Politicians cross the aisle to condemn Obama’s Iran deal
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s nuke deal with Iran got a big thumbs-down Sunday from top lawmakers in both parties.
“I don’t think you make them bargain in good faith by going squishy,” fumed Bronx Rep. Eliot Engel, as he joined a bipartisan chorus blasting the agreement that will slightly ease economic sanctions against the rogue Islamic regime in exchange for a pause of its nuclear program.
“It’s disappointing to me that Iran is still going to be allowed to enrich [uranium] while they’re talking. I would have thought that that should be a prerequisite to any kind of talks,” Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer also said he was “disappointed” by the deal that the Obama administration and five other world powers struck with Iran.
“It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table,” Schumer said in a statement.
“Any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced,” Schumer said. “A fairer agreement would have coupled a reduction in sanctions with a proportionate reduction in Iranian nuclear capability.”
Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democratic leader, said the deal only fueled a bipartisan push for legislation to impose more sanctions on Iran.
The legislation could start to move as soon as next month.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has drafted a bill for new sanctions, said the deal made Obama look “weak” in Iran’s eyes.
“From their perspective, they do view this administration as weak,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If you see the reaction in Iran right now, they’re spiking the football in the end zone saying, ‘Look, we’ve consolidated our gains, we’ve relieved sanctions, we’re going to have the right to enrich.’”
Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that additional sanctions imposed by Congress would nix the agreement.
“If there are new sanctions, then there is no deal. It’s very clear. End of the deal. Because of the inability of one party to maintain their side of the bargain,” he told NBC News.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called the deal a “marginal improvement” but voiced support for imposing more sanctions.
“Our policy is that Iran should not have nuclear arms capability. We need to make sure that Iran does not move forward,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The deal, which is considered an interim agreement while talks continue for another six months, includes:
• International community will lift about $6 billion in economic sanctions, mostly on Iran oil sales.
• Iran will neutralize its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity, a key ingredient of nuclear bombs.
• Halt enrichment above 5 percent purity
• Stop building new centrifuges to enrich uranium *Suspend construction of Arak heavy-water reactor.
• Allow more international inspections of nuke facilities House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the terms “rewarded very bad and dangerous behavior” by Iran.
“We may have just encouraged more violence in the future than we have stopped,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Why now? Why release that pressure now? Iran has not changed.”
Rep. Peter King, chairman of Homeland Security subcommittee on terrorism, called the bargain a “serious strategic mistake.”
“The United States will ease sanctions on Iran making billions of dollars available to the Iranians while Iran does not have to dismantle any of their 19,000 centrifuges,” he said. “This agreement is a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States and our allies in the Middle East, specifically Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
That view was shared by Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East.
“It’s not a historic agreement. It’s a historic mistake,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that the US didn’t “trust” Iran and would closely monitor the country’s nuclear program as talks continue.
“I think everybody has a right to be skeptical because there are indications that there are people in Iran who have wanted to pursue a weapons program, that there have been secret facilities, building some of those efforts towards that program, and so there’s lots of reason,” Kerry said on the CBS show. “That’s why we don’t take anything at face value. That’s why you don’t take it for granted.”
Still, disagreements immediately surfaced between the US and Iran over what the deal means.
Kerry contradicted claims by Zarif that the deal took the threat of US military action off the table and demonstrated that Iran has a “right” to enrich uranium.
“That’s just not accurate,” said Kerry. “The fact is, the president maintains, as commander in chief, and he has said specifically, he has not taken that threat off the table.”