On Tuesday, President Donald Trump made official a move he’d been signaling for years: terminating U.S. involvement in the landmark agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or just the Iran deal, was completed in 2015 after years of negotiations between the Barack Obama administration, Iran, and five other world powers: the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China.
The basis of the agreement is a quid pro quo: the U.S. and its allies would lift strict economic sanctions placed on Iran in exchange for Iranian leaders’ promises to abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons, and their acquiescence to accountability measures like snap inspections of their energy facilities.
But candidate and president Trump has called the Iran deal an embarrassment to the U.S. and the “worst deal ever made,” while echoing Republican arguments that the deal does not do enough to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons, nor does it do enough to address other issues, such as Iran’s support of Hezbollah and other militant groups.
At the White House on Tuesday, Trump declared it is “clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb” under the current deal, which he framed as a billion-dollar giveaway to a murderous, sinister regime. He also claimed Iran was violating its end of the deal, but did not say how. (Former Trump administration officials have said Iran has complied with the agreement.)
“America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail,” the president said. “We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. And we will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.”
Democrats, meanwhile, cast Trump’s decision as a reaction against a key Obama legacy item, ending for no good reason a painstakingly-crafted agreement that was working, and leaving the Middle East more vulnerable to war.
In the wake of Trump’s move, Minnesota’s members of Congress have responded to what might be the most consequential foreign policy development of this presidency. We’re collecting their responses here, and we’ll update this story as needed.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D)
We cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and — as we head into negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear weapons — we cannot be backing away from international agreements and nuclear inspections. I also believe we should be negotiating a more comprehensive agreement moving forward that includes Iran’s ballistic missile tests and destabilizing activity that pose a direct threat to Israel, which we can do without withdrawing from the agreement.
—via press statement
Sen. Tina Smith (D)
Iran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon—they are a threat to the region and to U.S. national security interests.
A withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, however, will do nothing to reduce that threat. The Iran deal was never perfect, but I am profoundly concerned that walking away from it with no legitimate basis for doing so is bad for our national security. It heightens the risk of Iran developing a nuclear weapon and heightens the ultimate risk of military conflict. … If the President’s actions lead to the deal breaking down among other allies, we run the risk of being held responsible while Iran will be empowered.
Rep. Tim Walz (D — 1st District)
It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating… Like so many things with President Trump — whether it’s the Paris accords, the ACA, Dodd-Frank — how about we build upon those successes? We’re trying to erase President Obama’s legacy without any thought about how those things were built.
—Interview with MinnPost
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R — 3rd District)
The JCPOA was fundamentally flawed and it was hindering the ultimate objective of ensuring Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapon. At the time we entered into the JCPOA, the sanctions regime was working. A return to strong sanctions is sound policy. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and it continues to develop advanced ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions. I believe we need to work with our European allies to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, continue destabilizing the region and threaten the sovereignty of Israel.
– via press statement
Rep. Betty McCollum (D — 4th District)
@realDonaldTrump blew up the #IranDeal isolating America and making the world more dangerous. Breaking America’s commitments to our European allies and daring Iran to build nuclear weapons doesn’t show strength, only stupidity.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D — 5th District)
President Trump is pushing our country toward another preventable war, putting dangerous campaign politics first, isolating the United States and jeopardizing lives. The Iran deal is a historic diplomatic achievement that is keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands. Inspectors have found no evidence that Iran is breaching the terms of the deal.
Rep. Tom Emmer (R — 6th District)
Since its announcement during my first year in Congress, I have been vocal in my strong opposition to the Iran Deal as it failed to establish permanent safeguards to prevent the rise of a nuclear-armed Iran. The United States’ goal remains the same which is to achieve peace and stability here at home, in the Middle East, and around the world. As our nation begins to implement economic sanctions on Iran, I look forward to a deal that accomplishes what the Iran Deal does not: keeping the United States safe and secure.
— via press statement
Rep. Collin Peterson (D — 7th District)
I oppose the Iran Nuclear Deal, but the agreement has been in full effect since 2015 and Iran already accessed billions of dollars in unfrozen assets. Going forward, I worry about fracturing the international coalition that needs to remain unified if we hope to denuclearize Iran and hold them accountable.
— via press statement
Rep. Rick Nolan (D — 8th District)
I think it’s a tragic, most unfortunate decision. It will only accelerate the nuclear arms race, and put the world in greater danger. Every entity, international and national, including Trump’s own administration, have found that the Iranians have honored the terms of the agreement. It has reduced dramatically their capacity to produce nuclear weapons. It is a good deal, it has been successful, and his decision to unravel it is just a tragic misstep for anyone that’s concerned by the rise, threat, and dangers posed by nuclear weapons.
— Interview with MinnPost