March 3, 2016

Elections 2016: Where do the Presidential candidates stand on Iran?

In President Obama’s final year in office, after seven years of engagement with Iran that took place in fits and starts, the United States and Iran secured a multilateral agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions. The sustainability of this historic agreement, as well as the scope of this new engagement between the two countries and the direction that the U.S. and Iran now take in relation to one another, will soon be in the hands of a new President.

We have analyzed the positions of the remaining candidates for the White House on three key issues – the nuclear agreement, sanctions, and U.S.-Iran relations more broadly – to help you determine how each candidate would lead the country into the unknown future of U.S.-Iran relations. 


ClintonHillary Clinton (Democrat)

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Secretary Clinton supports the Iran nuclear agreement:

“With vigorous enforcement, unyielding verification, and swift consequences for any violations, this agreement can make the United States, Israel, and our Arab partners safer.” – Clinton statement after Iran deal announced, July 14, 2015

“As President, my approach will be to distrust and verify. I will vigorously enforce the nuclear deal as part of a comprehensive strategy that confronts all of Iran’s negative actions in the region and stand side-by-side with our ally Israel and our Arab partners.” – Clinton statement on Implementation Day, January 16, 2016

Clinton offered public support for the negotiations and eventual agreement at key moments in the political debate. Clinton weighed in with Congress against new sanctions legislation in early 2014, aiding the Obama Administration’s effort to block an attempt to undermine the nuclear talks. Clinton notably urged Democratic lawmakers to support the JCPOA when many in Congress were deciding whether they would vote to support or reject the final deal.

Clinton’s support for the agreement has come with caveats. She has stated that the United States should be willing to launch military strikes against Iran if the regime attempted to contravene the agreement and build a nuclear weapon. She said “I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

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Secretary Clinton describes Iran as a long-term strategic challenge to the United States:

“We need to be clear-eyed about what we can expect from Iran. This isn’t the start of some larger diplomatic opening. And we shouldn’t expect that this deal will lead to a broader change in their behavior.” – Clinton speech at Brookings Institute, September 9, 2015 

Clinton’s campaign has criticized Bernie Sanders for saying the U.S. should pursue normalized relations with Iran:

“I do not think we should promise or even look toward normalizing relations because we have a lot of other business to get done with Iran. Yes, they have to stop being the main state sponsor of terrorism. Yes, they have to stop trying to destabilize the Middle East, causing even more chaos.” – Clinton at Sixth Democratic Debate, February 11, 2016

“If we were to normalize relations right now, we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behavior. ” – Clinton at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

Clinton has also criticized Sanders for urging that Iran be included in a broad coalition to defeat ISIS, arguing that this will alienate Sunni allies that she says will be necessary to defeat ISIS:

“I think it would be a grave mistake to ask for any more Iranian troops inside Syria. That is like asking the arsonist to come and pour more gas on the fire.” Clinton at Third Democratic Debate, December 19, 2015

Clinton has advocated that the United States should seek to reassure U.S. allies in the region namely Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian Gulf monarchies – that the nuclear agreement will not change the nature of the U.S.-Iran relationship. Clinton has argued that the U.S. must confront Iran in order to convince Sunni Arab states to confront ISIS:

“The United States should also work with our Arab partners to get them more invested in the fight against ISIS. At the moment, they’re focused in other areas because of their concerns in the region, especially the threat from Iran. …We cannot view Iran and ISIS as separate challenges. Regional politics are too interwoven. Raising the confidence of our Arab partners and raising the costs to Iran for bad behavior will contribute to a more effective fight against ISIS.” – Clinton at Council on Foreign Relations, November 18, 2015

Clinton has also emphasized a five-point plan focused on building regional alliances to counter “Iran’s bad behavior in the region.” This will include continued military aid to Israel in particular, as well the Persian Gulf monarchies.

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Clinton has highlighted her role in building international support for multilateral sanctions against Iran as Secretary of State and says they played a key role in the nuclear negotiations:

“As Secretary of State, I logged tens of thousands of miles and twisted a lot of arms to build a global coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. That unprecedented pressure delivered a blow to Iran’s economy and gave us leverage at the negotiating table, starting in Oman in 2012.” – Clinton statement, July 15, 2015

Clinton maintains that sanctions should continue to play a major role in the United States’ Iran strategy even as nuclear sanctions are lifted:

“Sanctions for terrorism, and other non-nuclear sanctions, must remain a key part of our strategy and must be vigorously enforced.” – Clinton statement, July 15, 2015

She emphasized this point by publicly calling for new ballistic missile sanctions to be imposed on the day the nuclear deal was implemented–action which the Obama Administration took.

Clinton has also suggested a willingness to work with Congress on additional sanctions legislation:

“I’ll hold the line against Iranian noncompliance. That means penalties even for small violations; keeping our allies on board, but being willing to snap back sanctions into place, unilaterally, if we have to; working with Congress to close any gaps in the sanctions. Right now members of Congress are offering proposals to that effect and I think the current administration should work with them to see whether there are additional steps that could be taken.” – Clinton speech at Brookings Institute, September 9, 2015

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TrumpDonald Trump (Republican)

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Trump routinely attacks the nuclear accord as a disaster and one of the worst deals he has ever seen. He’s commented that the deal is a “free $150 billion” for Iran and lamented that “we don’t get anything.” Trump also attended a “Stop Iran Deal Rally” on Capitol Hill, along with Donald Trump, during Congressional deliberations on the accord:

“The agreement was terrible. It was incompetent. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the worst contracts of any kind I’ve ever seen.” – Trump at Second Republican Debate, September 16, 2015

He has also indicated his belief that Iran will eventually get a nuclear weapon and that it will lead to regional proliferation:

“I think other people will arm with nuclear weapons, yes, based on this deal. Because if you look at it, Iran will end up being nuclear. Even if it’s not within the next fairly short period of time.” – Trump Meet the Press interview, August 16, 2015

Despite his rhetoric on the deal, Trump is one of two Republican candidates (the other being Kasich) who have not said they would nullify the deal on day one, instead vowing to “police the contract”:

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘We’re going to rip up the deal.’ It’s very tough to do when you say, ‘Rip up a deal.” – Trump Meet the Press interview, August 16, 2015

“But I’m really good at looking at a contract and finding things within a contract that even if they’re bad. I would police that contract (the Iran accord) so tough that they don’t have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.” – Trump Meet the Press interview, August 16, 2015

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Trump has not offered a substantive vision for U.S.-Iran relations beyond asserting that he will bring about better outcomes for U.S. interests. Trump’s attacks on the Iran deal and the administration’s negotiating tactics often depict a zero-sum game in which Iran is defeating the administration:

“The Persians are great negotiators. They are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear. We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us. They are making an amazing deal.” – Trump CNN interview, July 9, 2015

Trump asserts that he would reverse this dynamic by being a stronger negotiator than the current Administration. He previously pledged that Americans detained in Iran would be freed on the first day of his presidency, and later took partial credit for the prisoner swap–attributing it in part to his rhetoric on the campaign trail:

“So I’ve been hitting them (Iran) hard and I think I might have had something to do with it,” (referring to the U.S.-Iran deal to swap prisoners). …

“First of all, it should have taken place three or four weeks ago, whenever the hell they started. Did you ever see an agreement (referring to the prisoner swap) take so long as this agreement? How long has this thing been going on? Years and years.” – Trump South Carolina rally, January 16, 2016

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Trump called for the U.S. to increase sanctions on Iran in the midst of nuclear negotiations:

“The Persians are great negotiators. They are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear. We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us. They are making an amazing deal.”.” – Trump CNN interview, July 9, 2015

However, one of Trump’s chief criticisms of the nuclear agreement is that non-U.S. companies are making deals with Iran:

“All of these countries are going to do business with Iran. They’re going to make lots of money and lots of other things with Iran. And we’re going to do and we’re going to get nothing.” – Trump at Stop the Iran Nuclear Deal rally, September 9, 2015

“Iran is buying 114 planes from Airbus. Where is Boeing? Why couldn’t we make it so Boeing could sell planes to them?” – Trump at Des Moines rally, December 11, 2015

“Iran is going to buy 114 jetliners with a small part of the $150 billion we are giving them…but they won’t buy from U.S., rather Airbus!” – Trump statement on Twitter, January 17, 2016

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Jill Stein (Green Party)


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Dr. Jill Stein has voiced her support for the Iran nuclear deal and believes that the entire world should be free of nuclear weapons:

“US foreign policy needs to be a foreign policy based on international law, human rights, and diplomacy. So, what has happened here in the negotiations around Iran is a good example of diplomacy, but it needs to be massively expanded.” – Dr. Stein to Tasnim News Agency, August 4, 2015

Jill Stein is a signatory of a statement, “Women Support the Iran Nuclear Deal.”

While supporting the agreement, she has said that the “issue of the nuclear threat was concocted” by the U.S. and  tweeted, “The Iranian nuclear deal addressed a threat that does not exist according to all security agencies.”

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Dr. Stein has called for improving relations with Iran, while expressing hope for democratic reform within Iran. She has been highly critical of U.S.-led regime change efforts, placing blame on the 1953 U.S.-supported coup of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh for the current state of U.S.-Iran tensions:

“Why did we develop conflict with the Iranians in the first place?” she asked. “It’s a glaring example of the disaster of regime change, sixty years later.” – Jill Stein to the American Herald Tribune on February 29, 2016.

Stein has said the nuclear agreement can be the beginning of resolving that conflicts, saying “There’s an enormous potential for engagement and peace.” – Dr. Stein to the American Herald Tribune on February 29, 2016

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In a 2012 Stein criticized sanctions on Iran:

“That approach has been extremely unhelpful and we are not using diplomacy. If there are real threats to U.S. security then sanctions are warranted but I don’t see that Iran is threatening U.S. security right now. The issue of Iran is that it has the potential to build nuclear weapons, it does not have nuclear weapons right now. There are already illegal nuclear weapons in the region in Israel and Pakistan. We need a comprehensive and evenhanded policy. There are drastic violations of human rights right now amongst both our friends and our enemies. Creating a nuclear free Middle East is the only way we are going to stop the development of nuclear weapons.”-Dr. Stein in an interview with Taylor Peck in 2012

She has endorsed sanctions against Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, tweeting, “We need to impose sanctions against countries that fund terrorism, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar & Turkey.”

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Gary Johnson (Libertarian)

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Former Governor Gary Johnson has expressed mixed views on the Iran deal. In May he stated that he opposed the JCPOA:

“No, we should not have signed the Iran deal. We should not have unfrozen those assets.” – Johnson statement at the Libertarian National Convention, May 2016

In a later interview, he stated that he was a skeptic of the deal but harbored mixed feelings on it, while also acknowledging that at one point he had been very much in favor of the deal:

“So, I guess I’m a skeptic and at the same time, we do have plenty of monitoring capability, and we’ll just see what happens. So, I’m originally very much in favor, I’ve come to find out they fund terrorism, ok so now I’m a skeptic. It’s been signed, it’s been agreed to, so I’m skeptical. Let’s see what happens going forward.”

[Jay Rakow:] “Would you describe that more as being opposed?”

[Gary Johnson:] “I guess it’s really mixed feelings.” –Johnson statement on phone interview with ProCon.org June 24, 2016

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As part of Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” series in September 2012, Johnson said he wanted to stop U.S. military interventions. He added:

“I believe that bombing Iran would produce 100 million more enemies that otherwise would not have existed.” – Johnson statement on Reddit in September 2012

In the same interview he also stated that he would “not close any windows of diplomacy [with Iran].”

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Johnson has questioned the efficacy of sanctions against Iran:

“Crippling’ sanctions only cripples the Iranian people. That does NOT make us safer.” – Johnson’s twitter account on October 22, 2012

Johnson has also called for the trade embargo on Iran to be lifted but has criticized the unfreezing of Iranian assets as part of the JCPOA. He says the U.S. should have “opened up trade with Iran without unfreezing assets.” – Johnson, Libertarian Convention Floor 2016

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Bernie Sanders (Democrat)

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Senator Sanders supports the Iran nuclear agreement:

“I voted to support the Iran nuclear deal today because it is my firm belief that the test of a great nation is not how many wars we can engage in, but how we can use our strength and our capabilities to resolve international conflicts in a peaceful way. Does the agreement achieve everything I would like? No, it does not. But it is far better than the path advocated by Dick Cheney and the neo-cons who took us into Iraq in 2003. If Iran moves toward a nuclear weapon, all available options remain on the table. I think it is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed.” – Sanders statement, September 10, 2015

“While the agreement is not perfect, it is far better than the path we were on – with Iran developing nuclear weapons and the potential for military intervention by the U.S. and Israel growing greater by the day. If Iran does not live up to the agreement, sanctions can be reestablished and all other options remain on the table.” – Sanders policy position on campaign website

Sanders largely supports the agreement on the basis that it will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon “without going to war.” Sanders also emphasized the importance of how the deal opened up a dialogue between the two countries. “It doesn’t do us any good to not talk with our adversaries.”

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Senator Sanders has urged that the United States should move towards eventually normalizing relations with Iran:

“I think what we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran. Understanding that Iran’s behavior in so many ways is something that we disagree with; their support terrorism, the anti-American rhetoric that we’re hearing from of their leadership is something that is not acceptable. On the other hand, the fact that we’ve managed to reach an agreement, something that I’ve very strongly supported that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and we did that without going to war. And that I believe we’re seeing a fall in our relationships with Iran is a very positive step. So if your question is, do I want to see that relationship become more positive in the future? Yes.” Sanders at Fourth Democratic Debate, January 17, 2016

Sanders was criticized by Secretary Clinton for his normalization comments, which Sanders said echoed the criticism leveled by Clinton against then-Senator Obama in 2007 regarding his endorsement of direct negotiations with Iran. Sanders said that the process of normalization would include resolving issues of terrorism, human rights and anti-Americanism, comparing the situation to that of Cuba:

“They are a sponsor of terrorism around the world and we have to address that. But you know, a number of years ago, people were saying normal relationship with Cuba, what a bad and silly idea. They’re Communists, they are our enemy. Well guess what? Change has come.” – Sanders at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

Sanders has frequently spoken out against U.S.-led intervention and regime-change efforts, including highlighting the 1953 coup in Iran:

“This has gone on 50 or 60 years where the United States has been involved in overthrowing governments. Mossadegh back in 1953. Nobody knows who Mossadegh was, democratically-elected prime minister of Iran. He was overthrown by British and American interests because he threatened oil interests of the British. And as a result of that, the shah of Iran came in, terrible dictator. The result of that, you had the Iranian Revolution coming in, and that is where we are today. Unintended consequences.” – Sanders at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

Sanders has said that Iran should be part of a broad coalition of Muslim states to defeat ISIS:

“Here’s something that I believe we have to do as we put together an international coalition, and that is we have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan — all of these nations, they’re going to have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are going to have to take on ISIS.” – Sanders at Second Democratic Debate, November 14, 2015

He has also urged that Iran must be included in a political solution to resolving the civil war in Syria, and has countered criticism from the Clinton campaign on this point:

“But I think in terms of our priorities in the region, our first priority must be the destruction of ISIS. Our second priority must be getting rid of Assad, through some political settlement, working with Iran, working with Russia.” – Sanders at Fourth Democratic Debate

“In terms of Iran and in terms of Saudi Arabia, of course they hate each other. That’s no great secret. But John Kerry, who is I think doing a very good job, has tried to at least get these people in the room together because both of them are being threatened by ISIS.” – Sanders at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

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Sanders supported sanctions on Iran but eventually opposed attempts to pass new sanctions legislation in the midst of the Iran nuclear talks that the Obama Administration said would have ended those negotiations:

“Clearly the sanctions have brought Iran to the table. But if increased sanctions end up driving them from the table, helping the hard liners in Iran that would be negative.  How much more of the sanctions we can do is a question I just don’t know all the answers to right now.” – Sanders interview, December 6, 2013

Sanders has not offered public comments on whether he would support or oppose new sanctions since the the deal has been implemented, though he has stated that sanctions will be reimposed if Iran violates the nuclear deal. He has not cosponsored any legislative attempt to add new sanctions following the nuclear agreement.

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Ted Cruz (Republican)

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Senator Cruz strongly opposes the nuclear agreement. He says that the deal’s ability to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is “fanciful at best” and that unfreezing Iranian assets is “plain foolish” and “profoundly dangerous.” He has sworn to terminate it on his first day in office:

“You’d better believe it. If I am elected president, on the very first day in office I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” – Cruz at Second Republican Debate, September 16, 2015

Senator Cruz opposed the nuclear negotiations and signed the Tom Cotton letter from 47 Republican Senators to Iran’s Supreme Leader. In debate over the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which gave Congress a period to review and potentially reject the accord, Cruz sought to amend the legislation so that Congress would have to approve any agreement before it could move forward. The effort was viewed as a poison pill and blocked.

In the lead-up to the Congressional vote on the deal, Cruz helped lead a “Stop the Iran Nuclear Deal Rally” on Capitol Hill, along with Donald Trump. Cruz urged that, instead of voting on the nuclear agreement as mandated by law, Congress should declare that the Obama Administration had violated the terms of Congressional review and take potential legal action against the Obama Administration:

“Today I sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner a letter that lays out the legal authority they possess as leaders in both Houses of Congress to actually stop this deal. If we believe what we say about this deal…then we should act like it. No show votes that are destined to lose; instead, the leadership should exercise their legal authority to actually prevent more than $100 billion from going to the Ayatollah Khamenei.” – Cruz statement on campaign website

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Senator Cruz supports a more aggressive approach towards Iran and has criticized the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach. He stated that U.S. sailors were detained in Iran “because of the weakness of Barack Obama” and that Iran was emboldened because the U.S. had “followed the path of appeasement.”

According to Cruz, the Iran nuclear agreement and other engagement with Tehran  “…reflects a pattern we’ve seen in the Obama Administration of negotiating with terrorists and making deals and trades that endanger US security.”  

Senator Cruz has instead advocated a hard line approach to US-Iran relations. He has joked that the United States should assassinate Iran’s Supreme Leader. He has also suggested that, under the Iran nuclear deal, the next President will likely need to take military action to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Cruz led Congressional efforts to block Iran’s nominated UN-ambassador to take his seat in New York because he allegedly played a role in the Iran hostage crisis.

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Senator Cruz strongly opposes sanctions relief under the nuclear agreement, seeing the lifting of sanctions as paving the way for Iran to enhance its nuclear program, and supports the implementation of new sanctions on Iran.

Cruz has said that Senator Mitch McConnell should “absolutely” introduce a new Iran sanctions bill to the Senate floor and Cruz himself has filed a bill to “re-impose and strengthen sanctions that were lifted during the negotiations” as well as “set new conditions for lifting those sanctions again.”

Additionally, Senator Cruz has proposed that Congress should threaten civil and even criminal prosecution against the CEOs of banks implementing the Iran Deal once President Obama leaves office.

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Marco Rubio (Republican)

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Senator Rubio strongly opposed the nuclear agreement and has pledged to nullify the agreement upon taking office:

“When I am president of the United States, on my first day in office, we are canceling the deal with Iran”  – Rubio at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

In the lead up to the agreement, Rubio supported sanctions legislation to nullify the negotiations. He also signed the Cotton Letter – a signed letter by 47 senators sent to the Iranian government in an attempt to undermine nuclear talks. Rubio has described the Iran deal “as a one sided concession to the ayatollah” and stated that “there is nothing good about this deal.”

During the political battle over the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which gave Congress a period to review the accord before it was implemented, Rubio sought to amend the bill by requiring Iran to recognize Israel and for Iran to unconditionally release all imprisoned Americans, among other proposals. The efforts were viewed as poison pills and blocked.

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Senator Rubio believes that the United States and Iran are fundamentally opposed:

“Iran’s problem with America is not a grievance, certainly not just a grievance. It goes deeper than that. It’s ideological. It’s their belief that they want to be the dominant power in the region and they want to export their revolution to other territories.” – Rubio at Council of Foreign Relations, May 13, 2015

Senator Rubio promotes an aggressive approach to Iran and asserts that America’s reputation has been weakened as a result of the nuclear agreement:

“And around the world, America’s reputation is in decline. Our allies don’t trust us, our adversaries don’t fear us, and Iran captures our sailors and parades them before the world on video.” – Rubio at Ninth Republican Debate, February 13, 2016

“The deal has greatly harmed relations between the United States and its traditional allies in the Middle East, Israel first and foremost” – Rubio op-ed in National Review, January 5, 2016

Rubio promotes a foreign policy that would deter and confront Iran through U.S. coordination with Sunni Arab states:

But the answer is, in terms of confronting the threat of the spread of regional influence by Iran, Yemen has become just the latest flashpoint, again, a place where a joint pan Arab Sunni force that would stand up to both extremism and Iran’s ambitions could confront these challenges with U.S. logistical and air support. – Rubio at Council of Foreign Relations, May 13, 2015

Senator Rubio has criticized the Iranian government for their human rights abuses and expressed need for sanctions against those acts. At the same time, Rubio has worked to block the Iran nuclear agreement that Iranian human rights defenders urged Congress to support.

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Senator Rubio has pledged to reimpose the sanctions lifted under the nuclear agreement on the first day of his presidency:

“The American sanctions on Iran are in our laws…those are still in place. What the President is using is a national security waiver. He is in essence saying ‘I’m using the waiver to prevent these sanctions from still being imposed.’ The next President could just lift that with the stroke of a pen. Lift that waiver and immediately reimpose sanctions.” – Rubio Fox News Interview, July 24, 2016

Rubio has sponsored several pieces of sanctions legislation, including legislation that the Obama Administration warned would have violated the terms of the nuclear negotiations. He has pledged to pass additional sanctions as President:

“I will work with Congress to impose tougher sanctions on Iran for its support for terrorism and human rights abuses” – Rubio position statement on campaign website

He has criticized the current administration for allowing the sanction relief and argues instead that the U.S. should have increased the sanctions and forced the international community to abide by the sanctions:

“They can do business with Iran, or they can do business with America, and I am very confident they’re going to choose America before they choose the Iranian economy” – Rubio at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

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John Kasich (Republican)

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Governor Kasich has noted his opposition to the accord and indicated that it is bad for U.S. interests:

“It’s a bad deal. Period. End of story.” – Kasich Face the Nation interview, January 17, 2016

However, Kasich along with Trump is one of only two Republican candidates who has vowed not to tear up the deal upon entering office:

“You know what that is? That’s inexperience. That’s just playing to a crowd,” (Referring to candidates vowing to tear up the deal)” – Kasich Meet the Press interview, July 26, 2015

Instead, Kasich has indicated he would enforce the deal and seek to re-impose multilateral sanctions if Iran violates the deal or if Iran escalates its support for designated terrorist groups. Kasich has also indicated that he would consider military action against Iran if they break the agreement and pursue a nuclear weapon. However, based on his statements, Kasich could favor sticking with the deal at the outset of his administration if Iran is in compliance.

“Secondly, nobody’s trusting Iran. They violate the deal, we put on the sanctions, and we have the high moral ground to talk to our allies in Europe to get them to go with us.” – Kasich at Second Republican Debate, September 16, 2015

I think we ought to hold Iran totally accountable for what they do, if they break any part of this deal, if they fund the radicals like Hamas and Hezbollah. In that kind of case, we’ve got to slap the sanctions back on. We would then have the high moral ground to talk to our allies and get them to go along with us. But in addition to that, if we get to the point where we think that Iran may be developing a nuclear [bomb]…well then I think military action would be warranted. But let’s wait until we get there and let’s stay calm because that’s one of the most important things we need to do when it comes to foreign affairs.” – Kasich Fox News interview, September 13, 2015

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Outside of the nuclear deal, Kasich has spoken little about Iran except a bit on its role in the Syria conflict. He appears to be wary of Iran’s regional role and influence, which could indicate a preference to confront Iran more aggressively outside of the nuclear issue.

“I don’t understand this thing about Assad. He has to go. Assad is aligned with Iran and Russia. The one thing we want to prevent is we want to prevent Iran being able to extend a Shia crescent all across the Middle East. Assad has got to go.” –  Kasich at Fifth Republican Debate, December 15, 2015

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Governor Kasich appears wary of Iran’s reintegration in the global economy, and has suggested that sanctions be reimposed if Iran amplifies funding for designated terrorist groups, which is outside the scope of the deal:

“And I’ll tell you what I’m worried about — I’m worried about money. You read about all the companies now that are doing business — about to do business in Iran, and if we don’t get this settled now, with other countries in the world, about sanctions, then Iran could violate that agreement, and we’re the only ones putting the sanctions on.” – Kasich at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

However, Kasich appears to recognize that imposing unilateral sanctions at this stage could be counterproductive. Hence, Kasich appears to favor abiding by the deal if Iran is in compliance while laying the groundwork to snap sanctions back if Iran violates the deal, which is a position also favored by many Democrats:

“We can slap on sanctions alone, on day one, but it’s not gonna be anywhere near as effective. But the president needs to be laying the groundwork right now for the ability to slap those sanctions back on worldwide.”  – Kasich at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

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