Sen. Cotton: Believe Iran's leader when he says, 'death to America'

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Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonFears mount that Obama will change course on Israel in final months GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea MORE (R-Ark.) on Monday stepped up his opposition to the nuclear talks with Iran, warning that the regime of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei should not be legitimized by the United States.

"The gravest threat to our national security is a nuclear-armed Iran, and this man, Ayatollah Khamenei," Cotton said from the Senate floor.

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The Arkansas Republican referred to a speech the Iranian official gave over the weekend in honor of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. The crowd chanted "death to America" as Khamenei spoke.

"What was his response to that chant? He said, 'Yes, certainly, death to America,' " Cotton said. " 'Death to America.' Remember this is the leader whom with the United States is negotiating today."

Cotton has been a vocal critic of the international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. He spearheaded an open letter, also signed by 47 Republican senators, to Iran’s leaders that suggested that any deal could be overturned after President Obama leaves office in 2017.

Obama released his own video message last week in honor of Nowruz. In that video, the president pressed Iranian officials to take “the best opportunity in decades” to bolster the U.S.-Iranian relationship by accepting a deal to roll back the country’s nuclear program.

Cotton said Obama’s remarks were “ill-advised.”

"No president should legitimize such a regime,” he said. “Evil men rarely cloak their wicked intent, and I urge my fellow senators and American to pay attention.

“When someone chants, 'Yes, certainly, death to America,' we should take him at his word, and we shouldn’t put him on the path to a nuclear bomb.”