Key Senate Panel Opposed to US Leaving Iran Deal

Key Senate Panel Opposed to US Leaving Iran DealKey Senate Panel Opposed to US Leaving Iran Deal

A ranking member of a top US Senate committee reiterated the panel's stance to keep the US in the Iran nuclear deal, in a veiled criticism of President Donald Trump's threat to withdraw from the pact.

"We believe that in regard to the Iran nuclear agreement, that we have to enforce the agreement rigorously, but we don't want the United States unilaterally withdrawing from that agreement. I think that's what most Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee believe," member of the panel, Ben Cardin, said in a recent talk with Politico.

Under the nuclear accord brokered with P5+1(the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) in July 2015, economic sanctions against Tehran were eased in return for time-bound constraints on its nuclear activities.

Trump, however, has taken an aggressive stance toward the widely supported agreement, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, and even went so far as to vow to rip it up.

Although he backed down on that promise after repeated appeals from his top aides and Washington's European allies, the Iran hawk still calls the pact "the worst ever" and an "embarrassment" to the United States.

In a major blow to the UN-endorsed deal in mid-October, Trump announced he would no longer certify Tehran as complying with the deal's terms, contradicting the UN nuclear agency's verification assessments that have found Iran in full compliance.

Cardin acknowledged the International Atomic Energy Agency's verification of Iran's commitments but echoed Trump's reservations about Tehran's non-nuclear conduct.

***Limited Role   

"Congress has a limited role in regards to the nuclear agreement with Iran. We do have a review statute that was enacted into law where we review Iran's compliance with the agreement, and we have certain requirements on the president to keep us informed. What we have seen so far is that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear part of the agreement, but certainly has violated non-nuclear issues," the leading senator said.

Trump's October decision had given the US Congress 60 days to decide either to restore Iran sanctions regime or do nothing.

He threatened to terminate the deal unless congress and European allies find a way to curb Tehran's missile program and regional clout, which he views as a threat to the US interests in the Middle East.

Dec. 12 marked the end of the two-month deadline and congressional leaders chose the latter option.

Legislative inaction passed the ball back to Trump, who is facing another milestone decision by mid-January about whether to renew Iran sanctions waivers.

Trump's refusal to do so would most likely spell the end of the deal.

"I think congress could play a role. We've already done that; we passed a bill this year imposing new sanctions on Iran for their [alleged] non-nuclear violations. We can work with our European partners to impose sanctions against Iran for non-nuclear violations," Cardin said.

Iran insists it missile program is solely defensive in nature and has denounced unilateral US sanctions as a breach of the deal's spirit.

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