US Secretaries Pitch Iran Accord to Lawmakers

US Secretaries Pitch Iran Accord to Lawmakers US Secretaries Pitch Iran Accord to Lawmakers

US Secretary of State John Kerry intensified efforts on Tuesday to beat back criticism of the Iran nuclear deal.

Days after tough questioning by lawmakers at an emotional Senate hearing, Kerry sharpened his response to criticism that the deal's provisions were temporary and would not curb Iran's nuclear activities in the long run.

"Iran has agreed to refrain from producing or acquiring highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear weapons forever," he told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Reuters reported.  

"When it comes to verification and monitoring, there is absolutely no sunset in this agreement. Not in 10 years, not in 15 years, not in 20 years, not in 25 years - no sunset ever."

Challenged even by some of his fellow Democrats, Kerry said, "If you kill the deal, you are not making America safer."

Joined by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Kerry was part of the President Barack Obama's effort to coax skeptical lawmakers into supporting the nuclear pact.

Congress has until Sept. 17 to endorse or reject it. Rejection would prevent Obama from waiving most US-imposed sanctions on Iran, a key component of the deal.

Under the July 14 pact, world powers agreed to lift sanctions in return for temporary restrictions on a nuclear program the West claims may have been aimed at developing a weapons capability. Tehran denies the charge and says the program is solely for peaceful purposes.

The four-hour hearing grew heated as some House Republicans shouted at Kerry. Senate Republicans last week accused him of having been "bamboozled" and "fleeced."

***No Alternative

At times, Kerry visibly lost patience, saying he was hearing many complaints, while opponents offered no alternative.

Kerry insisted walking away would isolate the United States.

"If we walk away, we walk away alone. Our partners are not going to be with us," Kerry said.

Lew said that other countries would not keep the sanctions against Iran in place.

"You could end up with Iran getting access to that money without the benefit of an agreement, which would be a very bad outcome," he noted.

Both Republicans and Democrats signaled the potential difficulty in getting Congress on board.

Representative Ed Royce, the committee's Republican chairman, said the deal gives Iran a "cash bonanza," while weakening Washington's ability to pressure Tehran.

Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat, said he saw a number of troublesome issues.

Although Republicans control majorities in the House and Senate, they would need Democratic votes against Obama to override a promised veto if Congress rejects the nuclear pact.

Many Democrats have not decided how they will vote when Congress returns in September from a five-week recess, but several have come out in favor.

Representative Sander Levin, the longest serving Jewish member of the House, issued a statement on Tuesday backing the deal.