Dick Cheney Denounces Nuclear Deal With Iran as ‘Madness’ – Peter Baker/The New York Times
OCCUPIED WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday rallied Republican opposition to President Obama’s agreement with Iran, denouncing it as a “shameful deal” that would risk a new Holocaust and possibly lead to the first nuclear attack since Nagasaki.
In a full-throated speech to supporters at the American Enterprise Institute here, Mr. Cheney argued that Mr. Obama and his team had abandoned their own criteria for a meaningful agreement and acquiesced to “an intricately crafted capitulation” that makes “concession after concession after concession” that will empower the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism.
“They have presented us with a deal that strengthens our adversaries, threatens out allies and puts our own security at risk,” he told the audience. “And they have placed on the table for congressional review a deal that provides weapons and funds to a regime that has pledged to destroy Israel and maintains death to America as a pillar of its policies.”
He added that the deal was “not an act of peace,” as Mr. Obama asserts. “It is madness.”
Mr. Cheney’s speech came amid a flurry of news media appearances promoting a new book, “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America,” that he wrote with his daughter, Liz Cheney, who was a principal deputy assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush.
Mr. Cheney added his voice to a debate that takes on fresh urgency this week as Congress returns to town to consider a resolution rejecting the Iran agreement. Mr. Obama has already secured enough Democratic votes to sustain a veto, but it remains an open question whether his supporters can block a vote in the Senate altogether through a filibuster.
The White House did not wait for Mr. Cheney’s speech to fire back on social media. It posted a two-and-a-half minute video on Twitter mocking the former vice president for his support of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 with the hashtag #WrongThenWrongNow.
The video showed Mr. Cheney making various assertions about the Iraq war that later proved unfounded or problematic and then included a clip from last week in which he said, “I was right about Iraq.”
Outside the Washington headquarters of the institute, a handful of protesters held signs like “Arrest Dick Cheney for War Crimes.” And inside the hall where he spoke, a protester interrupted by shouting: “Why should we be listening to him? He was wrong in Iraq. He’s wrong in Iran.”
Some in the audience shouted back, “Get out.” One person exclaimed, “Damn liberals.” As security guards escorted out the protester, she cried, “Try diplomacy, not war.”
Mr. Cheney, long accustomed to such disruptions, reacted calmly. “Thank you very much,” he said, before returning to his speech.
Among those in the audience were Ms. Cheney, Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who has led opposition to the agreement, and former colleagues from the George W. Bush administration, including Paul D. Wolfowitz and Eric S. Edelman.
Mr. Cheney’s address encapsulated the case against the Iran agreement, which lifts sanctions in exchange for limits on Tehran’s nuclear program, ends a ban on conventional weapons sales after five years and ends a ban on ballistic missile activity after eight years.
He pointed out that the agreement did not, as the United States long insisted, require the end of all uranium enrichment by Iran, instead allowing it to keep some of its centrifuges. Likewise, he noted, the agreement did not require the disclosure of past nuclear activities or guarantee anytime-anywhere access for inspectors. The money Iran would gain from the end of sanctions could be used to finance terrorists across the Middle East, Mr. Cheney added.
“It’s the same weak, acquiescent and ultimately dangerous mind-set that led us so far down the road toward a deal so completely tailored to the needs of the Iranians,” he said.
Mr. Cheney made some particularly provocative assertions about the dangers to Israel and the United States. “With the removal of restrictions in Iran’s ballistic missile program, this agreement will give Iran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland,” he said.
He also took a jab at Secretary of State John Kerry by quoting him saying in the spring that any deal would have to include Iranian disclosure of past nuclear activity, then when the final agreement was announced saying it did not matter because the United States already has full knowledge of Tehran’s activities.
“You could say he was for it before he was against it,” Mr. Cheney said, alluding to a gaffe that hurt Mr. Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
The Obama administration has acknowledged that it made concessions in some areas, but has said they were worthwhile to seal an agreement that the administration contends will block any pathway toward a nuclear bomb for Iran for at least a decade. The inspection system, while not anytime-anywhere, will be the most robust ever imposed on another country, administration officials maintain.
Under the terms of the agreement, they have said, Iran would not be able to enrich enough uranium at levels that could produce enough fuel for a bomb in any time shorter than a year. And they say that the only real alternative at this point would be military action.
Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who has struggled over the issue, on Tuesday became the fourth Senate Democrat to announce that he would vote against the Iran deal. But Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon all announced they would vote for it, bringing the total of Senate Democratic supporters to 41.
That surpasses the 34 Mr. Obama needs to sustain a veto in the Senate. The debate and first votes could come this week.