Invoking India, Obama continues hunt for more votes on Iran deal
Washington, Sep 3: After clinching enough votes in the Senate to save the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration warned lawmakers it would be an "illusion" to expect countries like India to back fresh sanctions against Tehran.
The warning came shortly after Barbara Mikulski, Wednesday became the 34th Democratic senator to back the deal to give President Barack Obama the required one third support in the 100 member chamber to sustain his veto of a resolution of disapproval.
While Republican opponents said they were still looking for ways to undermine the deal, possibly by reimposing sanctions on Iran, the White House continued its hunt for at least seven more votes in the Senate to filibuster the resolution and prevent a vote at all.
In a speech in Philadelphia, Secretary of State John Kerry made the case that the agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"It's an illusion for members of Congress to think that they can vote this plan down and then turn around and still persuade countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, India - Iran's major oil customers - they ought to continue supporting the sanctions that are costing them billions of dollars every year," he said.
"That's not going to happen," he told lawmakers and civic leaders. "And don't forget that the money that has been locked up as the result of sanctions is not sitting in some American bank under US control."
"The money is frozen and being held in escrow by countries with which Iran has had commercial dealings," Kerry said. "We don't have that money. We can't control it. It's going to begin to be released anyway if we walk away from this agreement."
"Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran, it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling that most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend," he said.
He said critics have presented no reasonable alternative and that rejecting it would damage America's standing in the world.
Kerry also tried to dispel what the administration says are a litany of "myths" about the deal.
Mikulski also invoked India in declaring her support for the deal even as she acknowledged that "No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime."
"Some have suggested we reject this deal and impose unilateral sanctions to force Iran back to the table," she said. "But maintaining or stepping up sanctions will only work if the sanction coalition holds together."
"It's unclear if the European Union, Russia, China, India and others would continue sanctions if Congress rejects this deal," Mikulski said.
But "I believe they would support a snapback in sanctions if a violation was identified and verified," she said.
"Russia, China, India and our European partners were very active members of the negotiations with a common interest in Iran not having a nuclear weapon," Mikulski noted.
Kerry, meanwhile, widened his appeal to each member of congress, sending letters to all their offices on Wednesday.
Republicans - backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel -have vowed to press forward with a resolution of disapproval next week after lawmakers return from a summer recess.
While no dates have been set for the votes on the agreement the Congress must act before Sep 17, the 60 day deadline for Congress to overturn the deal.
House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Cory Fritz said the White House shouldn't be celebrating.
"Forcing a bad deal, over the objections of the American people and a majority in Congress, is no win for President Obama," he said.