US Vice President Mike Pence vowed the US would withdraw from the nuclear deal forged between Iran and six world powers in the coming months unless lawmakers move to fix the agreement, and called US President Donald Trump the most pro-Israel president the country has ever had.
Speaking to the annual policy conference of pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Pence also hailed the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said a peace proposal being crafted by the administration would not compromise on Israel’s security, in a speech heavily borrowed from an address he gave to the Knesset in January.
Speaking after US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who received a raucous reception, a more toned down Pence said Trump had signed waivers extending sanctions relief to Iran to give negotiators a chance to fix the nuclear deal, but would not do so again.
“Make no mistake about it, this is their last chance. Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed in the coming months, the United States of America will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately,” Pence told a packed convention hall in Washington, DC.
“The United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
The nuclear deal, reached in 2015 between Iran on one side and the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany on the other, rolled back Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relief from punishing sanctions.
Trump has called the deal “disastrous” and vowed to pull out of it if it is not renegotiated, positions echoed by Pence in his speech.
Pence referred to oft-criticized “sunset” clauses in the deal that run out in several years, saying that, as a consequence, the accord “merely delayed the day” when Iran can obtain a nuclear weapon.
He also accused Iran of spending $4 billion last year alone to fund terrorist groups, including on Israel’s borders, and said the shooting down of an Iranian drone that infiltrated Israeli airspace last month had sent a message to the region: “Dangerous provocations will not go unchecked by Israel, America, or our allies,” he said.
Pence, a strident anti-abortion legislator, began his speech with a telling slip of the tongue, calling Trump “the most pro-life … pro-Israel president.” The gaffe drew laughs from the crowd.
While he emphatically called Jerusalem the capital of Israel, he said the administration was not taking sides on any final status issues, as Palestinians have charged.
“This decision is in the best of interest of peace,” he said.
He also nodded to the prospects of administration support for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, should both sides agree to it, but said Israel’s security was not up for negotiation.
“While any agreement will require compromise, the US will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel,” he said.
“We know peace is possible,” he added, pointing to agreements signed with Egypt and Jordan.
The vice president finished his speech by mentioning the 6 million Holocaust “martyrs … who walked through the valley of the shadow of death, rose up to reclaim a Jewish future and build a Jewish state.”
A tweet with a similar line, but also using the word “resurrect,” sent out after visiting Yad Vashem in January, had drawn criticism for carrying Christian overtones.
It’s from *Pence’s* religious perspective that my murdered family members might be resurrected. But they—and I—forcefully reject that cosmology. We don’t believe what he believes. Believe what you want, man, but I’d appreciate it if you could leave 6 million dead Jews out of it.
— Ari Kohen (@kohenari) January 28, 2018