Obama gets key vote to protect Iran nuclear deal in US Congress
President Barack Obama secured a landmark foreign-policy victory yesterday as Democrats amassed enough votes to ensure that the Iran nuclear deal survives in Congress despite ferocious opposition from Republicans and Israel's government.
The backing from Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski gives supporters of the agreement the crucial 34th vote in the 100-member chamber they need to uphold an Obama veto of a congressional resolution of disapproval if Republicans pass such a measure later this month.
And it spells failure for opponents of the international agreement who sought to foil it by turning Congress against it. Leading that effort were Israel and its allies in the United States (US), who failed to get traction after spending millions of dollars trying.
The agreement signed by Iran, the US, and five other world powers limits Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. Republicans and Israeli officials contend that concessions made to Iran could enable the country to wreak havoc throughout the Middle East.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had personally lobbied US lawmakers to block the nuclear pact, will continue fighting the agreement, an Israeli official said.
Marshall Wittmann, spokesman for the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, said his group also would continue rallying opposition to the nuclear agreement.
In a letter delivered to Congress yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry called Israel's security "sacrosanct", recounting the billions of dollars the US has provided the Jewish state for missile defense and other security assistance. US and Israeli officials, he said, are working on a deal to "cement for the next decade our unprecedented levels of military assistance".
The letter was sent as Kerry defended the Iran deal in Philadelphia. His speech was carried live on television in Iran, an unusual occurrence.