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Three Major House Democrats Come Out Against Iran Deal

Three leading members of the House of Representatives – Reps. Steve Israel (D – N.Y.), Nita Lowey (D – N.Y.), and Ted Deutch (D – Fla.) – today became the first three Democratic Jewish members of Congress to go on record opposing the nuclear deal with Iran.

Rep. Israel, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Newsday that he would vote against the deal and will work to defeat it in next month’s Congressional vote.

“I tried very hard to get to yes. But at the end of the day, despite some positive elements in the deal, the totality compelled me to oppose it,” Israel said in a telephone interview. …

Israel listed three key problems with the deal: Iran is likely to exploit ambiguities in the deal and not face punitive measures for it; lifting the arms embargo will create pathways to increase arms stockpiles for Hezbollah and Hamas fighters near Israel’s borders; and he has concerns about the size, sophistication, speed and legitimacy of Iran’s enrichment capacity in 15 years. …

“The alternative is as imperfect as the deal is,” he said. “I can’t cast my vote based on hypotheticals. I have to base my vote on what’s in my heart.”

Israel told Newsday that he was going public with his opposition hoping that he might influence other members of the House.

Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls government spending, issued a press release stating that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is a “essential national security imperative,” and that after extensive consultations with “officials in the Obama Administration, regional experts, foreign leaders, Congressional colleagues, and my constituents,” she could not support the deal.

In my judgment, sufficient safeguards are not in place to address the risks associated with the agreement.  Relieving UN sanctions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles and releasing billions of dollars to the Iranian regime could lead to a dangerous regional weapons race and enable Iran to bolster its funding of terrorists.   The deal does not explicitly require Iran to fully disclose its previous military work to the IAEA’s satisfaction before sanctions relief is provided, and inspectors will not have immediate access to the most suspicious facilities. There are no clear accountability measures regarding punishment for minor violations, which could encourage Iran to cheat.

“This agreement will leave the international community with limited options in 15 years to prevent nuclear breakout in Iran, which will be an internationally-recognized nuclear threshold state, capable of producing highly enriched uranium.  I am greatly concerned that the agreement lacks a crystal clear statement that the international community reserves the right to take all military, economic, and diplomatic measures necessary during the course of the deal and beyond to deter Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon.

“Since the U.S. and Iran severed relations in 1980, the Iranian regime has become increasingly aggressive, openly anti-America and anti-Israel, extremely anti-Semitic, and the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world. Even today, the regime has made no good-faith demonstration toward bringing home four Americans who are held prisoner or missing in Iran. Given these realities, the negotiating process alone was a diplomatic feat of tremendous proportion. I commend President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Wendy Sherman, and our entire team. They have worked tirelessly to bring about this agreement, and I continue to have confidence in their service to our country.

“Congress’s role has been invaluable, in partnership with the Administration, in implementing the crippling sanctions that brought Iran to the table.  I remain hopeful that the Administration and Congress, in concert with our P5+1 and regional allies, can prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, I cannot support this agreement before Congress.”

Deutch, the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made his announcement in an op-ed published today in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. Citing his longstanding efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Deutch argued that the deal not only fails to accomplish its stated goals of preventing a nuclear Iran, but dangerously strengthens Iran in a number of other ways.

Many of my colleagues are trying to turn this vote into a partisan fight. They should stop. People of good faith can disagree honestly. I have spent weeks reviewing this agreement in classified intelligence briefings, meetings with Administration officials and ambassadors from Europe and the Middle East, and discussions with security and nuclear experts. I’ve also heard from many, many constituents about this deal’s implications for the security of the U.S. and our allies, including Israel, whose very existence is threatened by Iran. …

No one denies Iran’s support for the world’s most notorious terrorist groups. No one disputes Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East or role in killing Americans. And because no one trusts Iran not to cheat in anyway it can, the fact that this deal makes it nearly impossible to reinstate sanctions of today’s intensity is beyond alarming. …

This deal may temporarily slow Iran’s nuclear enrichment, but it speeds up the enrichment of the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian terror proxies that endanger security and stability in the Middle East.

Deutch also dismissed concerns that the only alternative to the deal is war, writing that “there are different predictions” of the consequences of Congress rejecting the deal, but approving the deal will provide Iran with billions in unfrozen assets and new business and will mean “more money for Hamas for building terror tunnels in Gaza, more weapons for Hezbollah in Lebanon, more slaughter in Syria, and more violence worldwide.” Deutch concluded that he could not support a deal that will give Iran billions while “letting it maintain an advanced nuclear program and the infrastructure of a threshold nuclear state.”

Israel, Lowey, and Deutch join four other Democrats Representatives – Juan Vargas (D – Calif.), Grace Meng (D – N.Y.), Albio Sires (D – N.J.), and Kathleen Rice (D – N.Y.) – in opposing the deal. Deutch, Vargas, Meng, and Sires are all recent or current members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Additionally, former New York Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman voiced his opposition to the deal over the weekend.

[Photo: Cliff / Flickr ]