President Barack Obama's effort to sell the Iran nuclear deal to a skeptical Congress has been dealt a serious setback, with one of the president's top allies, Senator Chuck Schumer, coming out against the pact.
"After deep study, careful thought, and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval," Schumer said in a statement late Thursday.
Schumer, a senator from the state of New York and one of the top Jewish lawmakers in the U.S., released the statement shortly after another influential Jewish Democrat, Representative Eliot Engel, also from New York state, announced his opposition to the deal.
“The very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great,” Schumer said in opposing the pact.
Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the architects of the nuclear accord, said he was "profoundly disappointed" in the decision.
"Rejection is not a policy for the future," Kerry said at a news conference in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, where he is wrapping up a tour of Southeast Asia.
Schumer's split with Obama was remarkable for a senior leader in line to replace Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid after he retires at the end of next year.
His decision also put him at odds with the Democrats' likely presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who has cautiously embraced the deal.
The likelihood has been increasing that U.S. lawmakers will pass a bill rejecting the Iran nuclear deal when they return from recess in September.
Obama said he would veto that decision but needs the support of his fellow Democrats to sustain the veto.
The agreement, reached last month between Iran and six world powers, will lift sanctions in exchange for Tehran scaling back its nuclear program and allowing intrusive inspections at the facilities.
In a five-page statement explaining his concerns, Schumer said the inspections regime was inadequate.
"Inspections are not 'anywhere, anytime;' the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling," he said.
Schumer also expressed concern the money freed up by the sanctions relief will allow Iran to increase its funding for militant groups across the Middle East, further destabilizing the region.
"Better 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, difficult as it may be," he said.
Obama defended the deal in an address Wednesday, saying it "cuts off all of Iran's pathways to a bomb" and is the best way to prevent another U.S. war in the Middle East.
No response yet
The White House has not yet responded to Schumer's statement.
It is not clear how many more of Schumer's fellow Democratic members of Congress will follow his lead and publicly oppose the deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several powerful pro-Israel lobby groups have been putting intense pressure on U.S. lawmakers to reject the deal, saying it will undermine the security of Israel and the West.
Nonpartisan, non-proliferation group Global Zero on Thursday said it was disappointed in Schumer's decision, saying the deal "is in the national security interests of the United States and our allies."
"It would roll back Iran’s nuclear program, block all pathways to a nuclear weapon and impose unprecedentedly rigorous verification measures. The vast majority of credible nuclear experts - including Israelis with top national security credentials - strongly support the agreement," the statement added.
Congress returns from its break on September. It must vote on the nuclear agreement by September 17.
Some material for this report came from AP.
... Payvand News - 03/25/16 ... --