The United States has finally reached a nuclear deal with Iran. Repeated delays had stalled the deal for several months, but negotiators from several countries have reached an agreement that will have longstanding implications for Iran’s relationship with the West. The deal, already vehemently opposed by many Congressional Republicans, will now make its way through Washington’s legislative process before it’s officially approved. Obama has already claimed he will veto any attempt to squash the deal, so it seems likely that it will ultimately go through. As with any major political decision these days, the 2016 presidential candidates have been chiming in with their own thoughts and opinions.
On the Democratic side, candidates have been mostly supportive of the Obama administration. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, however, were relatively cautious in their praise of the deal. Sanders issued the following statement: “I congratulate President Obama, Secretary 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.”
Clinton, who played a role in getting the talks started while she was U.S. Secretary of State, called the deal “an important step.” Her support for the Obama administration also came with the caveat that she needs to investigate the deal further, and her statement on the issue was a bit more cautious than Sanders’s. “I think we have to look at this seriously, evaluate it carefully, but I believe based on what I know now, this is an important step,” Clinton said, according to the National Journal. “There will be a number of issues that have to be addressed. I want to just mention, too, the first is enforcement. This agreement will have to be enforced vigorously, relentlessly.”
The Republican field for the 2016 nomination was, unsurprisingly, much less supportive of the Obama administration’s deal. Jeb Bush referred to the deal as “dangerous, deeply flawed and short sighted.” He claimed the U.S. was being too soft on the Iranian government. “This isn’t diplomacy — it is appeasement,” Bush said, according to Market Watch.
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Other GOP candidates used similarly strong language to criticize the deal. Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter “My initial impression is this deal is far worse than I ever dreamed it could be.” According to The Hill, he claimed the deal was “akin to declaring war on Israel and the Sunni Arabs.” Given Iran’s position in the Middle East, such “appeasement” (to use Bush’s word) will have an impact on the U.S.’s other allies in the region. Yet Iran is also one of the major forces fighting ISIS, the Sunni Arabs that hawkish politicians like Graham so desperately want to destroy. As with most foreign policy decisions, there is no easy answer.
After Obama’s threat to veto any Congressional disapproval, Sen. Marco Rubio claimed that the deal would have to be changed by whomever assumes office next. “Failure by the President to obtain congressional support will tell the Iranians and the world that this is Barack Obama’s deal, not an agreement with lasting support from the United States. It will then be left to the next President to return us to a position of American strength and re-impose sanctions on this despicable regime until it is truly willing to abandon its nuclear ambitions and is no longer a threat to international security.” Candidates like Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and Chris Christie all issued similar statements warning that the U.S. was sending the wrong message to the Middle East. Donald Trump argued that the four Americans imprisoned in Iran should have been returned as part of the deal.
Regardless of the varying reactions of the candidates, the Obama administration’s agreement is likely to be enforced for at least the next ten years. Although members of Congress and Republican presidential candidates threaten to reverse the deal, it will be tough to overhaul such a significant matter of international affairs. Still, the way in which the candidates have reacted to the agreement gives voters a better idea as to how they stand on issues of foreign policy in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much variation. The Democrats support the deal, albeit cautiously. The Republicans do not support it, and they’re desperate to have it changed. The issue of Iran will likely continue to be discussed as the presidential campaign enters the debate stages.
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