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Sen. Cornyn: A year later, the Iran deal is even more dangerous than we thought

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) has been a leading Republican critic of the Iran nuclear deal. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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The Outrage Machine is regular opinion column by voices from the left and right on Washington.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s one-sided nuclear agreement with Iran, which I couldn’t support then and continue to oppose now.

At the time, President Obama called the deal a “diplomatic breakthrough.” He even claimed that, without this deal, the United States would have no option left but another war in the Middle East. And he stressed repeatedly that under his deal, Iran would “never” be able to get a nuclear weapon.

The past twelve months tell a different story. Where we were guaranteed transparency and openness, we’ve found deception; where we were promised a better diplomatic relationship with a theocratic regime, we’ve been met with hostility and aggression; and even though the administration trusted Tehran to accept international norms, it turns out – unsurprisingly – Iran continues to completely ignore them.

The early stages of the Obama administration’s nuclear talks with Iran were conducted in secrecy. Unfortunately, we’re only now beginning to see the full extent of the administration’s deception. Last week, it came to light that a critical component of the Iran deal was kept from the public eye. The document, according to media reports, eases restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program before the agreement officially ends. And it allows Iran – after just 11 years – to replace key equipment, like centrifuges, with updated, more technologically-advanced models that could cut in half the time it takes to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon – known as their “break out time.”

In other words, the document just released offers a frightening reality: under the deal President Obama struck, after just 10 years the Iranian government will be well-positioned to create a nuclear weapon in six months or less. That’s not keeping Iran from ever creating a nuclear weapon, as the President promised. It essentially reinforces Iran’s ability to do just that.

What’s more, reports of the administration using millions of American taxpayer dollars to buy Iran’s heavy water – a critical component in the creation of nuclear weapons – indicate that President Obama is doing little to stop the financial windfall that Iran has enjoyed under this deal.

But this is just the latest example of the Obama Administration’s deception in selling a bad deal to our country.

In May, a New York Times Magazine article detailed the administration’s efforts to intentionally deceive the media and the rest of the country about the timeline of the negotiations with Iran. The story centered on Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security advisor and chief propagandist, who admitted to creating an “echo chamber” of reporters and think-tanks sympathetic to getting the deal done in the first place. Put another way, President Obama prioritized getting the deal done – at all costs – over a careful, thoughtful debate over whether this was truly in the U.S. national security interest.

Beyond the deceit from the administration, this bad deal has done nothing to make our country safer. A year later, Tehran still takes every opportunity to work against U.S. efforts abroad and has zero regard for international norms.

Just consider the events that unfolded in January when two U.S. Navy boats with 10 American sailors on-board strayed harmlessly into Iranian waters. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – the IRGC – took them captive after forcing them to surrender at gunpoint. Our sailors were blindfolded, hauled back to Iranian soil against their will, interrogated, and detained. In a humiliating show of disrespect, the Iranian military documented the entire event and almost immediately broadcasted videos and photos of the captured sailors on state-run media outlets.

Most would assume such a display would elicit strong words of condemnation from the president of the United States. But that’s not what we heard. Instead, the administration patted itself on the back, ignored Iran’s humiliating treatment of our sailors, and claimed the deal with Iran somehow brought the sailors safely home. In doing so, the president missed the point: these sailors shouldn’t have been taken captive in the first place.

I offered legislation earlier this summer that would require the president to hold the regime in Tehran accountable for this aggression. We can’t afford to let this hostility stand, particularly when Iran likely violated the Geneva Convention and other rules of international law. Even though the president didn’t have the wherewithal to call out Iran’s actions, I’m glad the U.S. Navy did. Last month, following a thorough investigation, the Navy determined Iran had in fact violated international law by wrongfully keeping these American vessels from conducting innocent passage.

Supporters of the Iran deal would like to paint this as a minor incident or skirmish – one that distracts from the otherwise positive trajectory of a more responsible, less hostile Iran.

But that’s simply not true.

The deal hasn’t compelled Iran to change course at all. Iran remains the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism. It continues to support Hezbollah and bankroll efforts to attack American and Israeli interests in the Middle East. The regime still actively works against U.S. efforts on the ground in places like Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, inciting violence and equipping terrorist groups across the region to thwart our efforts to bring greater stability and peace. On top of all that, in complete defiance of the United Nations, Iran test-fired ballistic missiles last spring.

The Iranian government doesn’t fear the Administration’s so-called “snap-back” sanctions, because it knows President Obama would never do anything that might jeopardize the deal – his signature foreign policy “accomplishment.” It should go without saying that Tehran has done nothing to foster greater trust as a responsible actor on the international stage.

Time and again, instead of calling out the regime and creating consequences for its bad behavior, the Obama administration chooses to downplay Iran’s aggression and ignore the facts. But the most troubling part of this saga is that the President and his team didn’t dedicate their time to crafting a deal with real teeth to hold Iran accountable. Instead, they distorted the truth to create a fairy tale.

Now, one year after the deal was struck, we see its true effects: a dangerous and hostile regime with a clear path to a nuclear weapon; the detention and humiliation of ten American sailors; and an Administration unwilling to level with the American people.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) serves as the Senate majority whip