Two senior Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have released statements saying President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is a mistake.
Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), on the eve of a marathon debate on the fiscal year 2019 defense authorization bill, said he has no doubt the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is flawed and that Iran has been deceptive about its nuclear program.
Still, "my preference would have been to give our European allies a few more months to strengthen the deal," he said.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), who chairs the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee and also sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said it is wrong for the United States to withdraw from the deal without proof that Iran has violated it.
"The Iran Deal is a deeply flawed agreement," he said. "As I have previously said, this deal has an insufficient inspection regime, insufficiently addresses long range ICBM missile development, and is limited to 10 years, giving the appearance of permission to develop nuclear weapons in the future. However, without proof that Iran is in violation of the agreement, it is a mistake to fully withdraw from this deal. Now, we need to work with our allies to fix this flawed agreement to ensure the world is not facing a nuclear Iran."
John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, told reporters one of the reasons the deal is so flawed is because it includes inspection limits that make it impossible to say for certain whether the Iranians are adhering to it.
"We're simply incapable of saying whether they’re in compliance or not," he said.
But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis provided a different appraisal of the deal when he spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 26.
"I've read it now three times . . . and I will say that it is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat," he said. "So the verification, what is in there, is actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability."
Mattis, however, added: "Whether or not that is sufficient, that is a valid question."
Despite reactions from Thornberry and Turner, Trump's decision was praised by many Republicans.
"President Trump has done the right thing by pulling out of the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reinstating sanctions on Iran," said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"It was a bad deal from the beginning that only paused Iran's nuclear development and did nothing to address their malign behavior in the region or their ballistic missile capabilities," he added.
Democrats, as expected, castigated Trump's exit from the deal, which has been held up as one of former President Obama's signature foreign policy achievements.
"This decision will make us less safe by allowing Iran to quickly acquire a nuclear weapon, separating us from our allies, and fueling instability in the region," said Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. "The JCPOA has so far been successful in preventing Iran from advancing toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons. It did not cover issues such as ballistic missiles or Iranian support for terrorism, but President Trump has offered no alternative that would do a better job at securing America's vital security interest in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran while avoiding the possibility of an unnecessary and potentially catastrophic clash. Without question, this decision runs the risk of far greater conflict and in the short term, at a minimum, far greater destabilization of the Middle East."
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Trump is ignoring the advice of his top generals and military leaders by withdrawing from the deal.
"It is irresponsible for President Trump to abandon this international agreement and needlessly isolate the United States in the absence of an Iranian violation and without presenting a credible alternative to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," he said.
Going forward, Thornberry said the United States must have two critical priorities.
"One is to further enhance our own military capabilities," he said. "The other is to strengthen our alliances. A strong, international effort is required to curtail Iran’s aggressive behavior in a number of areas."