At a closed-door strategy meeting with Senate Democrats last Thursday, President Barack Obama ignited a controversy by saying he “understood the pressures that senators face from donors and others” to increase sanctions on Iran, the New York Times reported.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and coauthor of an Iran sanctions bill with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), reportedly took “personal offense” to Obama’s statement.
“We just have a fundamental disagreement,” Menendez told reporters on Friday regarding his differences with Obama on sanctions. “It is counterintuitive to understand that somehow Iran will walk away [from the current nuclear negotiations with Western powers] because of some sanctions that would never take place if they strike a deal.”
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said, “No one would say opposition to [Obama’s] Russia policy is due to ‘donors,’ or his Cuba policy is due to ‘donors,’ or his general foreign policy is due to ‘donors.’ So why did President Obama single out those who seek tougher sanctions on Iran and say their viewpoints are based on ‘donors?'”
“The threat Iran poses to Israel and the Western world is a national security issue,” Brooks added. “Attributing opposition to his Iran policy to the views of ‘donors’ is an inappropriate statement and it underplays the serious threat that Iran represents.”