- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Presidential candidate Jim Webb broke with most fellow Democrats on Wednesday in voicing skepticism about the deal on Iran’s nuclear program, which President Obama is working to sell to his party and the American public.

Mr. Webb, a former U.S. senator from Virginia, said the agreement appears to be slim on verification and too generous in the carrots it offers to cajole Iran into freezing its nuclear ambitions.

“I have to say I have a lot of concern about this deal,” Mr. Webb said on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.” “I’m concerned principally that this might actually increase the imbalance in the balance of power in the region, and I’m doing the best I can to read through the documents.”

Mr. Webb said Congress should have been involved from the beginning, rather than given a simple vote of disapproval or approval at the end.

Mr. Webb’s posture stood in contrast to that of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner who offered praise for the deal in a lengthy statement Tuesday evening. She even took credit for helping put into place some of the sanctions that she said brought Tehran to the table.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, the other major candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, also voiced public support for the Mr. Obama’s negotiations.

But Mr. Webb said he remains skeptical.

“I think we’re kind of moving the cart before the horse here in terms of improving relations with Iran. If you look at what [has] happened in the region since the Iraq War, Iran’s position has become more powerful and we have to be very careful about the signals that we are sending into the region about … what level we are accepting this change in the balance of power among Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran,” Mr. Webb said.

A decorated combat veteran who fought in Vietnam, the former Marine and secretary of the Navy under President Reagan has been working to find a base of support in a presidential race in which much of the attention has been devoted to the machinations of Mrs. Clinton, as well as Mr. Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist who has been running second in polling.

Mr. Webb has been polling in the single digits and was at 1 percent in a survey released Wednesday by Monmouth University.

Shortly after Mr. Webb made his remarks, Mr. Obama defended the Iran deal at a White House press conference. Without it, the president said, there is the risk of more war in the Middle East.

Mr. Webb, who has written extensively about his Scots-Irish ancestors, reiterated criticism Wednesday that the Democratic Party’s message has become less inclusive and that both Democrats and Republicans aren’t sufficiently addressing the plight of people in the country’s rural mountain areas and cities.

“If you look at the ‘10 elections and the ‘14 elections, you will see that the Democratic Party, I believe, needs to open up and be more inclusive to the people who traditionally were part of the basic message of the Democratic Party,” he said.

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