West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is leaning toward voting for the nuclear agreement that's been reached with Iran, but first he has some questions as congressional talks move forward.
"Basically, it's not a perfect deal," the Democrat told MSNBC's "Morning Joe"
program Tuesday. "The bottom line is, do we go it alone, or with other allies?"
Manchin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he has "made my own phone calls" and spoken to four of the five ambassadors of the P5+1 nations that negotiated the deal, and they all said the same thing: "If you pull away now, you go on your own."
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The P5+1 refers to the six world powers that negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain, plus Germany.
Manchin said he wanted to hear from the ambassadors if they'd agreed with the deal and were committed.
"They told me yes," he said. "I can only accept from what they've told me and accept them at their word, and they did tell me this. If we pull out, we pull out by ourselves. That leads me to believe that they will continue to do what they think is in the best interests for themselves ... and not try to go together as a group."
If the deal falls apart, "It will be each country for themselves, and that's not a good scenario for us, or for the Middle East or for Israel or anyone else," the West Virginian said.
Meanwhile, sanctions against Iran have been effective, said Manchin, but if the United States backs out of the deal that's been reached, "we are back to where we were."
"Also, we have proven, we can drop the bomb any time, anywhere," Manchin continued. "That's not a problem for the United States of America. If someone threatens our homeland, if we think they're a threat, we can take care of that militarily."
But at the same time, he said he's heard comments that Iran has "bamboozled" Secretary of State John Kerry and, by extension, the United States. If that happened, "then they bamboozled all the P5 and most of the world. I'd rather go with the world than myself."
There are still 45 days left for Congress to make a decision, and part of that time will be used to determine if there were other options, he said.
"Everybody says there is a better deal," he told the program. "What options are on the table or even basically discussed I could consider voting for? I'm leaning very strongly to saying, OK. Let's try, going along with the P5+1."
At this time, though, Iran's nuclear capabilities have gone down, and "we have been told they have enough fissile material to make 10 or 12 bombs," but "this has come kind of to a halt [over] the last year-and-a-half as talks have gone on."
Manchin said he still has concerns when it comes to Iran, including over its missiles, arms, human rights violations and terrorism activities, but "we can still keep those sanctions on for those purposes and we will."
"I would wish the rest of the world would ... engage on that, but not with the nuclear, because we are all together," said Manchin. "Our goal is to keep them from getting a nuclear weapon, period."
The part of the deal that concerns the senator is the "missiles they're able to continue to develop and the arms are able to acquire ... right now, I don't know how much we were able to stymie them. These are questions I need to have answered."
Manchin said he also plans to examine Iran's terrorist activities.
"Everyone says the money they will be receiving is $150 million," said Manchin. "We heard it's as low as $50 million or $60 million."
And if Iran is able to get its oil fields running, it will take in even more money to be able to get its economy moving again.
He also reaffirmed the United States' support of Israel, declaring that he does not know a Democrat or Republican in Congress who does not support the vital Middle Eastern ally or would not "go to war with Israel against Iran or any other nation that's trying to destroy them."
But the bottom line where Iran is concerned, Manchin said, is that other approaches have not worked, and he is sure that if Iran is listening to the rhetoric going on, "it probably concerns them just as much from their end or their ideological belief."
Also on Tuesday's program, co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Manchin his opinion about Republican candidate Mike Huckabee's comments that the deal walked Israel "to the oven doors,"
a reference to the Holocaust.
"It was not appropriate," said Manchin, pointing out that he was governor of West Virginia at the same time Huckabee was governor in Arkansas.
"I always considered Mike to be rational," he said. "He was easy to work with when he was the governor and in the governors' association.
"It's just unbelievable what this hyperpolitics, I guess chasing the media, chasing the money and the presidential campaigns will do to you. But that's not the Mike I knew."
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