Visiting Israel, former US vice president Mike Pence — touted as a potential future presidential contender — said Tuesday that a Republican-led America will once again pull out of any future Iran nuclear deal.
“I believe that the Republican Party will win control of the House and Senate in 2022 and I believe we’ll win back America and the White House in 2024,” Pence said in comments to the Israel Hayom newspaper.
“Anyone at the negotiating table should understand that come 2025, I believe we will have a Republican president, a Republican administration,” he continued. “And if the JCPOA [Iran deal] finds a way to be resurrected, we will be a part and a voice of a chorus of Americans with that new administration coming into office to end the JCPOA just as quickly as we ended it under the Trump-Pence administration.”
The original 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was forged under former US president Barack Obama. In 2018, Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, triggering Tehran to ramp up its nuclear activities.
US President Joe Biden pledged to rejoin the deal, and diplomats have been working for months in Vienna to reach an agreement, with many stating over the past week that the talks were just days away from completion. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has complicated efforts, as world leaders have heavily criticized Moscow, which nevertheless remains one of the key partners in the negotiations.
Iran has reportedly sought assurances from Washington that the US would not pull out of a resurrected accord as it did in 2018.
Pence told Israel Hayom that the Trump administration did not just exit the 2015 deal, “we isolated Iran like never before, we challenged their malign activities. We not only took down ISIS [the Islamic State] and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but it was our administration that took down Qassem Soleimani.”
Critics have asserted that the US exit from the deal had brought Iran closer to a nuclear bomb than it ever had been before.
In comments to Fox News from Jerusalem on Tuesday, Pence said it was “incomprehensible” to him to see the Biden administration “set the table to be buying oil from Iran while we’re cutting off oil and gas exploration in the United States.”
“When our administration tore up the [Iran nuclear] deal, it’s because we recognized that not only did it not prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it guaranteed that they would be able to obtain a nuclear weapon in 10 years,” Pence claimed on Fox. The vice president said that during his meetings in Jerusalem, he heard “concern” that Iran would be strengthened to “foment violence” in the region.
Pence, who served under former US president Donald Trump in 2017-2021, landed in Israel to receive an honorary doctorate from Ariel University in the West Bank in a ceremony slated for Wednesday.
On Tuesday, he met in Jerusalem with both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog.
Pence and Bennett “discussed the nuclear agreement and its implications, as well as the situation in Ukraine,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Pence tweeted that he spoke with Bennett about both Ukraine “and the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal and the implications it would have on Israel.”
In earlier comments to Israel Hayom, Pence criticized the White House’s current efforts to revive the Iran deal.
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) March 8, 2022
“As the travesty unfolds on the landscape of Ukraine, it is just unconscionable that the American administration is at the same time negotiating at the side of the Russians to restart the Iran nuclear deal,” he said. “To literally be working with the Russians to achieve some — once again, deeply flawed and dangerous — agreement with the ayatollahs in Iran is just utterly unacceptable.”
The former vice president has long been considered a potential candidate for a presidential run in 2024, and some analysts see his visit to Israel this week as an effort to position himself as a serious contender and appeal to the mainstream Republican base.
In recent weeks, Pence has been increasingly willing to challenge Trump — a dramatic departure from his deferential posture as vice president.
Over the weekend he declared that there is no room in the Republican party “for apologists for Putin,” and also appeared to push back at Trump’s repeated, debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen. “We can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values,” said Pence. “We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past.”
If Pence throws his hat in the ring for 2024, he could potentially face off against his former boss, as Trump has hinted that he will run again in two years following his 2020 defeat to Biden.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.