has already passed up opportunities this year to leave the agreement, re-certifying multiple times that Iran was complying with the deal’s terms.
The next recertification deadline is Oct. 15, and if the administration declines to do so by then, it would kick the issue to Congress, which would have 60 days to re-impose sanctions on Iran and effectively kill the agreement.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, the most high-ranking Democratic lawmaker to oppose the Iran nuclear agreement two years ago, also told reporters this week that he wasn’t ready for the nation to withdraw from the deal.
“I thought the agreement was a bad agreement but I also said that let’s see once it passed, let’s give it a little time to see if it’s working or not,” Schumer said. “If Iran violates the deal that’s one thing. If they don’t and do other bad things, let’s not violate the deal, let’s go after them on the other bad things.”
But Trump has faced a significant push from hawkish Republicans on Capitol Hill to dismantle the Iran deal, which was uniformly opposed by GOP lawmakers two years ago as well as several key Democrats.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a persistent critic of the Iran deal and a Trump ally, has made it clear that he disagreed with the Trump administration’s previous certifications that Tehran was complying with the terms of the agreement.