Arizona Sen. John McCain praises Trump comments on Iran nuclear deal

Oct 13, 2017, 4:35 PM | Updated: Mar 1, 2018, 3:42 pm
In this Aug 10, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., watches a baseball game between the Ar...
In this Aug 10, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., watches a baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. John McCain praised President Donald Trump’s claims that an international agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear facilities is not in the country’s best interests.

In a speech on Friday, Trump accused Iran of violating the landmark 2015 international nuclear accord, blaming the Iranians for a litany of sinister behavior and hitting their main military wing with anti-terror penalties.

But the president did not pull the U.S. out of the deal, nor did he re-impose nuclear sanctions.

In a statement, McCain said he agreed with the president, saying the current Iran nuclear deal does not “meet the multifaceted threat Iran poses.”

“Iran has routinely threatened the United States and its neighbors for decades. It is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Its support of the murderous Assad regime has contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions, destabilizing nations across the Middle East,” McCain said.

McCain said he did not support the deal when it was proposed in 2015 under former President Barack Obama, saying many of its terms “will make it harder to pursue the comprehensive strategy we need.”

Future of Iran deal in Congress’s hands

Trump alone cannot actually terminate the accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for concessions regarding its nuclear program. But withdrawing the U.S. would render the deal virtually meaningless.

That would be risky, though, and could badly damage U.S. credibility in future international negotiations. The accord was struck after 18 months of negotiations between the Obama administration, Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union and then endorsed by a unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council.

Trump’s main national security aides have all argued for staying in the deal. So have key allies in Europe who are leery of altering an accord that they believe has prevented Iran from assembling an arsenal of atomic weapons.

Trump opened his speech by reciting a long list of grievances with Iran dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the seizure of the U.S. Embassy and American hostages in Tehran. He then noted terrorist attacks against Americans and American allies committed by Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah, and Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile tests.

“We cannot and will not make this certification” that Iran is complying with the accord, he said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

But “decertifying” the deal stops well short of pulling out and simply moves the issues over to Congress. Lawmakers now have 60 days to decide whether to put the accord’s previous sanctions back into place, modify them or do nothing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona Sen. John McCain praises Trump comments on Iran nuclear deal