Kerry defends landmark nuclear deal in Senate

Kerry defends landmark Iran nuclear deal in Senate hearing

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

United States Secretary of State John Kerry defended Iran nuclear deal on Thursday, in the first public hearing, before the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry was joined by two other architects of the deal, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to persuade the committee members to support the Iran nuclear deal.  

The agreement has recently been received by Congress and  they will have 60 days to ratify or reject it.

Kerry guaranteed that the deal is the best option to prevent Iran from getting  nuclear weapons.

He said, the rejection of the deal would be "[the]United States of America walking away from every one of the restrictions we have achieved, and a great big green light for Iran to double the pace of its uranium enrichment."

Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), argued that the US had been "fleeced" by Iran and to achieve President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal agenda, Kerry had "turned Iran from being a pariah, to now Congress being a pariah."

Kerry dismissed arguments of Corker and said the US administration is not weighing the deal only by “looking at what this table negotiated,” and that they trust lifetime expertise in nuclear technology of P5+1 under the auspices of the United Nations (UN).

The nuclear deal is recently backed by the UN Security Council, however is not welcomed very well by the majority of Republicans. Several lawmakers made  statements calling UN vote on the nuclear deal an “affront to the American people," because it took place before the congressional approval.

The nuclear deal that was reached on July 14, between Iran and P5+1 powers including Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, was aimed at monitoring Iran's most sensitive nuclear work for over 12 years in exchange for immediate relief for the country from economic sanctions that have long crippled its economy.

Obama backs the deal, as he said the agreement is not “built on trust, it is built on verification.”

However, the landmark deal is not welcomed by the Republican majority Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said, “It's pretty clear to me that a majority of the House and Senate, at a minimum, are opposed to this deal. What those numbers will look like post-Labor day, we'll see.”

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 support from dozens of Democrats.

Despite the harsh criticism from Congress claiming that with the ratification of the deal the US will give Iran what they want, the Obama administration seems to be confident that the Iran nuclear deal is essential for overcoming risk of Iran’s producing a nuclear weapon.

"The choice we face is between an agreement that will ensure Iran's nuclear programme is limited, rigorously scrutinised and wholly peaceful - or no deal at all," Kerry said.

He also underscored that the Republican George Bush administration, was engaged with Iran, “who had 19,000 centrifuges up from the 163 that they had back in 2003.”

On the other hand, many Republicans believe the nuclear deal will only serve Iran by providing  a path to a bomb.

In March, before the deal was reached with Iran and the six world powers, Republican senators signed an open letter addressing the Iranian leaders to display their disapproval and warned that even if the deal is approved, the next administration will revoke it “with the stroke of a pen.”

While Republicans seem tough to convince about passing the agreement, hours after the Iran nuclear agreement was reached, the White House took its first steps to gain votes of skeptical Democrats in Congress on the deal.

However, several Democrats are also at odds with Obama’s agenda.

Pro-Israel Democratic Senator Robert Menendez recently expressed his discontentment with the nuclear deal, and could be a key congressional member in pushing Democrats into supporting Republican’s stance on the issue. Menendez said he believes the deal preserves Iran’s nuclear program instead of ending it.

Congress has until September 17 to approve or reject the accord.

TRTWorld and agencies