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Senate Republicans Plan Iran Nuclear Deal Strategy

  • Steve Redisch

FILE - Senator Lindsey Graham sits before a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 25, 2017.

Senate Republicans plan to introduce legislation that would add new conditions to the legislation that gives them review authority over the Iran nuclear deal, a longtime lawmaker says.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, told VOA the current Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is "a lousy deal" and explained President Donald Trump refused to re-certify it because "the benefits to Iran are [not] worth what we’re getting."

In an interview with VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren, Graham said he will work with Armed Services Committee member Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, both fellow Republicans, to craft legislation regarding Iran.

WATCH: Graham: Senate Republicans Plan Iran Nuclear Deal Strategy

He said the legislation would re-impose sanctions if Iran continues to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution, if Iran denies International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to nuclear sites they want to visit, or if Iran continues to be "the largest state sponsor of terrorism."

President Trump refused to recertify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA on Oct. 13, saying, "since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the regime’s dangerous aggression has only escalated."

Back to Congress

Trump’s action kicked the issue back to Congress under provisions of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, giving Congress the power to quickly re-impose economic sanctions if the president says Iran is not in compliance.

In early October, 180 congressional Democrats signed a letter to Trump, urging him to re-certify Iran’s compliance.

Led by Congressmen Ted Deutch of Florida and David Price of North Carolina, they argue that withholding certification "would harm our alliances, embolden Iran and threaten U.S. national security."

Graham told VOA he would seek bipartisan support for "a better deal for the world," but if Democrats do not provide enough votes for new legislation, he said he would seek to re-impose sanctions under the current INARA legislation.

"We need 60 votes [to avoid a filibuster], and to my Democratic friends, I’m willing to get a better deal. I’m not willing to accept the status quo," Graham said.

He noted economic sanctions worked to get Iran willing to deal, and hopes to "rally the world" around re-imposition of sanctions if Iran does not "behave better."

Iraq and Kurds

Graham suggested the Trump administration needs a "more cohesive policy" regarding tensions between Iraq and the Kurdish autonomous region after Iraqi troops reclaimed the city of Kirkuk and Kurdish separatists withdrew from contested oil fields.

The U.S. has backed both Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi government forces in an effort to remove Islamic State from the region.

Regarding North Korea, Graham said Trump has to convince China that he does not want a war, "but if there’s going to be a war, it’s going to be over there, not in America."

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