Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Politics & Government

Members Of Congress Signal Unhappiness With Iran Deal


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

It really is true that all politics is local. And the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers engages politics in several localities.

GREENE: In a moment, we'll hear some of the debate in Iran as reflected on social media.

INSKEEP: We start in the United States, where many Members of Congress have strong views on the deal agreed to by the Obama administration.

GREENE: Iran is supposed to dilute its uranium that's closest to weapons grade and take other steps to pause its program for six months. The U.S. is supposed to lift some sanctions and release some Iranian assents while the two sides seek a permanent deal.

INSKEEP: American lawmakers from both parties are skeptical and some talk of adding more sanctions.

NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: With the Capitol's chambers darkened, lawmakers have taken to the airwaves. Here's Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, telling CNN yesterday the U.S. got shafted in the Iran deal.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: We had these guys on the ropes. What I was looking for is a interim deal that went a long way toward the final deal. This actually leaves in place everything that would allow them to make a weapon. It doesn't dismantle anything.

WELNA: And on CBS yesterday, House GOP leader Eric Cantor called the Iran deal dangerous.


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR: Since when do we trust Iran? Iran has demonstrated again and again it cannot be trusted. I believe that the attitude should be mistrust and verify.

WELNA: It's not just Republicans taking shots. New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer is normally one of President Obama's staunchest supporters - not so when it comes to the Iran deal.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER: The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December.

WELNA: Schumer says there should be no let-up on Iranian sanctions until that nation gives up all its nuclear weapons capability. That's simply unrealistic, says Daryl Kimball. He's executive director of the Arms Control Association, a group that backs the deal with Iran.

DARYL KIMBALL: Those that argue that more sanctions are necessary now do so on the, I think, mistaken theory that this will lead Iran to totally capitulate.

WELNA: Still, there's been growing pressure in the Senate to do what the House did by an overwhelming margin last July - pass even tougher sanctions on Iran. Last week, during the Senate's last day in session, Majority Leader Harry Reid put his colleagues on notice.

SENATOR HARRY REID: The Senate must be prepared to move forward with the new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill when the Senate returns after the Thanksgiving recess. I'm committed to do just that.

WELNA: But as President Obama announced the Iran deal late Saturday night, he sought to head off any action by the Senate.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions, because doing so would derail this promising first step.

WELNA: In fact, the deal struck with Iran explicitly rules out any new sanctions during the six months it's in effect. Gary Samore is the former coordinator for arms control in the Obama White House. He now heads the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran.

GARY SAMORE: I think at the end of the day, it's unlikely that Congress will blow up this agreement by passing additional sanctions during the six month period. Instead, I think they will signal a willingness and enthusiasm to pass additional sanctions after six months, if there isn't sufficient progress toward a final deal.

WELNA: Indeed, by yesterday Majority Leader Reid seemed to have dialed back his plans for more sanctions when he discussed the Iran deal on THE DIANE REHM SHOW.


REID: We'll take a look at this when I get back, all aspects of it. But we all have to acknowledge that it's an important first step. Is a first step good enough? We'll take a look at that.

WELNA: If stronger sanctions on Iran were still needed, Reid added, he was sure the Senate would do that. What he did not say was when.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.