- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton said Tuesday that he thinks an agreement aimed at dismantling Iran’s nuclear program could instead create a “second nuclear age” that would threaten the United States and its allies.

The freshman senator from Arkansas criticized the agreement struck by the U.S., Iran, and five world powers to dismantle most of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief. Congress will vote next month on a resolution to disapprove of the White House-backed nuclear deal.

“This deal, whether it’s breached or whether it’s followed, is putting us on a path to a second nuclear age in which the risks of nuclear war are much greater,” Cotton told members of the Political Animals Club, which meets regularly to hear from elected officials and other public figures. “And the risk of a nuclear attack against the United States and our interests, whether by a nation-state or a terrorist organization that’s been provided or has obtained nuclear material is much greater.”

Cotton said the deal will still put Iran on the path toward nuclear weapons because the nation would end up financially stronger due to the lifting of sanctions and could still be a “nuclear capable threshold state” in 10 to 15 years, when the limits on centrifuges end. He also argued there’s no guarantee Iran will honor the deal.

Cotton and other top Republicans have said the deal gives too many concessions to Iran. The White House and Democratic supporters say it would impose tough inspections and is the best deal that could have been achieved. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid threw his support behind the deal over the weekend, calling it “the best path to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”



Cotton, who was elected to the Senate in November, has raised his profile since taking office in January by being such an outspoken critic of the Iran nuclear deal. He penned a controversial open letter to Iran’s leaders in March in which he warned that any deal struck with the U.S. could be undone at a later date. Forty-six other Republican senators signed the letter.

The freshman senator also said he remained hopeful that the Senate can block the deal, though supporters are confident they would have enough votes to uphold a veto by President Barack Obama of the resolution.

“I’m not yet ready to concede, in part because the bad news of this deal continues to come out,” Cotton said.

Separately, Cotton said he was not ready to endorse anyone for the GOP nomination for president - he remains the only member of the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation to not endorse former Gov. Mike Huckabee. He also brushed aside a question about an Arkansas law enacted earlier this year that was aimed at allowing him to run for re-election and president in 2020, a possibility he hasn’t entertained.

“I’m very flattered by their support and confidence, but like I said, I’m very focused on what’s happening right now in the U.S. Senate,” Cotton said. “We’ve got a whole presidential election in front of us. We don’t need to speculate about presidential elections that are years in the future.”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ademillo

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