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Boehner's Trip to Middle East Focuses on Iran, Islamist Threat

  • VOA News

FILE - U.S. House Speaker John Boehner speaks at a news conference in Washington March 19, 2015.

FILE - U.S. House Speaker John Boehner speaks at a news conference in Washington March 19, 2015.

U.S. House Speaker, Republican John Boehner, traveling in the Middle East this week, warned that, should Iran nuclear program negotiations fail, new sanctions would be imposed, and quickly.

Iran and the P5+1 world powers worked toward a self-imposed midnight Tuesday deadline to reach a framework for a deal aimed at ensuring that Tehran cannot develop a nuclear bomb, and removing U.N. sanctions that are crippling the country’s economy.

With hours to go until Tuesday’s deadline, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN from Lausanne, Switzerland, "There still remain some difficult issues. We are working into the night and obviously into tomorrow.... Everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow."

Boehner, speaking Sunday on CNN’s news show State of the Union, said if the talks collapse, “The sanctions are going to come, and they’re going to come quick.

"I just don't understand why we would sign an agreement with a group of people who in my opinion have no intention of keeping their word," he added.

Boehner told State of the Union he has had ”serious doubts” about the current negotiations. On Monday, he accused the White House of playing a “dangerous game of false choices,” in a statement published on his website.

“The White House has attempted to construct this false choice again and again. It would have Americans believe that anyone who questions the president wants war with Iran and hundreds of thousands of American troops on the ground in places like Iraq and Yemen,” Boehner’s statement said.

Focus on Iran, Islamist threat

Boehner and a delegation of senior Republican lawmakers are in the Middle East this week, with discussions focused on Iranian-backed violence and the growing Islamist terrorist threat in the region. His office did not reveal specific details about his itinerary, citing security concerns.

Boehner met Sunday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman. On Monday, the delegation met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Plans also include meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later this week.

Tensions between Boehner and the Obama administration have been heightened since he invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress earlier this month. He did not consult with the White House, which called the invitation a breach of protocol.

Netanyahu used his address to criticize nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 group, which includes the U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany, and Iran. He said the negotiations were a “bad deal” and virtually ensured Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon.

Obama rejected Netanyahu’s claim, saying he would “rather have no deal than a bad deal. But if we’re successful in negotiating, then in fact this will be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Netanyahu further infuriated the White House and other Western allies by saying he would not support a two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian conflict on the eve of Israeli elections. He has since backtracked on the rhetoric.

Speaking on State of the Union, Boehner discussed what he called Obama’s attacks on Netanyahu and growing bipartisan concerns with the administration’s approach in the Middle East.

“I have one goal. That goal is to make sure that the American people heard and the Congress heard about the serious threat that Iran poses not only to the Middle East but for the rest of the world including the United States,” Boehner said. “The president doesn't want to talk about it. Doesn't want to talk about the threat of radical Islam and the fact that he has no strategy to deal with it.”

In responding to Boehner’s criticism of Obama’s foreign policy, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on ABC’s This Week, "I will simply say that if John Boehner thinks that U.S. troops should be on the ground in Yemen fighting the Houthis, or that we should re-occupy Iraq, or that the United States should bomb Iran to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon, then he should have the courage of his convictions to actually say so.”

U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell also traveled to the Middle East, meeting with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv Sunday.