Nu­clear deal gets boost from Democrats

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD/OBITUARIES -

Four Democrats, in­clud­ing one who rep­re­sents an Amer­i­can hostage in Iran, said Thurs­day they would sup­port the Iran nu­clear deal in a ma­jor boost for Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“It’s very clear to me that the agree­ment is the best path for­ward,” Rep. Dan Kildee, who counts hostage Amir Hek­mati as a con­stituent, told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view. “This agree­ment al­lows us to pre­vent (Iran) from gain­ing a nu­clear weapon, and if they cheat, we will know it. If we don’t have the agree­ment, we don’t have that cer­tainty.”

Hek­mati, an Amer­i­can, has been held in Iran since 2011. Kildee said he has told Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Hek­mati’s rel­a­tives about his de­ci­sion to back the in­ter­na­tional agree­ment, which calls on Iran to curb its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for bil­lions of dol­lars in sanc­tions re­lief.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Demo­crat on the House Bud­get Com­mit­tee and a Se­nate can­di­date, said he would sup­port the agree­ment, call­ing it “the best path to achieve our goal of en­sur­ing that Iran never ob­tains a nu­clear weapon.”

A for­mer sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Hek­mati was vis­it­ing his ail­ing grand­mother in 2011 when he was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of spy­ing. He was charged in Jan­uary 2012 with es­pi­onage and sen­tenced to death. His fam­ily de­nies the charge. He is one of four Amer­i­cans held by Iran.

Demo­cratic Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. David Price, a Demo­crat, also an­nounced their sup­port for the agree­ment, a boost for Obama amid a week of fu­ri­ous lob­by­ing on Capi­tol Hill.

“We have a choice be­tween this deal or no deal” to stop Iran from de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear bomb, Udall said from the Se­nate floor. “I do not be­lieve we will get another chance.”

Their state­ments come af­ter mul­ti­ple White House meet­ings this week be­tween Obama and House Democrats, in­tended to counter an in­tense lob­by­ing ef­fort by AIPAC, which is be­hind a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ad cam­paign. The pro-Is­rael lobby ar­gues that Iran can­not be trusted. Obama and his al­lies say there is no al­ter­na­tive to the deal other than to let Iran pro­ceed un­su­per­vised.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, a Repub­li­can, who has crit­i­cized the ac­cord, re­it­er­ated his de­mand that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion turn over doc­u­ments re­lated to agree­ments be­tween the IAEA and Iran that he de­scribed as “side agree­ments.” Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry has said there are no side agree­ments rel­e­vant to the ac­cord.

The Repub­li­can-led Congress is in the midst of a 60-day re­view of the deal and is ex­pected to vote in Septem­ber on a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval that Obama has vowed to veto. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goal is to en­sure it has enough Demo­cratic votes to sus­tain the veto.

Obama has ag­gres­sively courted Democrats, hold­ing ses­sions at the White House and send­ing Cab­i­net mem­bers to Capi­tol Hill for brief­ings and hear­ings.

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