Senate Democrats have enough votes to uphold the Iran nuclear deal, but that’s not stopping former Vice President Dick Cheney from delivering a diatribe against President Obama’s agreement. He argued on Tuesday that the deal will give the Middle Eastern nation the means to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.
“I know of no nation in history that has agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction will be in the hands of another nation, particularly one that is hostile,” Cheney said during a 45-minute speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. Cheney later added, “Arming and funding Iran while simultaneously providing them a pathway to nuclear arsenal is not an act of peace. It’s not, as President Obama claims, the only alternative to war. It is madness.”
Cheney was interrupted by a protester early in his speech who started shouting “You were wrong in Iraq” and “Dick Cheney is a war criminal.” The demonstrator was escorted out of the event, with Cheney simply saying “thank you very much” and returning back to his prepared remarks.
His scathing criticism, however, comes as 41 Senate Democrats announced they will back the deal — enough votes to block the Senate from passing a GOP-backed resolution to knock it down. Still, Republicans are launching a last-ditch attempt to criticize the agreement, seemingly as an exercise in political theater and to simply score points rather than trying to sway the outcome of the pending vote in Congress. Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Donald Trump, for example, are headlining a rally against the Iran deal on Wednesday in Washington. Failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is also expected to speak at the event. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is also running for the nation’s highest office, delivered remarks criticizing the deal on Tuesday afternoon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Calling the deal the “greatest miscalculation” of Obama’s presidency, Graham said no matter how Congress votes, he’ll fight to impose additional sanctions against Iran until all U.S. hostages are released. Graham said he will push to block funding for International Atomic Energy Inspections until details of any side agreements are released. “I will not let up until we change course, force Iran back to the table, and get a better deal,” said the South Carolina lawmaker.
This week, Congress will begin to debate and prepare for a vote on the accord, which was hammered out between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers. Under the deal, the Islamic Republic would curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from economic sanctions.
However, while most Republicans and a handful of Democrats are against the deal, Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ron Wyden of Oregon on Tuesday said they support the accord — giving Obama the 41 votes he needed to filibuster the Senate’s effort to disapprove of the agreement.
Just four Democratic senators have come out against the deal, including Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia on Tuesday. He joins Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Chuck Schumer of New York.
Democrats, meanwhile continue efforts to drum up support for the deal. The White House on Tuesday released a YouTube video titled “Vice President Dick Cheney: Wrong Then, Wrong Now” — to try to discredit the former veep. The video highlights previous remarks he made backing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, arguing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that U.S. troops would be greeted in the country as liberators. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who has already pledged his support, delivered remarks on the deal at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday, arguing it makes the U.S., the Israel and the rest of the world safer.
“This agreement will stand,” said Reid.
In addition, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term, plans to deliver a major speech on the agreement on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden — who is also reportedly considering a bid for the White House — met with American Jewish leaders in Florida, where he acknowledged their concerns about the administration’s deal but argued the accord is the best option for the U.S., Israel, and the rest of the world. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who was at the event with Biden and said she was still undecided, announced over the weekend that she will vote in favor of the deal. And in a boost for Democrats, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who served under George W. Bush, said on Sunday he, too, supported the agreement.
Critics, including Cheney, argue the agreement doesn’t do enough to force Iran to halt its nuclear program, that sanctions relief would allow the regime to increase its funding of anti-Israel organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and question whether the International Atomic Energy Inspections would be effective.
At one point on Tuesday, the former vice president also predicted that “by legitimizing the Iranian enrichment program for the first time ever, the deal will likely accelerate nuclear proliferation as other nations demand the same right.”