HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he “profoundly disagrees” with the reasoning behind decisions by two prominent Democratic lawmakers to vote against the nuclear deal he negotiated with Iran.
Speaking in the Vietnamese capital, Kerry said the facts do not bear out the arguments made by the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat Chuck Schumer, and the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel. He said he respects the right of lawmakers to make their own decisions about the merits of the deal, but said rejection does not offer any alternative than a drumbeat to conflict.
Schumer and Engel, both from New York, announced Thursday that they would oppose the deal. Schumer is the first Democratic senator to say he will vote no on the deal, which would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from crippling sanctions.
Schumer complained that the pact does not allow inspections “anywhere, anytime” and that the United States cannot demand inspections unilaterally.
Schumer said in a statement that “after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval,” adding that he would make an effort to persuade his fellow lawmakers to oppose the deal.
Engel, the most senior Democrat on the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, also announced on Thursday he would oppose the accord.
“The answers I’ve received simply don’t convince me that this deal will keep a nuclear weapon out of Iran’s hands, and may in fact strengthen Iran’s position as a destabilizing and destructive influence across the Middle East,” Engel said, according to Reuters.
Kerry said he has great respect for both Engel and Schumer, and called Schumer a friend, noting he served with him in the Senate.
“I obviously profoundly disagree with the judgements made,” Kerry said. He said that with 25 years of uranium tracking, “it is physically impossible to build a bomb.”
“It’s a question of eliminating options in a realistic way,” he added. “I would respectfully suggest that rejection is not a policy for the future, it does not offer any alternative.”
Kerry said that if the deal is rejected, “there will be a hue and cry about Iran’s continued activity and that will lead people to put pressure on military action since the United States would have walked away from the diplomatic solution.”