Among the anticipated issues at the second GOP debate, the Iran deal is perhaps the timeliest. As of last Wednesday, President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran was rejected in the House of Representatives, even after Senate Democrats successfully blocked a Republican effort to halt the deal. But this was expected. The work ahead of the accord will now return to the international stage, where the agreement will be officially adopted on Oct. 19. After that, the ball will be in Iran's court to actually follow through. This is, of course, to the dismay of most Republicans and virtually all of the GOP candidates, some more dramatically so than others. In the upcoming debate, the question will be a matter of alternatives to the plan.
Specifically, the candidates should be requested to explain how they would contain the nuclear threat if the deal falls through. Intel on what exactly Iran is up to will remain, of course, hazy. So far, this has been a tough inquiry for the candidates.
In a column published in USA Today last week, Donald Trump voiced vehement opposition. "It was amateur hour for those charged with striking this deal with Iran, demonstrating to the world, yet again, the total incompetence of our president and politicians," he wrote. In terms of suggested alternatives if he became president, what Trump offered was questionable: the promise of renegotiation, the release of four U.S. prisoners, and "new sanctions that stop Iran from having the ability to sponsor terrorism around the world."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also has plans of terminating the agreement if he were elected. "We need to terminate the bad deal with Iran on Day One," he said in his campaign announcement speech in July. Walker, along with Chris Christie, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, and 11 other governors sent a letter to Obama to say that they oppose the Iran deal and that they will not be lifting state sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.
Sen. Marco Rubio was even bolder in his vow to not follow through with Obama's deal, pointing to the rules of succession. "This is a deal with the Obama administration. It is not a treaty. It is not binding on the next president," he said on CBS News in July. "And if it's me, I will reimpose the American sanctions that are in the law right now."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, has been prudent in his stance on Iran. While he stands in definite opposition, he has stopped short of promising complete revocation, citing reasons of practicality. "At 12:01 on January, whatever it is, 19th , I will not probably have a confirmed secretary of state; I will not have a confirmed national security team in place; I will not have consulted with our allies. I will not have had the intelligence briefings to have made a decision," he said at an appearance in Carson City, Nevada, in July. "If you're running for president, I think it’s important to be mature and thoughtful about this."
It'll be interesting to see if there are more nuanced disagreements among the candidates during the debate. CNN debate will differ from Fox News' in that it will hopefully initiate more cross-talk between the candidates. "We're going to be reading what other people have said about them," moderator Jake Tapper told the Los Angeles Times. "We want them to debate not with me but each other."