BROKEN ARROW — A Middle East war is more likely with the Obama administration-backed Iran nuclear agreement than without, U.S. Sen. James Lankford said Friday.

“There are aspects of the agreement that I think push us closer to war rather than further away from it,” Lankford said in response to questions at the end of a meeting on manufacturing at Tulsa Technology Center’s Broken Arrow campus.

“The reason I say that,” said Lankford, “is because Iran will continue to accelerate toward a nuclear device, which will then cause a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

“The second thing is that the conventional arms ban is lifted, so (Iran) will be able to buy conventional arms. The rest of the (Persian) Gulf region is so concerned that they came back to the White House and State Department and said, ‘We can’t believe you lifted the conventional arms ban on the single largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.’”

The nuclear agreement negotiated by the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany lifts some of the trade restrictions imposed on Iran because of its noncompliance with international nuclear treaties.

Opponents of the deal say lifting sanctions will bring tens of billions of dollars into Iran, some of which will go to funding terrorist operations and the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. They also argue that the agreement will facilitate rather than prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

Supporters say it is the best deal to be had at present, and that without it a Middle East war is more likely because the only remaining option for stopping or slowing Iran’s nuclear program will be bombing — a move some opponents of the agreement have favored in the past.

President Barack Obama, in an interview last week, said if Congress rejects the treaty it will allow Iran to either proceed with its nuclear program unmonitored, or to settle with Russia, China and the European Union and cut the U.S. out of the oversight process as well as future trade relations.

On Friday, Lankford called the administration’s pronouncements on war a “straw man,” and he noted French reservations about the agreement.

French negotiators, Lankford said, “thought there would be a bunch of saber rattling but that within a year Iran would be back at the table and we would get a better deal.”

Lankford said his own objections begin with the provision that leaves compliance verification to the United Nations, with no input from the U.S. He said the agreement will also allow Iran to continue to develop techniques for refining weapons-grade uranium.

“The only things they need to finish is money and time,” Lankford said. “With this … they’ll have additional money and they’ll have time.”

Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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