United States Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has likened the Iranian nuclear deal to “marching the Israelis to the door of the oven”, a reference to the Holocaust.
The former Arkansas governor made the remark on Twitter on Sunday, a day after making a similar comparison when denouncing president Barack Obama for his role in the agreement reached with Tehran by the US, the UK and four other world powers.
Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Mr Huckabee’s statement was “grossly irresponsible” and called on him to apologise.
But a spokeswoman for Mr Huckabee said his comments reflected a long-standing position that “the Iran deal is a bad deal, bad for America and bad for Israel”. His tweet called on Congress to reject the deal.
Mr Huckabee said in a US TV interview: “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. He’s so naive he would trust the Iranians and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.”
Mr Obama, asked about the comments at a news conference in Addis Ababa, where he was meeting with Ethiopian officials, said they were part of a pattern of attacks by 2016 Republican presidential candidates that would be “considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad”. He said such issues as the Iran nuclear deal deserved serious debate, not outlandish statements.
“It doesn’t help inform the American people,” he said.
Mr Huckabee said “this Iran deal should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans”.
He went on: “We forget Iranians have never kept a deal in 36 years under the ayatollah. There’s no reason to think they will suddenly start doing it.”
On the deal, he said: “I read the entire thing. We gave away the whole farm. It’s got to be stopped.”
His comments come as the Republican presidential candidates struggle to break through, with 16 of them already in the field, and one of those, businessman Donald Trump, getting more attention than most.
In response to Mr Obama’s criticism on Monday morning, Mr Huckabee said he was not backing down.
“What’s ridiculous and sad is that President Obama does not take the Iran threats seriously,” he said. “For decades, Iranian leaders have pledged to ‘destroy’, ‘annihilate’ and ‘wipe Israel off the map’ with a ‘big Holocaust’.
“‘Never again’ will be the policy of my administration and I will stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust.”
This month’s deal between Iran and the world powers will limit Tehran’s nuclear programme for ten years in exchange for fewer sanctions. Last week, members of the US Congress began a 60-day review of the deal, which several Republicans are hoping will result in blocking the agreement.
Secretary of state John Kerry has been pushing for support, echoing Mr Obama’s statement that “every pathway to a nuclear weapon” has been cut off.
Jonathan Greenblatt, of the US Anti-Defamation League, said: “Whatever one’s views of the nuclear agreement with Iran — and we have been critical of it, noting that there are serious unanswered questions that need to be addressed — comments such as those by Mike Huckabee suggesting the president is leading Israel to another Holocaust are completely out of line and unacceptable.”
In his presidential announcement in May, Mr Huckabee criticised Mr Obama’s relationship with Israel.