Senator: 'Breathtaking' how far the US has moved in Iran talks

Greg Nash

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is sounding the alarm about the nuclear talks with Iran, warning the United States has made "breathtaking" concessions that risk creating a "bad deal."

In a letter sent Monday, Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerGlobal climate pact may bump into Senate roadblock GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Trump appoints fundraiser to national security advisory council MORE (R-Tenn.) warned President Obama he must be willing to walk away from the negotiating table.

"It is breathtaking to see how far from your original goals and statements the P5+1 have come during negotiations with Iran,” Corker (R-Tenn.) said in the letter, referring to a group that includes the U.S., the United Kingdom, China, France, and Russia plus Germany.

Corker said negotiators “have moved” from a trying to strike a 20-year agreement, to a 10-year one and seem ready to let Tehran continue to develop its ballistic missile effort and maintain research and development for advanced nuclear centrifuges.

“I understand the dynamics that can develop when a group believes they are close to a deal and how your aides may view this as a major legacy accomplishment. However, as you know, the stakes here are incredibly high and the security implications of these negotiations are difficult to overstate,” Corker warned.

He asked Obama to “please pause and consider rethinking the entire approach. Walking away from a bad deal at this point would take courage, but it would be the best thing for the United States, the region and the world.”

Iran and the six world powers hope to strike a deal by June 30 that would curtail Tehran’s nuclear effort in exchange for sanctions relief. 

The talks have come under withering criticism from GOP lawmakers and U.S. allies like Israel who believe a “bad deal” would empower the Iranian regime. 

In his letter, Corker said he was “alarmed” by reports that the U.S. “may be considering allowing the deal to erode further,” including over how much access the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog should have to Iranian nuclear sites.

“Regarding inspections, surely your administration and those involved in the negotiations will adhere to an ‘anytime, anywhere’ standard. No bureaucratic committees. No moving the ball. No sites off limits,” Corker said.

He also expressed concern envoys might not push to have Tehran disclose its past nuclear activities, including those associated with the military.

“By not requiring Iran to explicitly disclose their previous weaponization efforts on the front end of any final agreement, we will likely never know, in a timely fashion, the full extent of Iranian capabilities,” according to Corker.

Last month, the president signed into law a bill that gives Congress 30 days to disapprove any final deal, during which he could not lift congressional sanctions on Iran.

If Congress votes to reject the deal, the administration would have 12 days to veto the resolution of disapproval. Congress would then have 10 extra days to try to override the veto.

— This story was updated at 12:30 p.m.