Obama ally op­poses Iran deal, US ap­proval still likely

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A sec­ond law­maker from U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Demo­cratic Party spoke out Tues­day in op­po­si­tion to Obama’s nu­clear deal with Iran, but mo­men­tum within the party nev­er­the­less ap­peared to be fa­vor­ing the land­mark ac­cord.

De­spite Sen­a­tor Robert Me­nen­dez join­ing a con­gres­sional cho­rus of dis­ap­proval of the pact, U.S. Repub­li­can Party leader Mitch McCon­nell con­ceded that Obama likely had the votes to en­sure its sur­vival.

“I have looked into my own soul and my de­vo­tion to prin­ci­ple may once again lead me to an un­pop­u­lar course, but if Iran is to ac­quire a nu­clear bomb, it will not have my name on it,” Me­nen­dez said in a speech at Se­ton Hall Univer­sity in South Or­ange, New Jersey.

“We should make it ab­so­lutely clear that we want a deal, but we want the right deal — and a deal that does noth­ing more than de­lay the in­evitable isn’t a deal we will make,” added Me­nen­dez, a for­mer chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee who has of­ten crossed party lines in ef­forts to toughen eco­nomic sanc­tions on Tehran.

“I know that, in many re­spects, it would be far eas­ier to sup­port this deal, as it would have been to vote for the war in Iraq at the time,” he said.

“But I didn’t choose the eas­ier path then, and I’m not go­ing to now.”

New Jersey’s Me­nen­dez is only the sec­ond Se­nate Demo­crat to op­pose the ac­cord reached be­tween Iran and six world pow­ers, af­ter Sen­a­tor Chuck Schumer of New York.

The U.S Congress, where the op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Party is united in op­pos­ing the Iran deal, is ex­pected to pass a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval in Septem­ber.

Obama is cer­tain to veto the res­o­lu­tion, and he would need just one third of mem­bers in each cham­ber to back him to ram the deal through.

McCon­nell said Mon­day he hoped Congress could over­ride a veto, but con­ceded Obama had “a great like­li­hood of suc­cess,” the Lex­ing­ton Her­ald-Leader re­ported.

‘Tem­po­rary lim­i­ta­tions’

By Tues­day, 21 of the Se­nate’s 46 Democrats were back­ing the deal, ac­cord­ing to a CQ Roll Call count, af­ter Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono be­came the latest sen­a­tor to sup­port Obama.

Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, who has lob­bied law­mak­ers hard in sup­port of the agree­ment, “re­mains con­fi­dent that this deal ... will get the sup­port of Congress,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby told re­porters.

Me­nen­dez said the agree­ment does not pro­vide for suf­fi­cient in­spec­tions of Iran’s nu­clear or mil­i­tary sites nor de­stroy any cen- trifuges ca­pa­ble of sep­a­rat­ing the ex­plo­sive ura­nium 235 iso­tope from ura­nium ore.

Crit­i­cally, it lifts pun­ish­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions on Iran “in ex­change for only tem­po­rary lim­i­ta­tions on its nu­clear pro­gram — not a rolling back, not a dis­man­tling,” Me­nen­dez said.

And should Iran vi­o­late the pact and make a dash for the bomb, “our so­lace will be that we will have a year’s no­tice in­stead of the present three months” of known break­out time, a warn­ing pe­riod he de­scribed as noth­ing more than “a very ex­pen­sive alarm sys­tem.”

Re­ac­tion to Me­nen­dez’s speech was swift, with pro­gres­sive ad­vo­cacy group CREDO Ac­tion blast­ing him as a war­mon­ger.

“Me­nen­dez’s sup­port for war over diplo­macy isn’t sur­pris­ing, but that doesn’t make it any less dan­ger­ous or ir­re­spon­si­ble,” the group’s cam­paign man­ager Zack Malitz said.

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