Bernie Sanders backs Iran nuclear deal

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: GOP healthcare bill 'barbaric and immoral' Sanders dodges question on FBI investigation into his wife Major progressive group rolls out first incumbent House endorsement MORE threw his support behind the Iran nuclear deal Friday, suggesting it was a choice between the agreement or war.  

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"This agreement is obviously not all that many of us would have liked but it beats the alternative — a war with Iran that could go on for years," the Vermont independent said in a statement. "I think it is incumbent upon us ... to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed. That is why I will support the agreement.” 

Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, reached his decision after speaking with President Obama on Friday, according to the senator's office, noting the president was able to tackle some of his remaining concerns.  

He's also expected to publicly discuss his support of the agreement during an interview on Sunday with CBS News's "Face the Nation." 

Though Friday marks Sanders's official endorsement of the deal, he offered strong initial praise when it was unveiled last month and was considered an all but guaranteed "yes" vote in support of the agreement.  

“The test of a great nation is not how many wars it can engage in, but how it can resolve international conflicts in a peaceful manner,” Sanders added. "I fear that many of my Republican colleagues do not understand that war must be a last resort, not the first resort."
 
His argument that he faces a choice between war and diplomacy puts him at a stark contrast with Senate Republicans, who have largely lined up against the deal. 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called that argument, which has been echoed by the Obama administration, "absurd."
 
But Sanders, in explaining his decision, referred back to his decision to oppose the Iraq War and what he has called the "cost of war."
 
"I lived through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I was chairman of the veterans committee.  I know about the 500,000 people who came home from Iraq with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and TBI [traumatic brain injury],” the senator told CBS in a clip released in advance of Sunday’s interview.
 
 
The presidential contender did seek to distance himself from Obama slightly. Asked about the president's comments comparing congressional opponents of the deal to hardliners in Iran, Sanders told CBS that "I wouldn't frame it that way." 
 
Sanders is the latest senator to come out in support of the nuclear deal this week as Congress starts its five-week recess. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) also announced her support of the deal Friday. 
 
The Obama administration has launched an all-out offensive to shore up support for the agreement, including sending top officials to met publicly and privately with lawmakers. The president will need the support of 34 senators to uphold veto and block Republicans from killing the deal. 
 
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is so far the only Senate Democrat to say that he or she will vote against the agreement. His opposition could sway Democrats who are still on the fence because of a wide range of concerns.
 
Sanders sought to counter those Friday, saying that sanctions can be reinstated if Iran cheats on the deal and "all available actions remain of the table" if it tries to get a nuclear weapon. 

He added that “the United States must do everything it can to make certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, that Israel is not threatened by a nuclear Iran and that a nuclear arms race in the region is avoided." 

This story was updated at 6:06 p.m.