Connecticut’s congressional delegation blasted President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday that he was pulling the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, a decision that went against the urging of key allies and strains already fraught relations with Tehran.
Rep. Joe Courtney said withdrawing from the treaty, brokered in 2015 to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, “seriously undermined” efforts to keep nuclear arms out of the hands of rogue states like Iran and North Korea. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called it “a serious setback to our national security” that will destabilize the Middle East and alienate the United States from the pact’s six other signatories. Sen. Chris Murphy likened it to “a soccer player deliberately kicking the ball into their own team’s goal.”
“There is nothing but downside for the U.S.,” Murphy said, “especially since Trump has zero plan for what comes next.”
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Trump promised to reimpose economic sanctions the U.S. gave up in 2015 in exchange for Iran halting its nuclear program. Trump described the Iran deal, brokered under his predecessor, Barack Obama, as “defective at its core” and “a great embarrassment to me as a citizen.”
Trump’s decision comes at a time when the White House is trying to arrange a meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in hopes of persuading Kim to relinquish his nuclear weapons program. The Connecticut delegation warned that walking back the Iran deal would undermine talks with the bellicose Kim.
“We are now in a world in which North Korea, our enemies and our allies know that an American commitment is worth no more than the paper it is written on,” Rep. Jim Himes said. “We are not in a world in which the president’s fantasy of a better deal is likely.”
Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “Now, it’s more likely that we’ll face dual nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea, and it will make it even harder to convince Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons because we just showed that we can’t be trusted to live up to our end of a bargain.”
The president, however, cast his decision to leave the deal as strengthening his negotiating position, offering it as proof “the United States does not make empty threats.”
“The fact is, this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” he said Tuesday. “It didn’t bring calm. It didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”
Rep. Elizabeth Esty acknowledged that Iran is clearly “a dangerous state sponsor of terrorism” that has threatened both the United States and Israel, its closest ally in the Middle East. But the Cheshire congresswoman maintained that “it is better to have an imperfect, yet a verifiable agreement in place that allows us to confirm Iran’s compliance with measures that prevent the development of a nuclear weapon than to have no agreement at all.”
Esty said that because of the pact, Tehran is further from developing nuclear weapons today than before its signing. Leaving the agreement “would open the door for Iran to develop nuclear weapons unencumbered,” she said.
Trump told reporters Tuesday he has “definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie,” and last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a trove of stolen Iranian documents and blueprints that he said proved Iran had reneged on the 2015 deal. The deal required Iran to ship 97 percent of its uranium out of the country, and placed its nuclear program under oversight from an international watchdog.
But that watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said they saw nothing in the Israeli documents that would indicate Iran had violated the treaty — a sentiment echoed by Himes, who sits on a committee overseeing both the CIA and the National Security Agency.
“From my position on the House Intelligence Committee,” Himes said, “I have seen the robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms by the United States and our allies that have ensured Iran’s full compliance with the deal.”