New York Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer told a crowd of Jewish leaders on Sunday morning that if Iran’s economy sees significant revival as a result of the interim nuclear deal reached in November between Iran and world powers, it is unlikely to give up its nuclear program. The deal, negotiated in Geneva, eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on uranium enrichment, and increased access to Iranian nuclear sites.
Schumer reiterated his initial opposition to the deal, but said now that it has already happened, Congress would “keep our eyes like a hawk on two things.”
The first question, he said, is “did this diminution of sanctions allow the Iranian economy to turn around?” adding, “that is what brings the Supreme Leader to the table, and at this moment, he has not had a change of heart to actually give up weapons.”
“We have to monitor carefully,” said the senior Democrat, who expressed concern that other countries would go further than America’s limited lifting of sanctions. “There is some talk of Russia making a deal for $500 million of oil,” he said. “There is some talk of French and German companies starting new trade relationships, again, and if that starts happening it’s really going to upset the apple cart here, big time.”
Second, Schumer said, “and even more important, is the final agreement,” now being negotiated between the world powers and the Islamic Republic.
“We will be watching this like a hawk, the resolution that sixteen Democrats and almost all the Republicans in the Senate put in, myself and Senator Gillibrand were on it, lays out what the final agreement should be, and it has got to be clear and unequivocal, never, never, never can there be a nuclear Iran,” he said. Schumer was referring to the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, now awaiting a Senate vote, which he has pushed for, putting him at odds with the Obama administration.
Explaining his initial opposition to the Geneva deal, Schumer said, “the sanctions are what brought Iran to the table, and so you don’t reduce them, even a small amount, until they actually reduce their nuclear weapon capability. And they didn’t. They just froze it, so it was not a fair trade .”
Schumer also credited President Obama for initially widening global involvement in the sanctions regime, saying that getting countries like South Korea and India on board was a “big deal.”
“He got so far with the sanctions,” he said. “I couldn’t understand why he would let up before he would get a concession on the other side, that was equal in my judgement.”
“So where are we now?” Schumer asked. “Nobody knows exactly what the future is going to hold,” he answered, citing pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s decision on Thursday to back the White House it its call to delay the Senate vote on the sanctions bill. AIPAC’s decision was made “after very careful thought and a lot of consultations on both sides of the ocean,” he contended.
Writing for the New York Post in January, Seth Lipsky questioned whether Schumer would “stand up” on the Iran bill, describing it as “critical moment” for the veteran lawmaker.