Iran nuclear deal divides US Congress on partisan lines

A deal over Iran`s nuclear programme, which could become the centerpiece of President Barack Obama`s foreign policy legacy, has left the US Congress bitterly divided on partisan lines.

PTI| Updated: Nov 24, 2013, 15:37 PM IST

Washington: A deal over Iran`s nuclear programme, which could become the centerpiece of President Barack Obama`s foreign policy legacy, has left the US Congress bitterly divided on partisan lines.
While the Democratic lawmakers hailed it as a historic moment towards achieving their goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the opposition Republican party expressed concern over the long-term impact of the deal given the experience of the international community with Iran in this regard.

"Iran hasn`t given the world reason to be anything but deeply skeptical of any agreement that leaves their capacity to build nuclear weapons intact. The President sees wisdom in placing trust, however limited, in a regime that has repeatedly violated international norms and put America`s security at risk," said Republican Congressman Howard P "Buck" McKeon, Chairman of the?House Armed Services Committee.

Another Republican leader Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed serious concerns that this agreement does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and its allies.

"Instead of rolling back Iran`s programme, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years. This sanctions relief is more lifeline than modest," Royce said.

Expressing concern over the agreement, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said while numerous UN Security Council resolutions have called for the full suspension of Iran`s nuclear activities, it is troubling that this agreement still permits the Iranians to continue enriching.

"It is critical that distrust but verify be the guiding principle with which we approach this agreement," he said.

"Iran`s long history of noncompliance with the UN Security Council is well known, as is its use of secret facilities to pursue its nuclear programme. Iran remains the world`s most active state sponsor of terrorism and the most destabilizing force in the Middle East," he said.

"As this deal goes into effect, the United States must remain vigilant and respond immediately and severely to any cheating or wrongdoing by Iran," Cantor added.

Noting that this agreement will not freeze Iran`s nuclear programme and won`t require the regime to suspend all enrichment as required by multiple UN Security Council resolutions, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said by allowing the Iranian regime to retain a sizable nuclear infrastructure, this agreement makes a nuclear Iran more likely.

"This agreement is a blow to our allies in the region who are already concerned about America`s commitment to their security and it sends the wrong message to the Iranian people, who continue to suffer under the repressive rule of their leaders who have only their own self-preservation in mind," Rubio said.

The House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith said the deal is a positive step in the right direction.

"I applaud the Administration for making progress on this important national security issue. It is vital that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon in a peaceful way," he said.

"The initial step of the P5 + 1 deal announced today halts the Iranian nuclear program and will roll it back in key respects in exchange for temporary, targeted, and reversible relief. The deal also puts in place an improved inspection, monitoring, and verification regime," he said.

"This preliminary step should serve as a bridge to a long-term deal. This interim agreement gives us the chance to make significant progress towards the goal we and our allies seek: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Smith said.