Thursday's announcement of a framework to curb and monitor Iran's nuclear program was only a tentative step - negotiators will hammer out the final language of an agreement in the months ahead. But the deal is already rattling the 2016 cage, with Republicans largely savaging it as a dangerous concession to a dangerous foe, and the likely Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, standing behind it while acknowledging that the "devil is always in the details."
Clinton, more than any other 2016 candidate, is tied personally to the Iran deal because she helped lay the groundwork for the negotiations to begin. As secretary of state, Clinton corralled support for international sanctions that were credited with bringing the Iranians to the bargaining table, and now she's hoping that effort bears fruit.
"The understanding that the major world powers have reached with Iran is an important step toward a comprehensive agreement that would prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and strengthen the security of the United States, Israel, and the region," Clinton said in a statement on Thursday. "Getting the rest of the way to a final deal by June won't be easy, but it is absolutely crucial."
"I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation. So I strongly support President Obama and Secretary Kerry's efforts between now and June to reach a final deal that verifiably cuts off all of Iran's paths to a nuclear weapon, imposes an intrusive inspection program with no sites off limits, extends breakout time, and spells out clear and overwhelming consequences for violations," Clinton added. "The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high."
Clinton's would-be Republican opponents almost uniformly criticized the deal.
"The reported details of the Iran deal include significant concessions to a nation whose leaders call for death to America and the destruction of Israel," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who's considered an early favorite among the GOP establishment. "It fails to obtain a guarantee of sufficient inspections. Iran isn't required to disclose its past weaponization activities and many of the deal's provisions will expire in the near future."
"These negotiations began, by President Obama's own admission, as an effort to deny Iran nuclear capabilities, but instead will only legitimize those activities," he added. "Nothing in the deal described by the administration this afternoon would justify lifting US and international sanctions, which were the product of many years of bipartisan effort. I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who's currently leading some national primary polls, said before the deal was announced that he would unwind any nuclear agreement with Iran on his first day in office, if he's elected president. When he was asked during a radio interview on Thursday whether he'd do so over the objections of U.S. allies who participated in the negotiations, he didn't flinch.
"Absolutely," he replied. "If I ultimately choose to run, and if I'm honored to be elected by the people of this country, I will pull back on that on January 20, 2017, because the last thing -- not just for the region but for this world -- we need is a nuclear-armed Iran. It leaves not only problems for Israel, because they want to annihilate Israel, it leaves the problems in the sense that the Saudis, the Jordanians and others are gonna want to have access to their own nuclear weapons."
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite who's the only declared candidate on either side of the aisle, denounced the framework as a "bad deal," according to the Dallas Morning News. Like Walker, Cruz said he would undo the agreement "on Day one" of his presidency.
"Everything that's been released so far suggests that this deal will dramatically undermine the national security of the United States," Cruz told a GOP gathering in Iowa. "This administration does not understand the people with whom they are dealing. Iran is run by theocratic zealots who embrace death and suicide."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said some details of the framework "indicate to me that this deal is a colossal mistake.
"This attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration's farcical approach to Iran," he said in a statement. "I intend to work with my colleagues to continue to ensure that any final agreement, if reached, is reviewed by Congress and that additional sanctions continue to be imposed on Iran until it completely gives up its nuclear ambitions and the regime changes its destructive behavior."
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham took a more measured tone, saying he'd "reserve judgment until the details are known," but adding, "It is notable how far from the White House's initial negotiating principles we appear to be."
"Based upon the statements made and press reports, there appears to be major confusion and uncertainty over exactly what the deal entails," he said. "There also appears to be major differences of opinion over what impact the deal will have on the Iranian's drive to develop a nuclear weapon."