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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) Reacts To Iran Sanctions Being Lifted


Many have welcomed the landmark nuclear deal which, as the president said this morning, means economic sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program are now over. But the announcement has also drawn notable critics, including Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Donald Trump and many other Republican contenders for president. Joining us now is Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson who has also been critical of the deal. He is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Senator Johnson, thanks so much for being with us.

RON JOHNSON: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: We heard President Obama say this morning that this deal and the implementation of it will make the world safer. You don't agree. Why?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I think it's widely acknowledged that Iran is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world. They are our self-proclaimed enemy. They are engaged in destabilization of other nations in the Middle East. So just very simply, why in the world would you want to enter into agreement that would inject tens and now hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy and military of your self-proclaimed enemy, the largest state-sponsor of terror? It just makes no sense whatsoever. And then, you know, combine that with the fact now we're hearing that the administration is now putting additional sanctions on the Iranians. That makes no sense. You lift some sanctions, inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy, military of your enemy, and now you impose new sanctions? I mean, this is folly. This makes no sense. I think the Iranians are just - believe - you know, it's just unbelievable to me.

MARTIN: As I understand it, the rationale though, administration officials would say that each issue had to be handled separately and that in order to navigate some kind of nuclear deal, this is the path that they had to pursue. And if you think that wasn't the path forward, what would have been the alternative?

JOHNSON: We should have increased the sanctions. We should've tried to weaken our enemy, the largest state-sponsor of terror, as opposed to sanction them. You cannot separate these issues. Iran is Iran. It has a regime that is destabilized in the region, that is spreading terror. And, you know, why in the world would you try and strengthen them? So you can't separate these issues. And by the way, this agreement is not verifiable. We don't - we do not understand really what their past military dimensions are. This is not going to be transparent. And what you've seen since the deal, it's just emboldened the mullahs. They sent General Soleimani into Russia. They've test-fired ballistic missiles. They lobbed some rockets 1,500 feet from the USS Truman. They detained and humiliated American sailors. And then they threw us one olive branch. You know, they set all these fires. They sent us one olive branch, and then we're supposed to believe that they changed their behavior to the positive? If they've changed their behavior, it's become much worse.

MARTIN: So you don't trust that the IAEA has indeed verified that Iran has upheld its side of the obligations that were codified in the nuclear agreement?

JOHNSON: No, I think in hearings, as well as briefings, to give some assurance - how can we verify that they only have 10,000 kilograms of enriched uranium. I can't get an answer to that. Yeah, I know they've shipped 10,000 kilograms out. I don't know where they've possibly stored other enriched uranium. I just do not - we do not have any-time-anywhere inspections. We can't verify this.

MARTIN: Republican Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts this morning with us.

JOHNSON: Have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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