WASHINGTON—Candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential race are sounding off on the Iranian nuclear deal, and their reactions primarily are split along party lines. Republican contenders have been critical and blunt in their assessment of the agreement. Their skepticism contrasts with much warmer reactions from the Democratic side.
Here is a list (in alphabetical order) of some comments collected after the deal was announced Tuesday in Vienna:
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said President Barack Obama called to tell her an agreement had been reached even before it was announced. She called it a big advance in the effort to ensure Iran will not get nuclear weapons: «It’s an important first step. All in all, we have to look at this carefully and seriously.»
«I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation,» Clinton said in a statement. «The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high. It can never be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon.»
Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism, Clinton said, so “relentless” enforcement of the agreement is necessary. “I think this is an important step that puts the lid on Iran’s nuclear programs. It will enable us to turn our attention, as it must, to do what we can with other partners in the region and beyond to try to prevent and contain Iran’s other bad actions.”
«There is much to do and much more to say in the months ahead,» Clinton added. «But for now diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.»
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said shortly after the agreement was announced: “I congratulate President Obama, Secretary [of State John] Kerry and the leaders of other major nations for producing a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling and could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East. I look forward to learning more about the complex details of this agreement to make sure that it is effective and strong.”
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said the agreement «will only legitimize» Iran’s secret nuclear activities.
“This isn’t diplomacy. It is appeasement,» Bush said, adding that he could not see any justification for lifting U.S. and international sanctions against Iran. «I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement.»
Dr. Ben Carson said in a statement: «The Iran deal announced today with fanfare and another heaping dose of false hope is almost certain to prove an historic mistake with potentially deadly consequences.
«A careful review of the 100-plus pages is in order to fully understand the lengths to which the negotiators were willing to stoop to secure a deal at any cost with the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and a regime dedicated in word and deed to bringing death to America.
«Without anywhere, anytime surprise inspections [of Tehran’s nuclear facilities], a full accounting of Iran’s past secret nuclear arms pursuits, elimination of Iran’s uranium stockpiles and the lifting of any sanctions only upon verification of Iranian compliance, this is not a good deal, but a recipe for disaster, and the first fateful step toward a frenzied nuclear arms race in the Middle East.»
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he fears for Israel’s security, and he urged Congress to block the Obama administration from moving forward on the Iran deal.
“The deal threatens Israel, it threatens the United States, and it turns 70 years of nuclear policy on its head,” said Christie. “I urge Republicans and Democrats in Congress to put aside politics and act in the national interest. Vote to disapprove this deal in numbers that will override the president’s threatened veto.”
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, on his first trip to Iowa as an announced presidential candidate, said in Cedar Rapids: «The very first step for any deal, good or bad, should be submitting it to Congress, and the president making the case both to Congress and to the American people why this advances the national-security interests of the United States. … Everything President Obama has said up to this date has suggested that he is going to do everything he can to circumvent Congress.»
Carly Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Corp., said Iran cannot be trusted, based on the previous actions of the regime there.
“Iran has demonstrated bad behavior for 30 years,” she said. “We know they have been trying to cheat on this deal. We know they have been funding proxies with the strategic objective of destabilizing the region.”
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, «This is a death sentence for Israel if it is not changed.»
«The impacts of a bad deal with Iran are unimaginable to our own national security, the region as a whole, and our allies,» Graham added in a statement. «We simply cannot take President Obama’s word that it is this or war.»
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said if he is nominated and elected, he would «keep all options on the table, including military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.»
In a statement he wrote, «Shame on the Obama administration for agreeing to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and bring ‘death to America John Kerry should have long ago gotten up on his crutches, walked out of the sham talks, and [gone] straight to Jerusalem to stand next to Benjamin Netanyahu and declare that America will stand with Israel and the other sane governments of the Middle East, instead of with the terrorist government of Iran.»
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called on Congress and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton to oppose the deal. «If [former] Secretary Clinton goes along with President Obama’s efforts to appease Iran,» Jindal said in a statement, «it will make our enemies stronger, endanger our ally Israel and trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that will destabilize the region.»
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry wrote on Twitter: «Americans and our allies are right to be wary of a nuclear deal [with] Iran that is riddled with concessions by the Obama Administration.»
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said the agreement was «very troubling,» and added, «this attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran.»
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said the idea of negotiating with Iran is «folly.»
«The Iranian government continues to call for ‘Death to America, death to Israel,’ [and] has existing commitments in place that they’re not living up to,» Santorum said. «… In fact, Iran has never lived up to any of its treaty obligations. Why do we believe now that they’re going to change all of a sudden? The only reason they came to the table was because of these economic sanctions that were causing problems to their economy. And now we’ve given them some relief on that. We’re about to give them more relief on that. Why would they feel that they need to go along with this? … No one credibly believes that we’ll be able to snap back any sanctions once this deal is signed, because it will then be an argument of interpretation: The United States will say, ‘They’re not doing this’; [Iran] will say, ‘Yes, we are.’ And so this will go into a long, drawn-out process.»
Donald Trump, the real-estate mogul and television personality said Persians are «laughing at us,» because they are great negotiators and have made «an amazing deal.» Trump said sanctions against Iran should not be lifted, but should have been doubled or tripled at the outset of the long-running negotiations.
“This negotiation should have taken a week» at most, Trump said. «That’s because I’m being generous. Should have taken a day. … This is going on forever.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, through his political group, «Our American Revival,» posted on the website: «By leaving Iran as a nuclear threshold state, President Obama’s deal with the Supreme Leader risks provoking a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world, one that threatens the survival of our closest regional ally Israel and our key Arab partners. History and common sense tell us that we should remain distrustful of Iran.»
Walker’s website statement said, “The deal rewards the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with a massive financial windfall, which Iran will use to further threaten our interests and key allies, especially Israel.»