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Rand Paul: Condemning New Iran Nuclear Deal 'Akin to Condemning Diplomacy'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 3/14/2022 Aaron McDade
Sen. Rand Paul was the lone Republican not to sign a public opposition to the new nuclear deal with Iran after it had been reported that the Biden administration is close to finalizing a new version of the deal. Above, Paul speaks at a press conference on school reopening during Covid-19 at US Capitol on March 04, 2021 in Washington, DC. © Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Sen. Rand Paul was the lone Republican not to sign a public opposition to the new nuclear deal with Iran after it had been reported that the Biden administration is close to finalizing a new version of the deal. Above, Paul speaks at a press conference on school reopening during Covid-19 at US Capitol on March 04, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Rand Paul, the lone Republican senator not to sign a public opposition letter released Monday by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations regarding a Biden administration nuclear deal with Iran that is reportedly nearly finished, said in a statement to Newsweek that his colleagues' letter was "akin to condemning diplomacy."

"Condemning a deal that is not yet formulated is akin to condemning diplomacy itself, not a very thoughtful position," Paul said about why he is the only Republican senator not to join his 49 colleagues by signing the public opposition letter.

The opposition alleges that public reporting on the not-yet-announced deal indicates that it would lessen sanctions on Iran in exchange for only minor limitations to that nation's nuclear program, while also accusing the Biden administration of inadequately consulting with Congress about the negotiations.

The Iran nuclear deal, originally agreed to in 2015, placed limits on the potential of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for foreign powers lifting some sanctions that had been placed on the country. In 2018, however, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, claiming that it was too beneficial to Iran.

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The deal soon collapsed and has been in the process of being renegotiated since President Joe Biden took office last year, and has now been opposed publicly by all but one Senate Republican.

Monday's statement indicates that the Biden administration has not yet committed to submitting a proposal for a new deal for the Senate to agree upon so it can be established as an international treaty, and accuses the administration of not consulting with Congress on the negotiations.

"Republicans have made it clear: We would be willing and eager to support an Iran policy that completely blocks Iran's path to a nuclear weapons capability, constrains Iran's ballistic missile program, and confronts Iran's support for terrorism," the statement reads.

"But if the administration agrees to a deal that fails to achieve these objectives or makes achieving them more difficult, Republicans will do everything in our power to reverse it," the statement continues. "Unless Iran ceases its support for terrorism, we will oppose removing and seek to reimpose any terrorism-related sanctions. And we will force the Senate to vote on any administration effort to do so."

The letter urges the Biden administration, other Democrats in the Senate and other nations involved in the negotiations to "learn the lessons of the very recent past," and understand that a major agreement like the nuclear deal without significant bipartisan support may not survive.

Paul himself has been on both sides of the issue, as Politico reported in 2015 that the Kentucky Republican opposed the deal when it was being developed by the Obama administration. Then, in 2017, Paul told Politico that the deal appeared to be working, Iran was complying and Trump should not blow up the deal.

Current negotiations regarding the deal have stalled after Russia reportedly made last-minute demands and then invaded Ukraine, increasing tensions with the West. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters on Monday that the U.S. needs "to make a decision" on salvaging the agreement.

Newsweek has reached out to the office of Senator James Risch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, about why the announcement was made and why Paul was not included.

Update 3/14/22, 2:30 p.m. ET: This story and headline have been updated with additional context and information, as well as a statement from Senator Rand Paul about why he refused to join his Republican colleagues in condemning the not-yet-announced deal.

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