- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2015

The U.S. tried to reassure nervous Middle East allies Thursday amid growing concern that the Obama administration’s nuclear accord with Iran will fuel more sectarian violence in the region.

Meanwhile, in Congress, Republicans raised objections to the administration’s plan to seek approval from the U.N. Security Council for the Iran deal before lawmakers complete their 60-day review of the accord.

In a meeting with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the U.S. will help Middle East allies defend themselves against any Iranian-supported unrest.

“We are committed to working together to push back against any extremist enterprises, including the activities of Iran in the region,” he said.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stopped short of endorsing the nuclear agreement, which will lift economic sanctions against Iran and provide the state sponsor of terrorism with more than $100 billion in cash.

“If Iran should try to cause mischief in the region, we are committed to confront it resolutely,” Mr. al-Jubeir said.

Mr. Kerry said he will travel to the region Aug. 3 to brief American allies on the deal, which was reached Tuesday by the U.S. and five other world powers with Iran. He vowed to push back against Shiite Iran if it escalates support for extremism — a concern of the Gulf’s Sunni monarchies.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also will travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel next week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his objections to the deal Thursday, calling the pact “fundamentally wrong” because it doesn’t require Iran to stop funding terrorism.

A Rasmussen Reports poll found that 39 percent of voters actually favor the agreement, with 42 percent opposed and 18 percent undecided.

“These findings are nearly unchanged from April just after the framework of the deal was announced,” the survey says.

Voters are skeptical about Iran honoring the terms of the deal: 60 percent think it’s unlikely Iran will comply.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans intensified its criticism of the deal.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, vowed Thursday to block all of President Obama’s nominees to the Department of State and hold up authorization for funding the department unless the administration delays its efforts to seek U.N. approval for the agreement.

Congressional review

In a letter to the president, Mr. Cruz said Congress should get a chance to complete its mandated 60-day review of the agreement before the U.N. takes action. He said the administration is deliberately trying to make an end run around Congress by introducing a draft resolution this week at the U.N. Security Council.

“It seems your administration intended all along to circumvent this domestic review by moving the agreement to the U.N. Security Council before the mandatory 60-day review period ends, thus adopting an agreement without congressional consent,” Mr. Cruz wrote.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said pushing the agreement through the Security Council before Congress can act “violates the spirit of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which the president signed into law.”

“It is inconceivable — yet sadly not surprising — that this administration would try to rush this agreement through the U.N. before it has even given Congress all the details,” Mr. McCarthy said in a statement. “Congress must have the opportunity, on behalf of the American people, to review the details and ramifications of this deal first.”

Mr. McCarthy said the timing of the administration’s move at the U.N. means the international body “could formally approve the nuclear accord before America’s representatives in Congress have even received the full text of the deal.”

“Such actions contradict the president’s own statements at a press conference yesterday that ‘it’s important for the American people and Congress to get a full opportunity to review this deal,’” he said.

“Given the repercussions this deal could have on American foreign and national security policy for years to come, President Obama and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power should scrap any plans to push this deal through the United Nations,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, are expressing grave doubts about the pact, which has yet to be formally transmitted to Congress for review. Mr. Obama is vowing to veto any effort by Congress to unravel the accord.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats will help to prevent the Republican-led Congress from killing the deal with Iran.

“I’m very optimistic about our ability to support the president” on the agreement, Ms. Pelosi told reporters.

Middle East views

The backlash in the Middle East over the deal surfaced in an op-ed written by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to Washington and nephew of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

“It will wreak havoc in the Middle East which is already living in a disastrous environment, in which Iran is a major player in the destabilization of the region,” Prince Bandar wrote for the London-based Arabic news website Elaph. “I am convinced more than any other time that my good friend, the magnificent old fox Henry Kissinger, was correct when he said ‘America’s enemies should fear America, but America’s friends should fear America more.’”

The former Saudi intelligence chief compared the agreement to President Clinton’s nuclear accord with North Korea in 1994, which didn’t stop Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons.

“President Obama made his decision to go ahead with the Iran nuclear deal fully aware that the strategic foreign policy analysis, the national intelligence information, and America’s allies in the region’s intelligence all predict not only the same outcome of the North Korean nuclear deal but worse — with the billions of dollars that Iran will have access to,” Prince Bandar wrote.

In Jerusalem, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Mr. Netanyahu sparred publicly over the Iran deal in a joint press conference before their meeting.

Mr. Netanyahu praised the United Kingdom’s efforts to fight anti-Semitism, but asked Mr. Hammond why Britain was not condemning Iran for a rally in which crowds chanted “Death to Israel” just days before the nuclear deal was signed.

“We will judge Iran not by the chants on the streets of Tehran, but by the actions of its government,” Mr. Hammond said.

Mr. Netanyahu replied that Iran and its proxies have hundreds of thousands of missiles pointed at Israel, so the threat involves more than just chants.

Mr. Hammond said that Israel has legitimate concerns about a nuclear Iran, but that the deal would prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

“We would not have agreed to the deal unless we were sure we had robust measures in place to control Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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