White House shrugs off senator's rejection of Iran nuclear deal

2015-08-08 21:26


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Washington - The White House said on Friday it was still confident of winning congressional approval for the Iran nuclear deal, despite an influential senator's announcement that he will vote against it.

The announcement from Senator Chuck Schumer "was not particularly surprising to anyone here at the White House", spokesperson Josh Earnest said.

"It's not new, and this is a difference of opinion that President Obama and Senator Schumer have had dating all the back to 2003."

He said that Schumer's decision did not alter the White House's confidence that it will be able to mobilise a majority of Democrats in both the House and the Senate in support of the deal.

Schumer, a Democrat from New York and a leading Jewish voice in Congress, said he would vote no because he believes Iran will not change, and under the agreement it "will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power".

He said it would be 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".

Schumer specifically referred to what he said were "serious weaknesses" in the first 10 years after the agreement's implementation. Those flaws, he said, include the inability of the United States to demand inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities unilaterally and a 24-day delay before inspections may start.

Schumer said that he spent weeks reading the agreement, reached July 14 between six world powers and Iran after years of negotiations.

"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," he said in a statement.

Schumer announced his intention to vote no despite Obama's warning that it would be a historic mistake to squander the opportunity to peacefully rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions. Obama said Congress would accelerate Iran's pathway to a bomb if it rejects the deal.

Demand inspections 

Schumer said he was troubled that inspections are not permitted "anywhere, anytime" by the agreement, and he said the 24-day delay "would hinder our ability to determine precisely what was being done at that site".

He said it was even more troubling that the United States can not demand inspections unilaterally. The deal requires a majority of an eight-member joint commission.

Assuming that China, Russia and Iran will not co-operate, he said, inspections would require the votes of all three European members as well as the EU representative.

"It is reasonable to fear that, once the Europeans become entangled in lucrative economic relations with Iran, they may well be inclined not to rock the boat by voting to allow inspections," Schumer said.

He complained that the so-called snapback provisions in the agreement, which are designed to quickly reimplement sanctions against Iran, seem cumbersome and difficult to use.

Despite his pledge to vote no, Schumer gave "tremendous credit" to Obama for his work on the issue.

Schumer's announcement came after diplomats from the other countries involved in the negotiations - Germany, France, China, Russia and Britain - briefed 25 Democratic senators on the deal.

A top German official, who spoke on Thursday with reporters, warned of a "nightmare" if Congress were to reject the deal.

"The option of going back to negotiations is close to zero," said Philipp Ackermann, Berlin's deputy ambassador to the United States.

Ackermann said a rejection of the deal would empower hardliners in Tehran who insist the United States cannot be trusted.

"These people will say it's useless to negotiate" with the outside world, he said, in comments that the German embassy in Washington confirmed to dpa.

Members of Congress on Friday left Washington for a four-week break. They have until September 17 to weigh in on the agreement.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  iran  |  iran nuclear programme

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