Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) had to correct MSNBC host Ali Velshi on Thursday when the latter incorrectly stated that Cardin supported the Iran nuclear deal.
President Donald Trump recently decertified Iranian compliance with the agreement and punted the issue to Congress to create a stronger, parallel deal. Velshi claimed he remembered speaking to Cardin "a few years ago" on the subject.
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"In my mind, your decision to support it kind of was the nail in the coffin for those who wanted to kill it," Velshi said. "Iran has complied according to the Atomic Energy Commission [International Atomic Energy Agency]. What do you think should happen now with what the president has done?"
"Let me correct you," Cardin said. "I voted against the Iran agreement, so I was on the other side of that."
Cardin was one of several Democrats—including Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), and Joe Manchin (W.Va.)—to break with President Barack Obama in 2015 and voice opposition to the agreement. Ultimately, Obama got 42 Senate Democrats to support the deal, enough to filibuster any measure of disapproval and save the accord.
Cardin wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Sept. 4, 2015, that the Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would "legitimize" Tehran's nuclear program and give it the ability to quickly generate a nuclear weapon in 10 to 15 years."
"The JCPOA would provide this legal path to a country that remains a rogue state and has violated its international nonproliferation obligations for years," Cardin explained. "It would provide Iran with international endorsement of an industrial-scale nuclear program."
"Worse," he added, "Iran would be economically strengthened by frighteningly quick relief from sanctions and international economic engagement. If Iran violates the agreement, building international support for new sanctions would take too long to be effective. A military response in this scenario would be more likely, although disastrous."
Cardin said Thursday that both those who opposed and supported the agreement want to see it "rigorously enforced" and the U.S. to lead with its European allies in dealing with Iran's "non-nuclear violations," such as its ballistic missile activity and sponsorship of terrorism.
"We want to see the administration working with the Europeans, impose additional tough sanctions against Iran for the non-nuclear violations, and then work with our European partners not only to enforce the nuclear agreement, but to make sure Iran never has a nuclear weapon," Cardin said.