Blow to Obama as Senator Chuck Schumer opposes Iran deal

Influential New York Democrat says he does not believe Tehran will change

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who has said he will oppose the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who has said he will oppose the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg


US president Barack Obama’s hopes of preserving the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers have been dealt a setback with the announcement by Chuck Schumer, one of the top Democrats in the US Senate, that he will oppose the agreement.

Mr Schumer’s opposition, announced on Thursday, could pave the way for more Democrats to come out against the nuclear pact, announced on July 14th, between the US, five other world powers and Iran.

The New York senator is among the most influential Jewish congressmen in the US. He was the first Senate Democrat to announce his opposition to the agreement.

Another influential Jewish congress member, US Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, also said on Thursday that he would oppose the nuclear pact.

Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been pushing members of congress to oppose the nuclear agreement, which he considers a threat to his country’s survival.

Some pro-Israel groups have been spending millions of dollars on an advertising campaign to push members of Congress to vote no.

Mr Obama has been engaged in his own lobbying effort, including a combative speech on Wednesday in which he said abandoning the agreement would open up the prospect of war.

‘Rejection is not a policy’

John Kerry

“It does not offer any alternative and many people in arms control and others have actually pointed that out. While I completely respect everybody’s individual right to make a choice, I obviously disagree with the choice made,” he said.

The US Congress has until September 17th to consider a resolution of disapproval of the Iran deal, which would eliminate Mr Obama’s ability to waive all sanctions on Iran imposed by the US Congress, a key component of the agreement.

Congress members will begin debating whether to reject the deal when they return from their summer break on September 8th.

Mr Schumer insisted he was not influenced by party or politics and had not been put under pressure.

“Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed. This has made evaluating the agreement a difficult and deliberate endeavour and, after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval,” he said.

Promise to veto

Republicans would need at least 13 Democrats in the Senate and 44 in the House to vote against Mr Obama to muster the two-thirds majorities in both chambers needed to override a veto.

So, while Thursday’s announcements are a blow to the president, opponents of the deal still face an uphill battle.

Several Democrats in the House and Senate have already come out in favour of the nuclear deal, including Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

Mr Schumer’s colleague from New York, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, has announced her support and Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin said she would back the agreement because it “will best serve America’s national security interests”.

A handful of House Democrats, in addition to Mr Engel have said they oppose the deal, including Representative Steve Israel, a member of the chamber’s Democratic leadership.

Mr Schumer said in his statement he opposed the nuclear deal because he believed Iran would not change and that the deal would let it eliminate sanctions while retaining “nuclear and non-nuclear power”.

– (Reuters)