POLITICS
07/16/2015 01:00 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2015

John Boehner Says Iran Deal 'Blows My Mind'

The House speaker vows to fight a deal that's "wrong for our country."

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal "blows" House Speaker John Boehner's mind, the Ohio Republican declared Thursday, vowing to do everything he can to scuttle the historic agreement.

"Given everything I've seen so far, this is a bad deal. It paves the way for a nuclear Iran," Boehner told reporters at his weekly Capitol Hill news conference.

The agreement, announced Tuesday, sets the stage for the international community to provide sweeping sanctions relief to the Islamic Republic of Iran if the country dismantles the bulk of its nuclear infrastructure and subjects itself to an intrusive inspection regime that aims to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. 

Boehner suggested that easing sanctions will give Iran free access to other weapons and reward Iranian military leaders who have aided terrorists fighting the U.S. military.

“It blows my mind that the administration would agree to lift the arms and missile bans," said Boehner. He also criticized lifting "sanctions on a general who supplied militants with weapons to kill Americans,” referring to Qasem Soleimani, the leader of a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard called the Quds Force.

The deal will not actually offer any sanctions relief to Soleimani for at least eight years, however, and that relief is only partial. The European Union and UN imposed sanctions on Soleimani due to the belief that he posed nuclear proliferation risks, and those could eventually be lifted. The United States also sanctioned the general because of his alleged support for terrorism and human rights abuses. The U.S. sanctions will remain in place indefinitely.

Boehner also pushed back on the notion that there is no better option than the nuclear agreement agreed to on Tuesday.

"President Obama says it's this deal or war. Well, that's a false choice. The sanctions were working and bringing Iran to its knees," Boehner said.

The Speaker of the House is one of several critics of the Iran nuclear deal who insist that if the United States had walked away from the negotiations and levied additional sanctions against cash-strapped Iran, the country would have agreed to additional concessions.

The Obama administration rejects this logic, claiming that it would be difficult to maintain, much less ramp up, the international sanctions regime against Iran if countries like Russia and China believed the United States caused the talks to collapse.

In the coming days, the Obama administration is expected to provide Congress with the complete text of the nuclear accord, including the classified annexes. At that point, lawmakers will have 60 days to review the agreement and decide to hold a vote on whether to endorse the deal, reject the deal, or do nothing.

Obama has vowed to veto a resolution of disapproval -- which, if passed, would revoke his ability to waive congressionally-enacted sanctions. Congress will need a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate to override a veto and potentially kill the deal.  

"We're going to continue to review this, but we're going to fight a bad deal that's wrong for our national security and wrong for our country," Boehner pledged on Thursday.

Clarification: This article has been edited to clarify that the proposed deal would eventually provide some sanctions relief to Soleimani, but not for 8 years, and updated to include information about Obama's response to the deal's critics and the next steps for the deal in Congress.

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