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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Nuclear Deal Heads to US Congress

by Victoria Macchi July 19, 2015

The Obama administration on Sunday sent the Iran nuclear agreement to Congress.

A congressional 60-day review period begins Monday, with some Republicans vowing to reject the deal. Lawmakers can vote to approve or reject the pact.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted President Barack Obama will have a "real challenge" getting the pact through a skeptical, Republican-led Congress. McConnell criticized it as "the best deal acceptable to Iran, rather than one that might actually end Iran's nuclear program.'

Obama has promised to veto any congressional attempt to kill the initiative.

In a series of high-profile television appearances on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the American public for the first time since signing off on the nuclear deal last week.

​​Kerry said the agreement, which resulted from months of talks between the top diplomats of seven countries, likely won't restart diplomatic relations with Tehran.

A visit by the secretary to Iran is 'not being contemplated,' Kerry told ABC News' program This Week program.

'We don't have relations at this point,' he added.

The accord followed several rounds of intense negotiations between Iran and six world powers to limit Tehran's atomic program to civilian use.

Iranian reaction

On Saturday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei commented that the deal does not signal cooperation with the U.S. and its allies on other issues, triggering a stern response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

'If anyone thought that the sweeping concessions for Iran would bring about a change in its policy, they have received a decisive answer over the weekend...' Netanyahu said Sunday during a weekly cabinet meeting. 'The Iranians don't even make an effort to hide the fact that they will use the hundreds of billions of dollars they will receive in this deal to arm their terror machine.'

U.S. officials will be traveling to the Middle East in an attempt to alleviate concerns about the deal, which cuts Iran's nuclear capabilities in exchange for loosened economic sanctions on the country. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will visit Israel and Saudi Arabia this week, while Kerry will go to the Gulf region in August.

British PM weighs in

In an interview that aired Sunday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he isn't idealistic about what the deal means for diplomatic relations with Iran.

'We shouldn't be naive or starry-eyed in any way about the regime that we are dealing with. I am certainly not,' he told NBC's Meet the Press program.

'I spoke to [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani yesterday and said we want to see a change in approach that Iran takes to issues like Syria and Yemen and to terrorism in the region, and we want the change in behavior that should follow from that change. So we are not starry-eyed at all, and I would reassure our Gulf allies about that, but actually taking the nuclear weapon issue of the table - that is a success,' Cameron said.

Saudi concerns

Saudi Arabia on Friday sent its foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, to the White House, where he received reassurances about the nuclear deal from President Obama.

At a regular briefing after the private meeting, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Obama and the Saudi foreign minister talked about the Iranian nuclear agreement and how to boost security cooperation.

The spokesman did not give details of how the United States will increase military assistance, but said the discussions built on talks Obama held with senior officials from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council nations at Camp David in May, when the president said the United States is prepared to work jointly with GCC member states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state's territorial integrity.

Next steps

The nuclear deal with Iran is expected to be approved early Monday by the U.N. Security Council.

In the first top Western official visit to Iran since the deal was reached, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived Sunday for a three-day trip with a 'small delegation of representatives from companies, industry groups and the sciences,' his ministry said.



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