Democratic senators who backed Iran deal meet with Netanyahu

Delegation discusses oversight of nuclear accord, threat posed by Iran and terrorism in meetings with Israeli leaders

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with a delegation of American Senators, headed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in Jerusalem, on January 6, 2016 (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with a delegation of American Senators, headed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in Jerusalem, on January 6, 2016 (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

A delegation of eight Democratic US senators who backed the Iran nuclear deal met with Israeli leaders and discussed oversight of the deal.

The trip last week included Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Chris Coons of Delaware; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Tim Kaine of Virginia; Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsi; Mazie Hirono of Hawaii; Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Gary Peters of Michigan.

In statements Tuesday, the senators echoed pledges last year by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to overcome the acrimony between the two countries created by the debate over the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal and to work together to enforce it.

The eight senators were among the 42 who favored the deal reached between Iran and six major powers and blocked bids by Republicans, backed by Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to kill it.

Gillibrand said in her statement that in meetings with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, the senators discussed “the ongoing threats from Iran and its proxies, terrorism and violent extremism in the region, the future of Israel, and how the United States can continue to work with Israel to ensure its security.”

The senators also toured Palestinian areas as well as Turkey, where they met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called recently for reconciliation between Turkey and Israel.

The delegation also traveled to Vienna to meet with officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body monitoring Iranian compliance with the deal.

In his statement, Kaine said in the Vienna meeting he “emphasized that the IAEA’s credibility is on the line with the nuclear deal’s implementation and monitoring and that it would be a destructive blow to the organization if it does not quickly catch any attempts by Iran to undermine or cheat on the deal and immediately report those findings.”

Also in Jerusalem this week was Anthony Blinken, the deputy US secretary of state, where he met with Dore Gold, the director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

“In face of unprecedented regional threats, affirmed ironclad US support for Isr. security,” Blinken said Tuesday on Twitter, attaching photos of himself and Gold greeting each other warmly.

Separately, the White House said in a statement that Obama would veto any attempt in Congress to roll back the deal.

The statement from the Office of Management and Budget referred to a bill approved along partisan lines last week by the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that would restrict the president’s power to waive Iran sanctions. Obama is set to waive some sanctions once Iran has complied with nuclear rollbacks in the deal, something that could happen as soon as next month.

Republicans advancing the bill said they were spurred by recent ballistic missile tests by Iran, which do not technically violate the deal but apparently violate UN Security Council resolutions cited in the deal. The Office of Management and Budget said it would resist any effort to sanction Iran for activities unrelated to the nuclear deal.

“The Administration has consistently made clear that the purpose of the nuclear negotiations, and ultimately the JCPOA, was to address one issue only — the international community’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” it said, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “The JCPOA is the mechanism through which the United States was able to garner international support for our sanctions and achieve a diplomatic resolution.”

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