Pull out of Iran deal? Sullivan says no

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, in his Washington, D.C. office. Photo: Liz Ruskin

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was harshly critical of the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015. He said then lifting sanctions would fuel the economy of a country that sponsors terrorism.

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“Billions are likely to be used to pump up the terror machine around the world and target American citizens,” Sullivan said on the Senate floor in 2015.

Now, President Trump has mandated that Congress decide what to do with the agreement. Sullivan still doesn’t like the arrangement. He said it’s too lenient on Iran. But¬†Sullivan said the U.S. should not back out of the deal.

“I think a better way to deal with it right now is to vigorously enforce it,” Sullivan said Friday in a phone interview.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other top security officials say Iran is in technical compliance. Sullivan said Iran has violated the letter and spirit of the deal, similar to what President Trump said in a speech Friday. Sullivan said the U.S. should give Iran time to change its ways.

“And then we should undertake what President Obama and Secretary Kerry said we would do, which is apply snap-back sanctions,” Sullivan said.

In 2015, though, Sullivan mocked that as an unworkable solution when the Obama administration proposed it.

“I know what we’ve heard from the administration,” Sullivan said in 2015. “‘Don’t worry. If there’s a violation of this agreement these sanctions will just snap back into place. They’ll snap back. No problem. Piece of cake.'”

At that time, Sullivan said it can take years to impose sanctions and get companies and other nations to divest.

One reason Sullivan gives for staying with the agreement now is to retain America’s leadership position with allies who also signed the deal. He said several European countries are more interested in doing business in Iran than they are in containment.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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