Presidential hopeful and former senator from Virginia Jim Webb expressed deep reservations Wednesday about a landmark nuclear deal with Iran that would lift sanctions on the Islamic republic in exchange for limits on the country’s nuclear weapons development.
In a wide-ranging interview with “The Diane Rehm Show” on the WAMU (88.5 FM) radio station, Webb said he would be skeptical of approving the deal if he were still a U.S. senator.
“What does Iran get out of this?” he asked. “They get the immediate lifting of sanctions and over the period of 10 years are going to be able to say they can move forward with a nuclear weapons policy with the acceptance of the United States and these other countries.”
Webb, who noted he is still reading through the documents, said Congress should have had more involvement in crafting the agreement.
“I think it should have been a congressional process from the beginning, not simply a vote of disapproval or approval at the end of the agreement,” he added.
The Democratic presidential contender, who is running as a more conservative alternative to candidates like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders, touted his defense and foreign relations credentials throughout the hour.
“My voice is an independent voice — I was one of the first people to advise against the strategic inadvisability” of going into Iraq, he said, citing his experience as a Marine and as a former Secretary of the Navy. “What I was saying before the invasion of Iraq was that the United States does not belong as an occupying power in this region.”
Webb said his presidency would be more mindful of Congress’s authority in military and foreign affairs. An exception, he said, would be his proposal to create a national commission studying solutions for the juvenile justice system.
“It is a leadership problem for the country when we have so many people in prison and in the supervisory systems and parole,” he said. “This is a $14 million expenditure — that’s one helicopter. We could bring great minds of the country together” to solve this problem.
Webb also sought to cast his presidency as more inclusive, racially and socioeconomically.
“Neither party is really focusing on how to elevate people” from rural and troubled urban areas, he said. In those places, “you’re not seeing the same American dream.”
He said he would seek to grow the economy and create by reducing the corporate tax rate and closing loopholes, as well as by strengthening unions’ rights.
His interview also touched on his initially ambiguous comments on taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina after a racially motivated shooting at a Charleston church left nine dead last month. The flag was removed last Friday after strong debate in the South Carolina legislature.
“It was a battle flag and it was not appropriate for it to continue flying over public areas,” Webb clarified, after a noticeable pause. “At the same time I asked people to please let’s think our way though this in terms of the very complex history not only of the Civil War but the American South.”
“There are no two cultures in America that are more closely intertwined through their history than the Southern black and the Southern white,” he added, urging respect for both.
Webb also denounced Republican candidate Donald Trump’s recent comments on Mexican immigrants, noting candidates could “work to be inclusive and respectful and you can still make your points.”