Top Dem: Only alternative to Iran deal is bombing campaign

Top Dem: Only alternative to Iran deal is bombing campaign
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The only real alternative to ongoing negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions is to bomb its facilities, according to a top House Democrat.

That bombing plot would set Iran’s progress back just a few years, said Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation House Democrats pull subpoena for ex-Trump national security official MORE (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Engle's comments were meant to argue that the last best way to halt Iran’s nuclear progress is through an agreement.

“At this point we all know the refrain: no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said during a House hearing on the still-in-the-works deal. “The alternative to a deal would surely mean some kind of military strikes on Iran’s nuclear plant.”

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“It’s not just accepting the deal or nothing,” he added. “There are things we’re going to have to come to grips with, and I believe one of them is bombing the nuclear reactor.”

The comments from Engel — who has cautiously viewed the Obama administration’s plans for a deal — increase the stakes for U.S. negotiators, who appear to be closing in on the final terms of a deal. They also speak volumes about the few choices facing congressional lawmakers, who will have the opportunity to weigh in on the deal if one is reached in coming days.

During a separate hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, President Obama’s choice to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, told lawmakers that the U.S. would have the ability to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if it so chose.

But that would only be temporarily, Engel maintained.

“If we are able to sustain the sanctions regime and have a bombing of their plant that sets them back two years or three years, is that really a viable alternative?” he asked.

Lawmakers in Congress will be able to block the terms of the deal, assuming one is reached. But widespread skepticism in both parties could pose a hurdle to the Obama administration, which is negotiating the deal along with five other nations and Iran. 

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to give an update on the talks from Vienna later on Thursday.

In the wake of diplomatic breakthroughs, the U.S. has previously taken action to destroy Iranian nuclear infrastructure, with the hopes of forestalling its ability to create a bomb.

The Stuxnet computer worm was reportedly developed by U.S. and Israeli officials, and managed to destroy roughly one-fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges by the time it was discovered five years ago.