US president Barack Obama’s administration sent a nuclear agreement with Tehran to congress yesterday.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged US lawmakers to reject a deal he said would only feed an “Iranian terror machine”.
In a first concrete sign of European determination to quickly rebuild economic and political ties with Iran after a 12-year standoff, German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Tehran with an economic delegation. Other European powers were expected to follow.
Obama has promised to exercise his veto if congress rejects the deal, which curbs Iran’s nuclear programme while allowing an easing of economic sanctions.
Overriding the deal would require a two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and Senate, so the administration is working to win over enough Democrats to offset strong Republican opposition.
“I think the right thing to do is merely not to go ahead with this deal,” said Netanyahu on CBS’s Face the Nation. “There are many things to be done to stop Iran’s aggression and this deal is not one of them.”
Tehran denies Western and Israeli accusations it has been using a research programme as cover for ambitions to develop atomic weapons. President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday he expected the deal would lead to closer relations with Tehran’s neighbours in the Gulf region, while supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran remained at odds with the West.
It was on Khamenei’s words that Netanyahu seized, speaking yesterday to his cabinet. “The Iranians are not even trying to hide the fact they will take advantage of the hundreds of billions they will receive via the agreement to arm their terror machine,” he said.
“And they say explicitly they will continue their struggle against the United States and its allies, Israel of course above all.”
US defence secretary Ashton Carter was due in Jerusalem last night in an attempt to assuage Israel’s anger over a deal it says can only delay Iran becoming a nuclear state. He is also touring Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which both eye the prospect of increasing Iranian influence in the region with some suspicion.
Germany’s Gabriel, due to meet president Hassan Rouhani and several ministers, told German newspaper Bild he would use his trip to suggest Germany could serve as a mediator between Iran and arch-enemy Israel. He said he would insist the Iranian government recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Opponents of the deal argue it does not provide enough supervision of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the US delegation to the talks with Iran, was asked on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace why the deal did not provide for inspections anywhere, anytime. “The fact is, that in arms control, there is no country anywhere on this planet that has ‘anywhere, anytime’,” he said. “There is no such standard. There is no such standard within arms control inspections.”
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