Speaking Monday at The Citadel, likely Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said he would throw out President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran if he makes it to the White House.
Delivering his most far-ranging foreign policy address so far in South Carolina, the former Texas governor told nearly 300 cadets the Obama administration’s negotiations are legitimizing, instead of curbing, Iran’s nuclear goals.
“Should I run for president and be so fortunate to be elected, one of my first actions in office would be to invalidate the president’s Iran agreement, which jeopardizes the safety and security of the free world,” Perry said.
“(Obama) says it prevents a nuclear Iran,” he continued. “Just the opposite; this agreement enables it. And no agreement is better than a bad agreement.”
Following his speech, some cadets said they liked Perry’s bluntness. “He’s not afraid to make his points,” said senior Ben Heckman of Tampa, Fla.
The Citadel has been a high-profile stop for Republicans looking to highlight their hawkish credentials, including several before Perry who have used the venue to air foreign policy views before a receptive audience.
Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal have all made stops there during the current and previous election cycles. Monday’s address was to the school’s Republican Society, the largest club on campus.
During his 40-minute address, Perry played up his military exposure, first as a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University, and then as a captain in the Air Force and as governor of Texas.
He accused the Obama administration of fumbling foreign policy around the globe, while military budgets face being cut following two long wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It is time for a debate about the state of our military, and its historic underfunding,” Perry said. “It is time to tell the truth to the American people that leaders of both parties have gutted our defenses because they refused to impose spending discipline on other areas of government.”
Some of his comments were directed at the schools Corps of Cadets, pointing to the 20 Citadel graduates lost in the war on terror.
“At no time in the last 25 years has the world been more dangerous,” he said. “And because of it, some of you will be called upon to put your lives at risk.”
Afterward, Perry told The Post and Courier that one of several flaws in what’s been pursued so far is that Iran still remains the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, something not addressed in the agreement’s outline announced last week.
Perry specifically mentioned Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which have a common enemy in Israel.
“Until they get out of the terrorism business, I wouldn’t have any negotiations with them at all,” Perry said during a tour of The Citadel campus.
“And I would up the ante, so to speak, on the sanctions and literally, economically bring them to their knees.”
Perry’s comments echo the calls for readdressing the deal by Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who also is a potential 2016 candidate, on Sunday said the entire nuclear agreement process with Iran should be bumped until 2017, when there is a new occupant in the White House.
Perry is expected to decide by June whether he will formally enter the race for the GOP nomination. Later Monday evening he was scheduled to meet with a group of ministers in Charleston.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.