The backlash from likely Republican presidential contenders to the potential nuclear deal with Iran trumpeted Thursday by President Barack Obama came swift and hard. A more optimistic response came from likely 2016 Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the deal – aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear capabilities – “will only legitimize those activities.”
“Nothing in the deal described by the administration this afternoon would justify lifting U.S. and international sanctions, which were the product of many years of bipartisan effort,” Bush said. “I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement.”
Clinton, meanwhile, held up the tentative agreement as an “important step” in preventing a nuclear Iran.
“Getting the rest of the way to a final deal by June won’t be easy, but it is absolutely crucial. I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation,” Clinton said in a statement. “The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high. It can never be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
But the former secretary of state allowed leeway for herself in case things go awry in the coming months, stating, “There is much to do and much more to say in the months ahead, but for now diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.”
The rest of the Republican field, however, coalesced around rejecting the deal.
Making his first trek to Iowa as an announced presidential candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz contended the President must bring Congress into the process.
“The very first step for any deal, good or bad, should be submitting it to Congress, and the President making the case both to Congress and to the American people why this advances the national security interests of the United States,” Cruz told reporters after a town hall in Cedar Rapids. “Now everything President Obama has said up to this date has suggested that he is going to do everything he can to circumvent Congress.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the early details of the agreement as “very troubling” and said “this attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran.”
Obama pushed to quiet skeptics of the framework during his remarks in the White House Rose Garden Thursday, asking, “Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”
“Is it worse than doing what we’ve done for almost two decades, with Iran moving forward with its nuclear program and without robust inspections? I think the answer will be clear,” he said.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said the matter was not as clear-cut as Obama outlined.
“The impacts of a bad deal with Iran are unimaginable to our own national security, the region as a whole, and our allies,” Graham said in a statement. “We simply cannot take President Obama’s word that it is this or war.”
For his part, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry weighed in on Twitter, saying that “Americans and our allies are right to be wary of a nuclear deal [with] Iran that is riddled with concessions by the Obama Administration.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s political group, Our American Revival, posted a note criticizing the deal as well.
“By leaving Iran as a nuclear threshold state, President Obama’s deal with the Supreme Leader risks provoking a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world, one that threatens the survival of our closest regional ally Israel and our key Arab partners,” the post said. “History and common sense tell us that we should remain distrustful of Iran.”
CNN’s Ashley Killough, Greg Wallace and Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.