WASHINGTON -- Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives have warned over a potential nuclear deal with Iran, saying the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has been “duped” by the Iranian establishment.
The concerns were voiced on July 9 at a session of the House Foreign Affairs Committee called The Implications Of A Nuclear Agreement With Iran.
The hearing was held amid ongoing negotiations in Vienna between Iran and six major powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left) and head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi in Vienna.
Negotiators are working to strike a comprehensive deal under which Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Both sides say they have made progress but that “tough decisions” still need to be made for a deal to happen.
Several members of the House of Representatives said on July 9 that Iran cannot be trusted and warned again about a “bad” nuclear deal.
“That’s a bad deal for us: permanent concessions in exchange for temporary benefits, and that’s only if Iran doesn’t cheat, like North Korea did,” said Ed Royce (Republican-California), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
He added that "at every step in this process, whether it’s enrichment capacity, missile development, or sanctions relief, the Obama administration has discounted the fundamental nature of the regime in Tehran.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida) described the emerging deal as a “fanciful notion.”
“The only good deal is one in which Iran ceases all enrichment and dismantles its nuclear infrastructure,” she said.
Several Democratic lawmakers also expressed concern, including Ami Bera (Democrat-California), who said he had “legitimate concerns” that a nuclear deal with Iran could boost the country’s economy without giving UN inspectors unfettered access to the country's nuclear facilities.
Eliot Engel (Democrat-New York), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he’s “very troubled” that Iran is allowed to enrich uranium while the talks are taking place.
However, he added that it’s still too early to comment on a potential deal.
U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel (file photo)
“I’ve said from day one, the devil is in the details, and until I know exactly what is in the deal, it’s hard to comment on, on whether it deserves support or not,” Engel said.
He also said that "the Iranians are going to have to make some tough choices or else we are prepared to walk away."
Speaking in Vienna on July 9, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "We're here because we believe we are making real progress."
But he cautioned that "we are not going to sit at the negotiating table forever" and that he was prepared to "call an end" to nuclear talks with Iran if "tough decisions" are not made.
Kerry insisted that any deal had to withstand the test of time, saying, “It is not a test of a matter of days or weeks or months, it's a test for decades, that's our goal here."
Meanwhile, the White House said that it is unlikely that the talks will go on for many more weeks.
A June 30 deadline imposed by both sides has already been missed.
Iran and the world powers are believed to differ in three key areas: sanctions, international inspections of Iran's nonnuclear sites, and how Iran's compliance will be verified.
Under an interim accord reached in November 2013, the sides agreed that sanctions against Iran would be eased in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear program.
If a comprehensive agreement is reached by July 10, under U.S. law Congress has 30 days in which to decide whether to accept or reject it.
After that date, the review period will be extended to 60 days.
If U.S. lawmakers reject the accord, Obama can use his power of veto, but Congress would still be able to overturn this.