ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As the deadline to reach a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program rapidly approaches, Sen. Tom Cotton said the threat of military action should “remain an option” to ensure a strong deal.
“It’s never the preferred choice, but military force does have to remain an option if our diplomacy is going to be credible,” Cotton, R-Ark., told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday on This Week. “All of our allies in the region wish we would take a more forceful position and keep that military option on the table because it would result in a better deal.”
The freshman senator is one of the most vocal opponents of the current state of negotiations. He cast the lone dissenting vote against a bipartisan Senate bill in May that granted a 30-day Congressional review period for any deal, saying the bill would not limit President Obama enough.
He also wrote an open letter, co-signed by 46 Republican senators, directly to Iran’s Ayatollah in March saying that the deal might not hold up under future administrations.
On This Week, Cotton also responded to a video from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif posted Friday that expressed optimism about the state of negotiations.
“That video that Javad Zarif, their foreign minister, posted over the weekend with his smug, condescending tone, shows just how far down the path we’ve gone towards Iran’s position,” Cotton said.
“Iran should have faced a simple choice. They dismantle their nuclear program entirely or they face economic devastation and military destruction of their nuclear facilities,” he said. “Because as that video shows, they think they’re negotiating from a position of strength, that they hold all the cards.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the co-sponsor of the bill giving a Congressional vote on the deal, agreed that the objective of the negotiations should be preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear state, but said he still believes that a strong agreement is possible.
“All of that information will be made available to Congress so that we can properly evaluate and decide what action, if any, would be appropriate for us to take,” Cardin said on This Week.
Cardin also outlined what he considers to be critical terms for a strong agreement, including full inspections and a historical look at Iran’s nuclear development in order to properly leverage sanctions. But Cotton said those goals were not being met by the current talks.
“If we had anytime, anywhere inspections, if there was no sanctions relief until there was long-term demonstrable performance on Iran’s part, if they fully answered all the past work they’ve done to weaponize their nuclear program, then that might be a better deal, but that’s not the deal we’re going to reach,” Cotton said.
Negotiations continued today in Vienna, where after his third meeting of the day, Secretary of State John Kerry said the outcome of the talks is not yet clear.
“We are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues,” he said. “And the truth is that while I completely agree with Foreign Minister Zarif that we have never been closer, at this point, this negotiation could go either way.”
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