Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is opposed to the deal negotiated with Iran by President Obama, but not for the reasons you might think.
"The nuclear side of the deal is a plus," says Flake. "Under this deal, Congress loses the ability to punish Iran's behavior in the region through sanctions. That gives Iran leverage they don't have today. That's why I disagree with the deal."
Flake, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was in Salt Lake City on Wednesday to speak at the Utah Global Forum. He says Iran has been on the verge of a nuclear weapon for some time now, so that part of the agreement is good. However, he wishes the president would have pursued a treaty with Iran instead because the current deal could hamstring future administrations without Congressional buy-in.
"We have no ability to impose sanctions with this agreement. A treaty does require a 2/3 vote, which is a high bar to clear, but we have done it in the past. We passed a new START treaty in 2010, so it can be done."
Flake also discussed the recent re-opening of relations with Cuba, something he has been pushing for some years. One of the first pieces of legislation he introduced as a member of Congress was to lift the travel ban to Cuba.
"Over the years, I've received more support from Democrats than Republicans on the issue. I remember the George W. Bush administration was not happy with my stance on Cuba. At one Christmas party at the White House, Karl Rove asked me to follow him, where he led me to the kitchen and left me there on my own to find my way back," he joked.
Flake also quipped that the best way to punish the Castro brothers was not through sanctions but to "make them suffer through spring break once or twice."
Flake also praised the passage of the TPA bill in Congress, which was spearheaded by Utah's senior Senator Orrin Hatch.
"Trade agreements matter a great deal to the country. With 95% of the world's consumers and 75% of the purchasing power outside of our borders, we cannot afford to let the world move on without us."