Both Democrats and Republicans Skeptical of Iran Deal

Sunday, 24 Nov 2013 05:04 PM

By By Audrey Hudson and Amy Woods

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Both sides of the political aisle expressed strong skepticism over the deal announced in Geneva early Sunday that dropped many sanctions against Iran in exchange for concessions in its nuclear program.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Eliot Engel both of New York joined numerous Republicans in criticizing the deal on Sunday.

Engel expressed doubt on Sunday the plan will succeed without continued sanctions.

"I don't think you make them bargain in good faith by going squishy," Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee told CNN's "State of the Union."

"I think we could have played good cop, bad cop, and Congress really believes sanctions should happen," Engel said. "That's what brought Iran to the table in the first place."

Schumer said in a statement that he was disappointed in the interim deal reached in Geneva regarding Iran’s nuclear program, saying "it does not seem proportional" because "Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions."

Sen. Bob Menendez, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also criticized what he perceived as a more one-sided deal that benefits Iran.

But the New Jersey Democrat also said that he expected any further sanctions legislation would adjust for the six-month window in the interim agreement, allowing for negotiators to work on a permanent deal.

“I expect that the forthcoming sanctions legislation to be considered by the Senate will provide for a six month window to reach a final agreement before imposing new sanctions on Iran, but will at the same time be immediately available should the talks falter or Iran fail to implement or breach the interim agreement,” Menendez said in a statement.

On Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that he planned to move a sanctions measure when the Senate returns from a two-week Thanksgiving break on Dec. 9. Reid was noticeably quiet on Sunday in what some observers interpreted as resistance to the deal.

Many Republicans were even harsher in their opposition.

The six-month deal not only will enable Iran to continue to move ahead with its nuclear-development program, it also will leave the United States with less leverage because of the easing of economic sanctions, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss said on ABC's "This Week."

"Nothing in this deal requires the destruction of any centrifuges," said Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "They're going to be able to replace centrifuges that become inoperable. I just don't see this movement in the direction of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon at all."

The deal regarding the sanctions lets Iran "out of the trap," he said.

"Right now, the sanctions are working," Chambliss said. "The economy of Iran is heading south. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Instead of easing them, now is the time to tighten those sanctions, and let's get a long-term deal. We've got all the leverage in the negotiations, and we've let them out of the trap."

Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the deal meant Tehran would be able to keep key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability while the U.S. would begin dismantling sanctions built up over years.

Saying that Iran is "spiking the football" over an interim deal to ease sanctions over its nuclear enrichment program, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said he is crafting legislation to hold administration's and international community's feet the fire over next six months to ensure interim deal is not the norm.

The Obama administration is "long on announcements, but very short on follow-through," Corker said on "Fox News Sunday." But he said that while he'd like to a diplomatic solution, Congress must weigh in.

"America has not learned its lesson from 1994 when North Korea fooled the world. I am skeptical that this agreement will end differently," said California Republican Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill, called Iran's concessions under the deal "cosmetic" partly because Tehran could continue to test long-range ballistic missiles.

"I will continue working with my colleagues to craft bipartisan legislation that will impose tough new economic sanctions if Iran undermines this interim accord or if the dismantlement of Iran's nuclear infrastructure is not underway by the end of this six-month period," Kirk said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that by "allowing the Iranian regime to retain a sizable nuclear infrastructure, this agreement makes a nuclear Iran more likely. There is now an even more urgent need for Congress to increase sanctions until Iran completely abandons its enrichment and reprocessing capabilities."

Eliot Jager and Greg Richter contributed to this report.

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