WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan hammered the Obama administration on Monday for the nuclear deal with Iran, telling America's leading pro-Israel group that the agreement legitimized Iran's nuclear program instead of dismantling it.
The Wisconsin Republican also announced in a speech at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that his first overseas trip as House speaker will be a return visit to Israel.
Ryan and other Republicans remain frustrated after they were unable to scuttle the international accord to check Iran's nuclear program in exchange for economic sanctions relief.
"I think it was a terrible deal. Worst in our lifetime," Ryan said. "Iran got billions of dollars in sanctions relief, and in exchange for what? For taking apart some — not all, just some — of its nuclear program."
GOP lawmakers also have criticized President Barack Obama for failing to properly punish Iran for repeatedly defying a U.N. ballistic missile test ban. A group of Republican senators last week introduced legislation to impose stricter sanctions on every sector of Iran's economy that supports the country's ballistic missile program.
"I don't think it's an accident that every few months we hear of Iran launching yet more ballistic missiles," Ryan said.
He said the United States needs to shore up its alliance with Israel, which includes countering Iran's "aggression in Lebanon, in Yemen and in Syria." He also said the security agreement the United States has with Israel should be extended and expanded to include missile defense.
He called for resisting any attempts by countries to target Israel with politically motivated boycotts and sanctions.
Ryan last month criticized the Obama White House for not implementing provisions in a trade law that instructs U.S. negotiators to protect Israel from being punished economically for its treatment of Palestinians. He said Congress would use its power of oversight to ensure the provisions are enforced.
Specifically, the provisions instruct U.S. negotiators to resist other countries' actions that support the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement, known as BDS. But the administration took issue with part of the bill that it said conflates Israel with "Israeli-controlled territories." That's a reference to the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war but the Palestinians demand for part of their future state.
The U.S. considers Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank to be illegitimate, and the White House said the language lumping Israel and the Palestinian territories together contradicts U.S. policy toward the settlements.
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