November 24th, 2013
11:14 AM ET
9 years ago

House lawmakers show bipartisan skepticism of Iran deal

(CNN) – The top Democrat and the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee were both skeptical Sunday of the interim deal reached to slow Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a loosening of sanctions against the country.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, said on CNN's "State of the Union" he was disappointed Iran will be allowed to continue to enrich uranium while the talks go on for the next six months.

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"I would have thought that that should be a prerequisite to any kind of talks - without asking them to dismantle any of their centrifuges. So that's disappointing," said Engel, the committee's ranking member.

Nuclear deal with Iran breaks 3-decade gridlock

Read the agreement (PDF)

The agreement requires Iran to dilute its stockpile of uranium, some of which had been enriched to 20%, to no higher than 5%, the level needed for nuclear power plants. Iran will also have to cut back on constructing new centrifuges and enrichment facilities, and freeze essential work on its heavy-water reactor under development at Arak.

"But the agreement is here. We have to make it work," Engel told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. "And I think we need to be very, very careful with the Iranians. I don't trust them. I don't think we should trust them. But I think that we have to make it work."

20 questions about the Iran nuclear deal: What it says, what's at stake, what's next

In July, Engel and the committee's chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, helped pass a bill in the House with overwhelming bipartisan support that broadened sanctions against Iran.

Engel said the new agreement "makes it very difficult to continue the sanctions."

"I think we could have played good cop, bad cop. And Congress really believes that sanctions should happen," he said.

"But I do think sanctions should always be hanging there because that's what brought Iran to the table in the first place," he added. "I don't think you make them bargain in good faith by going squishy."

Israeli PM Netanyahu: Iran nuclear deal 'historic mistake'

Royce agreed, telling Crowley that sanctions are important as the talks continue over the next six months.

"You have to be able to hold their feet to the fire on these negotiations, because once before we had an agreement with Iran, they walked away from it. And the (International Atomic Energy Agency) had an agreement with Iran, and Iran went ahead and built an enriched facility building and lied to the IAEA about that," Royce said.

Royce also cautioned the loosening of sanctions will upset the balance of power among regimes in the Middle East.

"(Other regimes) feel in letting up on Iran and lifting sanctions, we're going to re-empower Iran to be the hegemon in the Middle East, to take that money and continue to support Hezbollah, Hamas, attempts to overthrow Saudi Arabia," he said, adding, "They are a state sponsor of terrorism, trying to get a bomb."

White House issues synopsis on Iran nuclear deal

The deal says that the U.S. will provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanction relief - a small fraction compared to the roughly $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings that are inaccessible to Iran because of sanctions, the White House says.

Secretary of State John Kerry argued the sanctions part of the agreement offers "very little relief" for Iran.

"The basic architecture of the sanctions is staying in place," he said on "State of the Union."

Kerry: Israel safer under new deal

Kerry also hit back against criticism that the agreement failed to dismantle Iran's nuclear program.

"While we go through these next six months, we will be negotiating the dismantling," he said. "But you can't always start where you want to wind up."

"You cannot sit there and pretend that you're just going to get the thing you want, while they (Iran) continue to move towards the program that they've been chasing," he said.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Congress • Iran • John Kerry • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    Most people are skeptical, but most are equally hopeful that this can get done.

    November 24, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. Tampa Tim

    Ever wonder why McCain was never in charge of negotiations?

    November 24, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Too bad they didn't show the same skepticism when it came to the invasion of Iraq over non-existent WMDs.

    November 24, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. Tampa Tim

    Congressmen have to talk tough or they will be primaried by wingnuts who only want to spend tax dollars on wars.

    November 24, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  5. Tampa Tim

    I think we are all waiting for Ted Cruz to weigh in on this. Ted claims to know what the people want, and it isn't peace.

    November 24, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Page 1 of the republican play book, "Fumble."

    November 24, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. MIKLE

    Only idiot can trust Iran. They use USA and make us look fool.

    November 24, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. king

    mmm let me see, Iran will attack Israel with nuclear bombs, dispite israel arsonal of nuclear bombs, and they expect their whole country not to be wiped off the map by Israel, America and her allies, what planet are we on. lesson folks we have to make Iran keep some of its dignity to be a viable country, we just cannot shut them down overnight. the 6 month deal the Geneva convention comes up with is a start.

    November 24, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Jules

    Of course the GOP is against it – it happened under the Obama Administration. When you look at what they are against and what they are for it is war, leaving the uninsured without medical care, no jobs bill to help with employment, get rid of job training programs, make the seniors pay more for Medicare and on and on. What a platform these guys have to run on.

    November 24, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  10. Tampa Tim

    I think that most Americans know that republicans are fools. Actually, the entire world is laughing at the GOP.

    November 24, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Thomas

    @Randy, San Francisco
    Too bad they didn't show the same skepticism when it came to the invasion of Iraq over non-existent WMDs.


    You got that right !

    Go 9ers !

    November 24, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  12. Jonathan Huie

    There has never been a good reason for sanctions against Iran. Israel is the country that has nuclear weapons. Israel is the country that has recently bombed its neighbors. Israel is the country that has defied UN resolutions to end its occupation of Palestine. Israel is the country the United States should be sanctioning.

    November 24, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. Any dream will do

    This shouldn't be a partisan issue. The issue is Iran's nuclear capability. And this agreement does nothing to impede it. Since the sanctions were working enough to get them to this "agreement", why not keep them in place until Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium? So, the negotiations were approached by the U.S. such that "the sanctions are working, let's drop the sanctions". Leaves me wondering....

    November 24, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |