Democratic New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal on Thursday, while President Barack Obama's efforts in lobbying for the deal are still ongoing.
“Over the years, I have learned that the best way to treat such decisions is to study the issue carefully, hear the full, unfiltered explanation of those for and against, and then, without regard to pressure, politics or party, make a decision solely based on the merits,” the leading US senator said.
Despite opposing the deal, he acknowledged Obama’s efforts on the issue. However, he said “after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching” he decided to vote in favour of a motion of disapproval.
Recently Congressman Peter Roskam, co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, announced that a resolution of disapproval has been signed by 218 lawmakers in the House.
The nuclear deal is under congressional review and the legislative body has until Sept. 17 to ratify or reject it.
While seeking support from Democrats Obama said he would veto any legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran or prevent him from suspending the existing ones. Overriding the president’s veto would require the approval of two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, in which case the Republicans would need the support of dozens of Democrats.
Pro-Israel Democratic Senator Robert Menendez also expressed his discontentment with the nuclear deal, and said he believes the deal preserves Iran’s nuclear program instead of ending it.
In a 1,600-word post on the website Medium, Schumer, who's poised to assume leadership of his party in the Senate, went on to explain the reasons behind his opposition to the deal.
— Medium (@Medium) August 7, 2015
He wrote that his concerns over the landmark deal are mainly a 24-day delay before inspections of suspected radioactive sites are allowed, the impossibility of US unilateral inspections, and the relaxation of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program after ten years.
“Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed … Supporters argue that after ten years, a future President would be in no weaker a position than we are today to prevent Iran from racing to the bomb,” he said.
However, he said that the ratification of the nuclear deal would make Iran situation “worse," because “Iran would be stronger financially and better able to advance a robust nuclear program.”
The nuclear deal agreed on July 14 between Iran and the P5+1 powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - is aimed at monitoring Iran's most sensitive nuclear work for over 12 years in exchange for immediate relief of the country from the economic sanctions that have long crippled its economy.
Schumer strongly believes the deal has weaknesses, for instance, he says the 24-day delay before the inspection will give Iran power to “escape detection of any illicit building and improving of possible military dimensions” and hinder the US’s ability to “to determine precisely what was being done” at nuclear sites.
He is also worried because, according to the deal, the US would not be able to demand inspections unilaterally. In order to initiate an inspection, a majority vote in an eight member Joint Commission would be required and Schumer believes if the US requests an inspection of Iran's nuclear sites China, Russia and Iran will not cooperate.
He says the decision would therefore be left to all three European members of the P5+1 and a vote from an EU representative. He believes European countries might “become entangled in lucrative economic relations with Iran” and “they may well be inclined not to rock the boat by voting to allow inspections.”
Schumer said he believes “Iran will not change” and the nuclear agreement will allow the country to carry out a nuclear and agressive foreign policy agenda after becoming stronger due to the sanctions being lifted. He also said he believes the best way to cope with Iran potentially building a nuclear bomb potential is to “keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more.”
On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi - the leader of Democrats in the US House of Representatives - recently wrote to her colleagues to show her support for the Iran nuclear deal.
"As you may be aware, I believe that this agreement is a major accomplishment. I am pleased that the response thus far from House Democrats has been so positive," she said.
The Obama administration is working full time to convince lawmakers to back the landmark nuclear deal. In the past few weeks Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and several other administration officials have been visiting Capitol Hill.