The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told MSNBC this morning that he’s “not optimistic” that the P5+1 is near any sort of deal with Iran that he could support.
Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) take on a final nuclear agreement with Iran is critical because he and sanctions legislation co-author Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have promised to “act decisively” with a bipartisan majority in Congress should the administration forge an agreement that doesn’t kill Iran’s nuclear program.
“I don’t know that, as the negotiations sit right now, that they are anywhere near the type of deal that I certainly could support,” Menendez said.
“Iran with a nuclear — as a nuclear threshold state with the power to have nuclear energy for ultimately conversion into nuclear weapons, which the world is convinced that they were on a path to doing, is a threat to the national interest and security of the United States. It’s a threat to a whole host of our allies in the region,” he said.
The senator added that countries throughout the region have told him they’d have to beef up their nuclear programs in response to Iran’s development. “And of course, our ally, the state of Israel, I believe it would be an existential threat to them.”
“So the reality is, is that we cannot in our own national interest and security permit Iran to do this. And I am concerned that every benchmark that we originally stated in our negotiating posture has been moved closer and closer to the Iranians. So of course I’ll judge a deal when a deal is had, but I’m not optimistic that a deal will be had by the 24th.”
Secretary of State John Kerry is in London today to kick off “a very critical week, obviously, in Iran negotiations,” he told reporters.
“We hope we can get there, but we can’t make any predictions, nor will we. It’s imperative, obviously, that Iran work with us in all possible effort to prove to the world the program is peaceful, and we will reconvene in Vienna at the appropriate time later in the week,” Kerry said. “Our people are on the ground, they will begin work today, and we’ll see where we are.”
Last week, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) blocked an effort to force a vote on a bill requiring congressional approval on any nuclear deal, arguing that legislative action would send a “chilling message” to Iran and negotiators.