Overnight Defense: Lawmakers dig into Iran deal

THE TOPLINE: President Obama on Tuesday trumpeted a nuclear agreement with Iran, and warned Congress that he would veto any attempt to block it.

"I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal," Obama said in a statement at the White House, adding that he welcomes a robust debate over the terms of the deal.

Negotiators from Iran and six world powers reached a final agreement Tuesday that would lift international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for new limitations on its nuclear program.

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Lawmakers have 60 days to review the deal and vote whether to approve or reject it. But with Obama's threatened veto, critics would need two-thirds support to override.

Obama sought to convince skeptical lawmakers to back the deal, saying he believed it would be irresponsible to walk away.

"I would remind Congress you don't make deals like this with your friends," he said. "No deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East," he said.

Obama said sanctions relief would be "phased in" as Iran completes steps to restrict its nuclear program.

The deal prevents Iran from producing enough uranium and plutonium to make a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years.

It also allows inspectors to have access to Iran's nuclear facilities, including military sites "where necessary, when necessary" if nuclear activity is suspected there.

However, Iran would be able to protest visits to "undeclared" sites. If Iran still has concerns after 14 days, a review board of the partner nations, including Iran, would decide to grant inspectors access.

The agreement would also lift a United Nations arms embargo on Iran after five years and a ballistic missile ban after eight, as long as Tehran abide by the terms of the deal.

Under the deal, Iran would slash its enriched uranium stockpile by about 98 percent from about 10,000 kg to less than 300 kg over 15 years. The uranium would be kept at a low-enrichment level.

It would also cut Iran's nuclear centrifuges by about 66 percent over 10 years.

Iran would rebuild its Arak heavy water reactor so it would no longer produce weapons-grade plutonium, and the terms prevent Iran from building a new reactor for 15 years.

The "breakout time" -- the time Iran needs to amass enough nuclear material to build a bomb – would be one year over the next decade.

Iran has also agreed not to seek a nuclear weapon, and issue a statement to explain the military elements of its nuclear program.

The U.N. will lift its arms embargo after five years and its ballistic missile embargo after eight years if the IAEA certifies that "all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities."

After 10 years and another clean report from the IAEA, all remaining international sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program would be lifted. 

 

GOP SKEWERS DEAL: Congressional Republicans wasted no time attacking the historic accord.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell calls McCain a 'rare patriot' and 'American hero' after Trump criticism The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Dems put manufacturing sector in 2020 spotlight GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims MORE (S.C.), who is running for the GOP nomination for president, described it as "akin to declaring war on Israel and the Sunni Arabs."

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate rejects border declaration in major rebuke of Trump Hillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (R-Ark.) called the agreement a "terrible" deal that would pave the path for that country to get a nuclear weapon.

He also predicted the deal negotiated by the Obama administration would be sunk by Congress.

"The American people are going to repudiate this deal, and I believe Congress will kill the deal," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe".

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' McConnell calls McCain a 'rare patriot' and 'American hero' after Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) also voiced deep concern about a final agreement, suggesting it will be a major challenge for the next president.

"It appears we've lost the chance to dismantle Iran's nuclear program, and that will now become a challenge for the next president to confront, regardless of political party," he said.

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history MORE (R-Ohio) also piled on, predicting the agreement would "fuel a nuclear arms race around the world."

"Instead of making the world less dangerous, this 'deal' will only embolden Iran -- the world's largest sponsor of terror -- by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region," he said in a statement.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said Obama should have treated the nuclear deal with Iran like a treaty and submitted it to Congress for approval

"The president is bypassing the Constitution, and if this is to be binding, it should be a treaty and it should be put before the Senate for ratification, which the president is not doing because he knows this, as a treaty, would never be ratified," said Turner, a member of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees.

 

DEMS ON THE FENCE: Meanwhile, many Senate Democrats have opted not to weigh in on the deal until they can review the details.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Why we need to build gateway now MORE (N.Y.), who is poised to lead Senate Democrats in the next Congress, said he would go through the agreement with a "fine-tooth comb" and speak to administration officials.

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBernie campaign 2.0 - he's in it to win it, this time around Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Senate confirms Trump court pick despite missing two 'blue slips' MORE (Nev.) also stopped shy of endorsing the deal.

"The world community agrees that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable and a threat to our national security, the safety of Israel and the stability of the Middle East," he said in a statement.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (N.J.), a former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is the lone Senate Democrat so far to publicly criticize the agreement.

"The bottom line is: The deal doesn't end Iran's nuclear program -- it preserves it," he said in a statement.

"I'm concerned that the deal ultimately legitimizes Iran as a threshold-nuclear state. I'm concerned the redlines we drew have turned into green-lights," he said.

Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the deal "deeply troubling."

He pointed to the arms embargo as an area of particular concern.

"Throughout negotiations, these issues were off the table, so seeing them included in sanctions relief is deeply troubling," Engel said.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses RNC says it raised .6 million in February Pollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 MORE (I-Vt.), a 2016 presidential candidate, lauded the accord as "a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling."

Sanders' 2016 rival, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Trump's approval rating stable at 45 percent Kellyanne Conway: 'I think my gender helps me with the president' MORE, also cautiously offered support for the deal.

"This is an important step in putting a lid on Iran's nuclear program," Clinton told reporters.

 

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