US congressional leaders mixed on Trump withdrawal of Iran deal
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US congressional leaders mixed on Trump withdrawal of Iran deal

Even some who opposed deal, like Chuck Schumer, now worry Trump officials ‘don’t have a real plan here’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, center, on Capitol Hill, May 8, 2018 in Washington. McConnell is accompanied by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, left, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, center, on Capitol Hill, May 8, 2018 in Washington. McConnell is accompanied by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, left, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders are split, but not neatly along party lines, over US President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Some welcomed the pullout, believing the 2015 accord was unsound, but others worried the US was now in the position of reneging on an international commitment and without a backup plan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican of Kentucky, said that the Iran deal “was flawed from the beginning” and that he looks forward to working with the president on the next steps.

“My own view is it’s a flawed deal and we can do better,” he said. “Clearly there’s a next step beyond this and we’ll look forward to seeing what he recommends.”

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat of New York, who opposed the deal negotiated by president Barack Obama’s administration and world powers in 2015, said the Trump White House appears to have a slogan but no plan.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, left, pauses while speaking during a media availability after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, May 8, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“This is a little like replace and repeal — they had these words, they used them in the campaign, and they don’t have a real plan here,” Schumer said, referring to the failed GOP effort to undo the Affordable Care Act.

The administration — and even Trump himself — briefed leaders ahead of Tuesday’s announcement. One top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke with European leaders and said he looks forward to negotiating better terms of the deal.

“It is disappointing that the administration was unable to reach an agreement with our allies,” Corker said. “However, based on conversations I have had in recent days, it is my sense that the administration will move quickly to work toward a better deal.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 16, 2017. (ZACH GIBSON/AFP)

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, said Trump “is risking US national security, recklessly upending foundational partnerships with key US allies in Europe and gambling with Israel’s security.”

Menendez is among a handful of Democrats who opposed the agreement in 2015. But he said Tuesday that “it is a grave mistake to walk away … without a plan for ensuring that Iran does not restart its nuclear weapon program, without a strategy for countering Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear activities, and without our allies and partners.”

The deal put the brakes on Iran’s nuclear weapons program for the next decade in exchange for lifting economically devastating sanctions. Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions is expected to provoke a response from Iran that some hope will open negotiations to a better deal. Others, though, say the outcome is uncertain.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, said he hopes during the sanctions implementation period — 90 days for some, 180 days for others — the US will “work with our allies to achieve consensus on addressing a range of destabilizing Iranian behavior_both nuclear and non-nuclear.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, called the withdrawal “a mistake of historic proportions.”

Trump’s action “isolates the United States from the world at a time when we need our allies to come together to address nuclear threats elsewhere, particularly in Korea,” said Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

It’s a view shared by some Republicans who opposed the deal.

Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake says allowing Iran to skirt the restrictions imposed on its nuclear program “would be foolhardy.” Pulling out of the accord is a mistake, he said, and sends a poor message to US allies.

“We’re having enough problems around the world in terms of our reliability,” Flake said. “If you’re our allies, you’ve got to be scratching your head, whether it’s a trade deal or security arrangements. Is America reliable anymore?”

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