The deal on Iran nuclear program arrived at the Republican-controlled Congress on Sunday, according to State Department officials. Starting Monday, the lawmakers will have 60 days to review the document that calls for lifting of international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for Iran reigning in its nuclear program.
Legislators cannot change conditions of the deal, which was reached after painstaking negotiations among representatives from Iran and the so called P5+1 countries of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China. However, the lawmakers can vote to reject it, at the end of what is expected to be a bitter political battle between the Obama administration and the critics of the proposal, spurred by intense lobbying from both sides of the issue.
Many US politicians have echoed the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who claims that Tehran received a "dream deal" and can still obtain a nuclear weapon.
Dueling TV appearences
The deal "may block or delay Iran's path to one or two bombs for the next few years, assuming they don't cheat, but it paves their way to many, many bombs after a decade or so," Netanyahu said on Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" - one of the string of interviews he gave directed at American public.
Netanyahu also urged American lawmakers to "hold out for better deal" in an appearance on the American network ABC.
At the same time, US Secretary of State John Kerry, a key negotiator of the agreement, warned that the "real fear" of the Middle East "should be that you don't have the deal."
"If Congress doesn't pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate," he said on CNN's "State of the Nation."
Obama has already announced he would exercise his veto power if the Congress rejects the agreement on Iran nuclear program. Overriding the presidential veto would require a two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and Senate, meaning that the Republicans would also need support from the ranks of Obama's Democrats to overturn a veto.
No new weapons for Israel
In an apparent bid to soothe the fears of Netanyahu's right wing government, Pentagon chief Ash Carter left for Tel Aviv on Sunday to discuss ways of strengthening the American support to Israel.
Following the announcement of the Iran deal, Carter stated that the US is "prepared and postured" to help Israel improve its security, and would "use the military option if necessary" to protect its allies and "check Iranian malign influence."
However, officials said Washington has no plans to offer new weapons to Israel as a means of reassurance after the Iran deal. In turn, Israel officials reject the idea of American "compensation," saying that would imply their acceptance of the nuclear accord.
Iran to hold course
After Israel, Carter is expected to visit Jordan then Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival who accuses Tehran of supporting the Shiite rebels in Yemen. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are worried that an economically strong Iran could boost the support it provides to proxy military forces in the neighboring countries.
On Saturday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the nuclear deal would not change Iran's policy in supporting allies in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon and the Palestinians, nor would it change Iran's view of the "arrogant' United States.
"The policies of America in the region are 180 degrees apart from the policies of the Islamic Republic," Khamenei said.
dj/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)