President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have hailed the nuclear deal with Iran as a victory. But before they’ve had a chance to celebrate, a number of key Democrats have turned on the president.
They say the deal does not go far enough and called for new sanctions.
The latest Democrat to question the deal was Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In an interview with NPR, last week Menendez accused the White House of using “fear-mongering” rhetoric when Obama spokesperson Jay Carney said Americans did not want to “march to war” with Iran. He repeated his concerns about the deal on Face the Nation yesterday.
"Creating a sanctions regime that is an insurance policy and also creates leverage for us is incredibly important,” he said. He said he was concerned that that the deal did not define what a "mutually-agreeable enrichment program" is, while it softened UN resolutions calling on Iran to cease enrichment immediately.
"Those are real concerns,” Menendez said. “I hope the deal can be successful. Obviously, diplomacy is something we want to see work. But we need to be ready to move forward.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran has agreed to stop enrichment for six months in exchange for the U.S. lifting $7 billion in sanctions. Immediately after the deal was struck, Kerry said that it did limit Iran’s enrichment right. But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the Iranian people that the deal allowed Iran to continue to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
After the terms of the deal were announced, Israel launched a lobbying campaign to kill it in Congress. Many Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, also said they were against the deal and wanted to increase sanctions.
Obama has worked diligently behind the scenes to stop Congress from adding new sanctions. He has dispatched Vice President Biden to Capitol Hill to press against this move. But these efforts apparently have fallen short; the number of Democrats who are for new sanctions grow by the day. They include:
- Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) is currently working on a framework that would allow the Obama administration to work toward a deal while giving Congress the ability to pass new sanctions.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that the Senate might pursue stronger sanctions.
- Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has blasted the deal as too lenient on the Iranians
The impact of the economic sanctions placed on Iran by the United States and its allies has crippled Iran’s economy. The only way for Iran to get relief from them was agree to talks.
But without Congressional support, there’s a chance the deal could fall apart. This not only puts Kerry’s signature accomplishment as Secretary of State at risk, but also threatens to spoil the growing relationship between Tehran and the West.
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