Democrats unmoved by Israeli entreaties on Iran

Despite push at Congress and behind closed doors, left-leaning US lawmakers still want to wait for a deal before acting

The US Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue,file  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The US Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue,file (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Many Senate Democrats remain largely unswayed by strident Israeli opposition to the impending accord with Iran over its nuclear program, with some lawmakers even put off by the appeals to take an opposing stance, Politico reported Tuesday.

One senator suggested that Israel was prejudging negotiations and said he preferred to wait until an agreement was publicized before formulating an attitude on the issue.

“They are putting on a full-court press to say it’s a bad deal. The deal’s not done, it’s not completed and yet it’s being presented … as ‘it’s a bad deal.’ I’m not sure how you say it’s a bad deal. We don’t know what the deal is,” said Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democratic party.

The P5+1 group of world powers — the US, Russia, France, England, China and Germany — has been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent it from developing a nuclear bomb, in return for an easing of economic sanctions that have been levied against it

Israel is vehemently opposed to the emerging deal because it believes the Islamic Republic will be allowed to retain nuclear know-how and infrastructure that will enable a clandestine breakout to the bomb. A report in the Wall Street Journal on Monday claimed that Israel was spying on nuclear talks in order to acquire confidential details that would then be fed back to US lawmakers, in a bid to dissuade them from supporting the bill.

The claim was vehemently denied by Israeli officials, with a spokesperson at the Prime Minister’s Office calling the allegations “utterly false.”

US lawmakers, too, were unaware of receiving any classified information from Israeli officials.

“All the intelligence information I’ve gotten has come from America,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, referring to a discussion he had with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.

“Anything I’ve heard from [Dermer] has been no different from his public pronouncements. They don’t like the deal,” Reid said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) both corroborated this view and denied allegations that they had received sensitive details during meetings with Dermer.

“If they are spying, they are not telling me about it,” Graham said.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who also met with the Israeli ambassador, noted that diplomacy should be given a chance before a bill is presented to lawmakers, and that Israel is “just working hard to be heard.”

“The president has a right to have the space to negotiate the best deal he can. And then we’ll have a chance to opine,” Gillibrand said.

Interestingly, while many lawmakers have been approached regarding their views on a possible Iran deal, Democratic senators viewed as “immovable” in their opinions vis-a-vis the deal were largely overlooked or ignored by Israeli solicitations.

The world powers are racing toward a March 31 deadline for a framework pact with Iran. The deadline for a full agreement is the end of June.

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