US Democrat Chuck Schumer says he will oppose Iran nuclear deal
Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat expected to become the first Jewish Senate leader in the US Congress, has broken party ranks to oppose the on the Iran nuclear agreement.
Under pressure from his constituents and opponents of , Schumer made clear in a statement on Thursday that he did not believe the comprehensive agreement struck in Vienna in July was enough to prevent Iran from making a bomb.
Schumer gave his verdict a day after the US president, Barack Obama, at American University in Washington, in which he accused “armchair” warmongers in Washington of luring Congress towards another military conflict in the Middle East.
“Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed,” Schumer said. “This has made evaluating the agreement a difficult and deliberate endeavour, and 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.”
Other party figures, including congressman Eliot Engel, have also said they would side with Republicans in opposing the deal. The more Democrats who do so, the harder it will be for the White House to use its veto should Congress vote the deal down.
“To me, the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great,” . “Therefore, I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power.
“Better to keep US 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.”
Congress is expected to vote on the agreement in September and Obama has repeatedly said he will veto a disapproval. Opponents of the deal need enough votes in both chambers in order to make it veto-proof, which looks very difficult at the moment. That calculation might change if more Democrats join Schumer, who is expected to succeed Harry Reid as the Senate party leader in the near future, in opposing the deal.
If Congress votes down the deal, it will strike a serious blow to the credibility of Obama, who has invested a great amount of time and energy to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran. He is backed by other negotiating partners including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.
“Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal backed by tens of millions of dollars of advertising,” Obama said on Wednesday. “If the arguments sound familiar, they should. Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the .”
Although the issue is still being hotly debated in the US, to mend ties with Tehran, with many EU foreign ministers, including those of France and Italy, travelling to Iran to seek business opportunities in the post-sanctions era. It will be a while before Tehran benefits from sanctions relief as inspectors would have to first verify that Tehran is abiding by its own obligations and rolling back its nuclear programme.
While opposing the deal, Schumer said he would give “tremendous credit” to Obama for his work on this issue. “All fair-minded Americans should acknowledge the president’s strong achievements in combating and containing ,” he said.
But he said he has examined the text of the agreement and closely looked at restrictions on Iran in the first 10 years, nuclear restrictions after 10 years, and non-nuclear components and consequences of a deal. “In each case I have asked: are we better off with the agreement or without it?”
“After 15 years of relief from sanctions, Iran would be stronger financially and better able to advance a robust nuclear programme. Even more importantly, the agreement would allow Iran, after 10 to 15 years, to be a nuclear threshold state with the blessing of the world community. Iran would have a green light to be as close, if not closer to possessing a nuclear weapon than it is today. And the ability to thwart Iran if it is intent on becoming a nuclear power would have less moral and economic force.”