Congressman French Hill Blasts Iran Deal, But Says Civilian Nuclear Program A Possibility

Sep 2, 2015

U.S. Representative French Hill (R-2nd Dist.) in early November 2014.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas Congressman French Hill panned the President’s foreign policy decisions in a speech Tuesday but departed - to a degree - from some of his Republican colleagues on the Iran nuclear deal.

Like the rest of Arkansas’s all-Republican delegation Hill criticized the inspection regime and Iran’s associations with militant groups. He also re-iterated his position that Iranian concessions for the conditional lifting of sanctions are too minimal and that the path toward a nuclear weapon still exists.

After his remarks to the Rotary Club of Downtown Little Rock, Hill told KUAR that Iran should be allowed to maintain some form of a civilian nuclear program. That position is at odds with the state's delegation. 

“It would allow space for a civilian program. Our government has intimated that along the way with cooperation from other nations to produce a civilian program for them. Operate it in a transparent way with observation and including the handling of the nuclear materials so that they have the advantage of nuclear energy,” said Hill.

While he calls the deal struck by Iran, the United States, England, France, Germany, Russia, and China (P5+1) a bad deal, and a dangerous deal Hill still believes the idea of sitting down to negotiate with Iran is appropriate. That’s a sentiment opposed by many Republicans, barring an explicit reversal of Iran’s hostile outlook toward Israel or immediate and total concessions.

“We got Iran to the table because of a robust sanctions regime. What I’m suggesting is that we should have stayed at that table and kept negotiating without a hard timeline and taken advantage of the continued constraint on their economy by sanctions to get the kind of deal that I think would be better,” he said.

The contention that continued and perhaps further sanctions will bring Iran to a better deal and that the world community might support tougher penalties is shared by his fellow Arkansas House members. Hill thinks it not too late to convince the other world powers that crafted the deal to step back. Russia and China weren’t among his examples of nations that might be eager to continue sanctions and limiting economic activity with Iran.

“The economies of Germany, France, Great Britain, and the U.S. are much more robust and engaged in global commerce and if people did want to regroup I believe the economic clout is there to achieve it,” he said.

Congress is scheduled to end its late summer recess following Labor Day. Not too long after Hill will be among the majority opposing President Obama’s plan. But it still will be a tough climb to stop it.

“This is not a treaty so it’s not going to the Senate for ratification. This is a nuclear proliferation agreement,” said Hill. “It’ll come to a vote in Congress probably in September. I believe there are the votes to reject the agreement but the real question is, are there enough votes to override a presidential veto?.”

He’s hopeful though, “I note that the Democratic summer conference meeting [last weekend] could not reach consensus on supporting the agreement. This is a complicated and difficult challenge.”