'The president is creating a new global nuclear crisis': Lawmakers concerned about Trump's withdrawal from Iran deal

  • President Trump announced the decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, causing a stir among lawmakers who believe it damages credibility with European partners.

  • Vice President Mike Pence met with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, where they discussed potential scenarios in the future.

WASHINGTON — There is a growing concern that President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, will sour the relationships with crucial allies and tarnish American credibility.

Before Trump's announcement on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence briefed senators on potential scenarios following a withdrawal of the deal, according to individuals in the room. That was supplemented by other discussions with congressional leaders.

Sen. Bob Corker told reporters that Trump informed him of his decision Monday evening. But he said it had all been pretty much a done deal for a couple weeks, even as foreign leaders and officials made their way to Washington to persuade the White House against a hasty withdrawal.

"Appeal time was probably two weeks ago," Corker said.

The decision, while unsurprising to lawmakers, irked them on its potential ramifications.

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"My preference would have been to give our European allies a few more months to strengthen the deal, but now that the President has decided that the United States will withdraw, we must have two critical priorities," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman and Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry in a statement. "One is to further enhance our own military capabilities. The other is to strengthen our alliances. A strong, international effort is required to curtail Iran’s aggressive behavior in a number of areas."

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, said the withdrawal "isolates the United States from the world at a time when we need our allies to come together to address nuclear threats elsewhere, particularly North Korea.

"By violating the Iran deal, the president is creating a new global nuclear crisis while we’re trying to address another one with North Korea," Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said in a statement. "His decision to break from the deal makes our country less safe by damaging our diplomatic credibility, weakening our alliances, and reopening the door for Iran to start enriching uranium."

Republican leaders are standing by Trump

Republican leaders all praised Trump's decision, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.

"The president’s announcement today is a strong statement that we can and must do better," Ryan said.

And other Republican brass dismissed the notion that an abrupt departure from the deal undermines US relationships with allies.

"I think they knew we had a lot of issues with it to start with," said John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican. "And I think frankly there’ll be an opportunity hopefully in the wake of all this to work with out allies on some of the things everybody seems to agree with on."

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters that Trump is essentially in line with French President Emmanuel Macron on the Iran Deal.

"Macron’s three points are exactly right," Blunt said. "This deal does not prevent — in fact it virtually guarantees — that Iran would have nuclear weapons, it doesn’t stop the ballistic missile testing, and it has made them more supportive of terrorist activities, not less."

Minutes later, after Trump announced the withdrawal, Macron wrote on Twitter, "France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave the JCPOA. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.

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