Moniz tells Jewish groups: Iran deal will make it easier to fight terror

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The nuclear deal with Iran will give the U.S., Israel and other countries the “freedom” to confront Tehran’s support for terrorism and violations of human rights, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizFederal task force recommends safety upgrades for gas storage Energy secretary: ‘We got it right’ on Iran deal Overnight Energy: Trump visits Flint | GOP chairman defends subpoenas in climate probe MORE told Jewish groups Thursday.

Speaking from Washington in remarks broadcast live online, Moniz said the agreement with Iran could allow the U.S. to increase its attention on “other aspects of Iranian behavior that give us serious problems.”

“We are trying to increase security cooperation” with Israel and Arab allies, Moniz said in a webcast session coordinated by Jewish Federations of North America.

“Doing so with the comfort that Iran does not have and will not have a nuclear weapon — the existential threat of a nuclear weapon — will, if anything, give us more freedom of action, if you like, in addressing all these other problems.”

Moniz’s statement about the ability to crack down on Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen and its detainment of four American prisoners was coupled with a lengthy discussion about the scientific components of the deal, which limits Iran’s nuclear powers in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

“The bottom line is Iran today is what we call a threshold state — it may not have a weapon today, but it has the capabilities and is very close to getting there if they choose to do so,” he said. “This agreement pulls them way back from that threshold for a substantial period.”

The direct lobbying pitch to Jewish groups is part of a weeks-long effort to convince both the American public and members of Congress to back the deal ahead of a congressional vote scheduled for mid-September. The Obama administration is facing stiff opposition to the agreement but is nonetheless notching victories among Democrats who could provide critical votes.

Moniz has been a top salesman on the deal and has become a favorite even of members of Congress who are opposed to the accord.

Jewish Americans are considered to be particularly skeptical of the deal, due to deep-seated fears about the threat posed by Iran and the vehement opposition from top leaders in the Israeli government.  

Moniz’s appearance on the Jewish organization’s website Thursday came just more than a week after a similar appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin, who warned that the agreement “actually paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” 

Critics of the agreement allege its oversight mechanisms are weak, meaning Iran could easily cheat by evading inspectors’ prying eyes. Additionally, they warn that it sets the stage for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon when many of the terms of the deal run out in 10 to 15 years, and that it stays silent on Iran’s other contested actions, such as the support for terror groups.