Sen. Bob Menendez. (AP/Mel Evans) (AP/Mel Evans)
(AP/Mel Evans)

US President Barack Obama. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

US Senator Menendez is the second leading Democrat to announce his opposition to President Obama’s nuclear deal with  Iran.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez announced on Tuesday his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. He is the second Democratic senator to oppose President Barack Obama, who is heavily lobbying for a congressional endorsement of the agreement.

Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joins Senator Chuck Schumer of New York in rejecting the deal.

Speaking to a a gathering at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Menendez said he is opposed to the accord because Iran has violated various UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and its commitments to the international community while advancing its nuclear program.

He said he is concerned that the agreement does not require Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.

“Let’s remind ourselves of the stated purpose of our negotiations with Iran: Simply put, it was to dismantle all — or significant parts — of Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure to ensure that it would not have nuclear weapons capability at any time. Not shrink its infrastructure,” Menendez said.

“The question is what do we get from this agreement in terms of what we originally sought?” Menendez asked in the address. “We said we would accommodate Iran’s practical national needs, but not leave the region – and the world – facing the threat of a nuclear armed Iran at a time of its choosing.”

Under the agreement, which the US and other world powers negotiated with Tehran, Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for getting billions of dollars in relief from economic sanctions, which have been choking its economy.

“In essence,” he said, “we thought the agreement would be rollback for rollback: You roll back your infrastructure, and we’ll roll back our sanctions,” but that is not what the deal will achieve.

Menendez said his opposition is not an issue of whether he supports or opposes Obama, who has pledged to veto a congressional resolution of disapproval. “This issue is much greater and graver than that,” he said.

Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

The leading senator went through the various points of argument and explained his stance on the issues. “The deal enshrines for Iran and, in fact, commits the international community to assisting Iran in developing an industrial-scale nuclear power program, complete with industrial scale enrichment,” he explained.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed doubts that Congress could override Obama’s expected veto. Twenty-one Senate Democrats and Independents of the 34 needed to sustain a veto are backing the deal. Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate and the party leader-in-waiting, is the only other notable Democratic dissension.

In the House, at least 50 Democrats have expressed support. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California has spoken confidently about rounding up the votes to save the deal. Ten House Democrats have announced their opposition.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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