SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns in Congress applauded President Donald Trump's decision Tuesday to pull out from the nuclear deal with Iran and reinstate sanctions on the Middle East nation.
And members of the state's all-Republican delegation say the U.S. and it allies now need to work on a better agreement that prevents Iran from ever developing nuclear arms.
"The Iran deal is deeply problematic in substance and design, and for too long, it has been a substitute for any broader U.S. thinking on the region," Sen. Orrin Hatch said in a statement. "With our withdrawal from the deal, we can now focus on working together, across the aisle and across the Atlantic, to counter Iran's malign activities, from its nuclear weapons program to its human rights abuses."
Trump announced from the White House that the U.S is withdrawing from the accord President Barack Obama signed in July 2015, calling it "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into."
Obama said then that he was confident the agreement would meet the national security interests of the U.S. and its allies, and threatened to veto any legislation that would block the deal.
The agreement aimed to limit Iran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions, while allowing it to continue its atomic program for peaceful purposes. It was not built on trust but on verification, Obama said at the time.
Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the agreement "incredibly dangerous" in 2015.
"The foundation of it was built on deception. It never allowed us for true verification, and that's just a fact. It never allowed for the authentic verification that was necessary," he said Tuesday on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
Stewart said the U.S. will have to work through some short-term challenges with its allies, but in the long term pulling out of deal would benefit both. Those countries have known for the past two years that the foundation of the agreement was tenuous, he said.
The best evidence of that is that Obama didn't submit the agreement to the Senate because he knew it wouldn't be ratified, Stewart said.
"It was never a ratified treaty. It was only an agreement that only the previous administration had been a party to," he said.
Sen. Mike Lee said it's "unfortunate" that the previous administration rushed to produce an agreement with Iran that it knew could not withstand Senate scrutiny.
"I hope that the current administration will be able to negotiate a better deal and that when it does it will submit the resulting treaty to the Senate for ratification as required by the Constitution," he said in a statement.
Rep. John Curtis just returned from a trip to the Middle East and Europe where he talked about Trump's anticipated move with leaders in those countries. Some favored withdrawal from the agreement and some did not, but all of them wanted a better deal, he said.
"This won't surprise you, the president didn't call and ask me if he should withdraw, so I'm looking it at more from what do we need to accomplish," he said in an interview. "For me, the bottom line is Iran cannot have nuclear weapons."
Curtis, a House Foreign Affairs Committee member, said the current deal has "major" weaknesses — including inadequate inspections, lack of assurance that Iran would not further develop ballistic missiles capabilities and an expiration date — that could lay a path to eventually make nuclear weapons.
Leaders in Spain, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia all said those three points in the agreement need to be addressed, he said.
"I had the crown prince of UAE look me in the eye and say, 'If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it's going start the largest escalation of nuclear warfare in the world,'" Curtis said.
Rep. Mia Love said the agreement was flawed from the beginning, freeing up billions of dollars to the "leading state-sponsor of terror, which in turn spread chaos throughout the Middle East instead of using these funds for the benefit of the Iranian people who have suffered under their oppressive regime."
The deal, she said, failed to meet several bipartisan majority objectives and merely provided guidelines for Iran to ramp up its nuclear program down the road.
"We must focus on crafting a plan that truly forecloses Iran's pathway to a nuclear weapon. We must ensure our decisions don't enable and embolden Iran to sow and sponsor terror throughout the world," she said in a statement.
Rep. Rob Bishop said stopping Iran's nuclear program makes the world a safer place.
"While we are now withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, we can still move forward with our European allies and apply additional pressure against the regime," he said in a statement.
Stewart said the White House should immediately reach out to U.S. allies and Iran to continue negotiations.
"I don't think the president intends to just walk away and turn his back on every one of these parties and just say, 'Well, you guys fix it.' I don't think that's his intention at all. I believe he will engage. I hope he engages," Stewart said.