Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that she would vote for a President Barack Obama-backed agreement to drop sanctions against Iran in an exchange for a pause in its nuclear program—even as she called the deal “imperfect.”
In a statement first published on the site Medium, the junior senator from New York highlighted her part in passing strict sanctions on the Islamic theocracy that she claimed “compelled its leaders to face us at the negotiating table.” She argued that the agreement, which Secretary of State John Kerry helped broker, would force Iran to shut down its nuclear program and prevent it from becoming an atomic power.
“Bottom line: Iran possessing a nuclear weapon would be a game-changing event that cannot and will not be allowed,” the senator wrote. “Now, Iran has signed on to a sufficiently verifiable and enforceable deal that cuts off all paths to a bomb and has its entire nuclear supply chain closely monitored for years to come.”
Ms. Gillibrand confessed she was “skeptical” that Iran would not attempt to conceal further nuclear development from international inspectors it has agree to allow to visit its facilities. But she argued the United States would be able to discover such efforts and unilaterally “snap back” its sanctions, and even launch punitive attacks on the Middle Eastern nation.
“We’ll be in a better position to catch those attempts due to the monitoring and verification mechanisms that this deal secures. If Iran pursues a nuclear weapon, international inspectors and intelligence operations will know faster than ever before,” she said. “All options—including military action—will be on the table.”
She acknowledged that Iran will likely continue to be a “disruptive” force and financier of international terrorism, but argued only the Obama administration agreement would prevent it from developing a bomb. In what was perhaps an effort to appease certain Jewish groups that have opposed the deal, Ms. Gillibrand vowed to push for increased military aid to Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emerged as one of the agreement’s biggest international critics.
“Israel’s security and America’s national security interests are fundamentally aligned. Congress must continue its unwavering commitment to ensuring that Israel retains a qualitative military edge in the region,” Ms. Gillibrand wrote.
New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer—a close ally of Ms. Gillibrand—has not announced how he will vote on the deal, promising now to bow to “politics” or “pressure.” Opponents of the agreement have pushed him to oppose it, with Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind going so far as to get arrested outside his office last month while protesting. (Mr. Hikind condemned Ms. Gillibrand today.)
On top of overwhelming Republican opposition, several Democratic congress members from New York have come out against the agreement, including Congresswoman Grace Meng of Queens and Long Island representatives Steve Israel and Kathleen Rice. Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, has made no announcement of his stance but said that he finds aspects of the deal “very troubling.”
Congress may vote against the agreement, but President Barack Obama will have the power to veto their decision, and most observers agree that opponents will not be able to pull together enough members to override the veto.