Congressman Adam Schiff, a Jewish Democrat, announces he will support Iran deal

Adam Schiff, a Los Angeles Congressman who serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, announced Monday morning that he plans to support the Iran nuclear deal.
August 3, 2015

Adam Schiff, a Los Angeles congressman who serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, announced Monday morning that he plans to support the Iran nuclear deal. Schiff, who is Jewish with a record of strong support for Israel, serves a district that stretches from Los Feliz to Los Angeles’ northeastern suburbs; during the negotiations he expressed skepticism about the possible outcomes, but promised at that time to remain undecided until an agreement was reached.

In an interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg over the weekend and in a press release Monday, Schiff announced that while he remains concerned about some elements of the deal, he has come to view the plan as the best possible option.

“In the absence of a credible alternative, Congress should accept the deal and work with the Administration to strengthen its impact, while joining forces with our allies to better contain Iran’s conventional capabilities and nefarious conduct in the region and beyond,” Schiff said in Monday’s release.

“The primary objective of the United States in the negotiations was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Given the unthinkable consequences of Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, obtaining the bomb, this has been an overriding national security imperative of the United States for decades,” Schiff said. “As an American and as a Jew who is deeply concerned about the security of Israel, it is also intensely personal.  I believe our vital interests have been advanced under the agreement, since it would be extremely difficult for Iran to amass enough fissionable material to make a nuclear weapon without giving the United States ample notice and time to stop it.”

Schiff is the latest in a series of prominent congressional Democrats to come out in support of the deal. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced her support on Sunday, and on July 28,, Michigan Representative Sander M. Levin, the longest-serving Jewish member of Congress, announced he would support the agreement.

Schiff’s support could influence undecided members of the House Jewish caucus, as well as national-security minded Democrats. Many Democrats in both chambers of Congress remain undecided, and though a few Democrats have come out against the deal, none are considered influential voices on national security. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who is also Jewish, officially remains undecided, but a report in Politico on Monday said the influential senior Democrat is leaning toward voting against the deal.

Other prominent Democrats backing the agreement include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Pelosi has said that if Republicans are able to pass a “resolution of disapproval” to try to sink the agreement, a promised veto by President Barack Obama would be sustained.

In particular, Schiff said in the press release, given Iran’s history of cheating in its agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he remains concerned about 24-day notice that the agreement allows Iran prior to inspections, as well as about the size of the enrichment program that Iran could have in 15 years.

Rather than reject the deal, Schiff said, Congress “should make it clear that if Iran cheats, the repercussions will be severe.”

“It is important to understand that even after 15 years – or 50 for that matter – as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is never allowed to develop the bomb,” Schiff said.

Schiff also expressed concern over how Iran would use the influx of money that would result from the lifting of international sanctions. Iran is said to have $100 billion in frozen assets that would be released. But instead of rejecting the agreement, Schiff said he wants Congress to use its authority to strengthen the deal by working with Israel and other Gulf allies to make sure that “every action Iran takes to use its newfound wealth for destructive activities in the region will prompt an equal and opposite reaction.”

Schiff also said if Iran’s nuclear facilities are hidden from aerial attack, he supports sharing with Israel “all the technologies necessary to defeat those systems and destroy the facilities, no matter how deep the bunker.”

“The Iranian people will one day throw off the shackles of their repressive regime, and I hope that this deal will empower those who wish to reform Iranian governance and behavior.  The 15years or more this agreement provides will give us the time to test that proposition, without Iran developing the bomb and without the necessity of protracted military action,” Schiff said. “Then, as now, if Iran is determined to go nuclear, there is only one way to stop it, and that is by the use of force.  But then, at least, the American people and others around the world will recognize that we did everything possible to avoid war.”

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