All of the GOP presidential candidates did well on the disastrous nuclear agreement with Iran except for Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and John Kasich. Bush and Kasich were especially awful.
Seven of the 15 candidates – Walker, Cruz, Christie, Huckabee, Rubio, Graham and Pataki – said they would kill the deal. Cruz and Walker said they would tear it up on their first day as president. Rubio and Huckabee also seemed prepared to do this.
Two candidates – Fiorina and Santorum – would make tough demands to Iran that would effectively kill the deal.
Donald Trump said he would try to renegotiate the agreement with demands that would almost certainly kill it. Bobby Jindal wants Congress to kill the deal. Dr. Ben Carson did not say how he would treat the deal.
But Bush, Paul and Kasich said they would abide by the nuclear agreement with Iran.
I disagree with but understand Senator Paul’s position. His father Ron Paul supports the Iran deal (I debated Ron Paul on the Iran deal on Newsmax TV’s Hard Line with Ed Berliner on July 14). Senator Paul seems to share some of his father’s isolationist and non-interventionist views which probably made it difficult for him to vote against the Iran deal. Paul said it would be absurd to tear up the Iran agreement immediately without knowing if Iran had complied, comments that indicate he does not understand how bad this agreement is.
I expected better from Jeb Bush and John Kasich since they don’t have Paul’s isolationist and non-interventionist baggage.
Bush said “It’s not a strategy to tear up an agreement” and stressed the U.S. instead needs a strategy to confront Iran and provide more weapons to Israel. These comments tracked with Bush’s earlier statements that he would need to check with America’s allies before abrogating the nuclear agreement.
Sorry, Governor Bush. Tearing up the Iran deal on the first day of the next president’s term of office would be a strategy and an act of leadership since it would repudiate a dangerous and illegitimate agreement with an American enemy that was imposed on our country by President Obama with zero support from congressional Republicans.
Kasich made comments similar to Bush, saying that Senator Cruz’s pledge to tear up the Iran agreement was “playing to the crowd” and that America needed to act with its allies on Iran. While Kasich said he would rip up the deal if Iran was caught cheating and would “slap the sanctions back on,” most of his comments sounded like they were drawn from White House talking points on the Iran deal.
Cruz ripped Kasich for these remarks, noting that the U.S. will not know if and when Iran cheats. Cruz added “And most astonishingly, this agreement trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves. That makes no sense whatsoever.”
Rubio, Walker and Huckabee also had strong rejoinders to Bush and Kasich’s positions on the Iran nuclear deal. I especially liked Huckabee’s comment that “Iranians treat it [the Iran deal] like it’s toilet paper, and we must simply make it very clear that the next president, one of us on this stage, will absolutely not honor that agreement, and will destroy it and will be tough with Iran, because otherwise, we put every person in this world in a very dangerous place.”
Bush and Kasich’s remarks on the Iran deal were extremely disappointing and suggest they are more interested in appealing to the mainstream media and the foreign policy establishment rather than Republican voters. Their comments also indicated they do not understand how dangerous the Iran nuclear agreement is and raise questions about who is advising them on foreign policy. This is especially puzzling concerning Bush who has such a large foreign policy team that his campaign is turning people away. Is Bush being advised by Republicans who worked for his father and brother but went wobbly on the Iran deal like Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft?
The Iran deal is a fundamental issue for many Republican voters. Only 21% of Americans support this agreement that will shorten the timeline to an Iranian nuclear bomb, has weak verification provisions, allow Iranians to collect samples on nuclear weapons-related work, and lifts sanctions on Iranian terrorists.
There’s a reason Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson are doing so well in the race for the Republican presidential nomination: Republicans are angry with the Obama administration and Washington insiders. They want real change. I predict that if Bush and Kasich (I discount Paul as a real contender) insist on siding with Democrats, Washington insiders and the foreign policy establishment on crucial national security issues like the nuclear deal with Iran, they will not win the Republican presidential nomination.
Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs for the Center for Security Policy. He followed the Iranian nuclear issue for the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee during his 25-year government career. Follow him on Twitter @fredfleitz