Politics & Government

Sen. Burr says Iran deal could spur arms race

U.S. Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C.,  is greeted by Dan Gray at the Kannapolis Rotary Club on Tuesday. Burr criticized a proposed nuclear deal with Iran.
U.S. Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., is greeted by Dan Gray at the Kannapolis Rotary Club on Tuesday. Burr criticized a proposed nuclear deal with Iran. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said Tuesday that the Obama administration’s tentative deal with Iran not only could spur a Middle East arms race but cost America allies in the fight against ISIS.

Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Kannapolis Rotary that the deal preserves Iran’s “pathway” to nuclear weapons. He said that would prompt its Arab neighbors to acquire their own nuclear weapons as deterrence.

And Mideast countries with nuclear weapons, he added, would no longer fear ISIS, also known as ISIL.

“ISIL is more threatening to the Muslim world than it is to western civilization,” Burr said. “But if you eliminate that threat to them, because now countries like Saudi and UAE and Turkey say, ‘We’ve got a nuclear weapon, you’re not going to screw with us’ … Who does that leave the burden of the elimination of ISIL on? … Solely on our backs.”

Burr visited the Rotary between stops in Salisbury and Charlotte on the first day of a four-day swing through the Piedmont and mountains. The Winston-Salem Republican plans to run for a third term in 2016.

Burr, who recently co-sponsored a bi-partisan cyber security bill, talked about the danger of cyber terrorism. “There’s two types of companies that have been attacked,” he said. “Those that admit it and those that do not.”

But Burr called Iran “the number one challenge in the world. Period. End of sentence.”

President Obama has called the framework deal with Iran “a once in a lifetime opportunity” to stop the spread of nuclear arms in the Mideast. Iran has tentatively agreed to scale back its nuclear program for 10 to 15 years and submit to international inspections in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The U.S. negotiated the deal with Germany, Britain, France, China and Russia.

Supporters say without such a deal, Iran could have a nuclear weapon in months, and the president’s deal is the best alternative.

“That’s to accept the president’s current argument,” Burr said later. “And if their ability to have nuclear weapons changes the balance of power in the Middle East? Then how could you ever agree to a pathway that allows them to do it?

“You could keep sanctions (on Iran) in force today, you could ratchet up sanctions… But I think to say, we’re just going to get them (to nuclear weapons) slower, says to everybody in the region, ‘We might as well go there ourselves’.”

Burr blamed a technological culprit for the rise of ISIS – and the continued danger to America. “How did ISIL grow?” he asked. “It’s real simple: social media.”

He said the danger to the U.S. is not so much from sleeper cells or militants from the Mideast. “We’re talking about people who respond to a social media request of a terrorist group,” he said, “and take a picture of a police officer or a solider or an elected official … and goes out and kills them.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059