Leading GOP senator: Let next president negotiate Iran deal
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Leading GOP senator: Let next president negotiate Iran deal

Potential presidential candidate Lindsey Graham says Obama not respected or feared, and cannot reach a better nuclear arrangemnt

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the Council On Foreign Relations on March 23, 2015 in New York City (photo credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images/AFP)
US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the Council On Foreign Relations on March 23, 2015 in New York City (photo credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images/AFP)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Sunday that the next US president should negotiate a final nuclear deal with Iran, since the Iranians don’t fear or respect current President Barack Obama.

Speaking to CBS’s Face the Nation, the prospective 2016 GOP presidential candidate said, “Is there a better deal to be had? I think so. What I would suggest is if you can’t get there with this deal is to keep the interim deal in place, allow a new president in 2017, Democrat or Republican, to take a crack at the Iranian nuclear program.”

“The best deal I think comes with a new president. Hillary Clinton would do better. I think everybody on our side except maybe Rand Paul could do better.”

Paul is a possible rival of Graham’s for the GOP nomination.

“Is Barack Obama the best person to deal with the Iranians given his miserable foreign policy failure?,” Graham asked. “Does anybody really believe the Iranians will take the billions of dollars that we’re about to give them and build hospitals and schools? I believe there’s a better deal. I don’t want a war, but at the end of the day I don’t want to give Iran the tools and the capability to continue to destroy the Mideast and one day destroy us by building bigger missiles and until they say they will not destroy the state of Israel, until they stop their provocative behavior, I think we’d be nuts to give them more money and more capability.”

Graham said a better accord would require Iran to change its behavior in the Middle East, stop with threats against the US and Israel, “then when they change their behavior, allow the new president without the baggage of Barack Obama see if they can negotiate a good deal.”

Meanwhile,  Graham’s colleague Republican Senator Bob Corker (Tennessee) said he was moving ahead with a bill that would give Congress mandatory review of a nuclear deal with Iran, reiterating his stance that the legislative body should play a “rightful role” in any agreement to curb Tehran’s atomic program.

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the coauthor, together with Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which would require any final agreement with Iran to be submitted to Congress for a 60-day review period before congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran could be waived or suspended by the president.

Although the bipartisan bill has major Congressional support, President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any bill deemed threatening to nuclear negotiations. Congress could override the president’s veto, however they would need a 2/3 majority to do so.

The bill is due to be voted on on April 14, when Congress returns from recess.

Corker told Fox News Sunday that the bill was several votes shy of veto-proof passage.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ (left), talks with ranking member Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn. (right), on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 29, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Susan Walsh, File)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ (left), talks with ranking member Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn. (right), on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 29, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Susan Walsh, File)

He also commented on the political framework agreement reached in Switzerland Thursday with Iran, saying: “There’s a lot of water that needs to go under the bridge here. Many, many details are unknown at this point.”

In the interview, Corker suggested the lifting of sanctions was just one of many “red flags” in the framework agreement

“Everyone would say that congressionally mandated sanctions are what helped, in a strong way, get Iran to the table. Certainly, we should approve this deal and we should approve what we see prior to those [sanctions] being lifted,” Corker said.

The senator added that he wanted full disclosure over the inspection process in place for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN organization tasked with watching over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Speaking with CNN on Sunday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA), the leading Democrat in the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, said she would not support the Corker bill in its current form, insisting on maintaining patience throughout the negotiation process.

“My understanding is, there may be changes. So I want to be cautious and wait and see what actually comes out of that committee onto the floor before I really cast my vote,” Feinstein said.

Congress was on recess when news of the Iran deal broke Thursday afternoon, but even back home in distant districts, legislators who opposed the deal promised to take swift action when they return to Washington later this month.

Justin Jalil, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, and AP contributed to this report

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