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Iran Nuclear Deal: Sen. Bob Menendez Opposes Deal, Says Iran Bomb 'Will Not Have My Name On It'

First Posted: Aug 19, 2015 04:09 PM EDT
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U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., became the latest Democrat to oppose the Obama administration's Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking from Seton Hall University in New Jersey on Tuesday, Menendez said his opposition does not fall in line with Republicans who "reflexively oppose" all of Obama's proposals. He said his decision was based on hearing, classified briefings, discussions and analysis.

Menendez said, "At the end of the day, what we appear to have is a rollback of sanctions and Iran only limiting its capability, but not dismantling it or rolling it back... That, in my view, is a far cry from 'dismantling.'"

The New Jersey politician said he's deeply concerned that the U.S. shifted on its nonproliferation policy, especially for a volatile region. According to the senator, the deal does not require Iran to destroy centrifuges for uranium enrichment, while sanctions will be lifted, granting billions of dollars for Iran's economy.

"The deal enshrines for Iran, and in fact commits the international community to assisting Iran in developing an industrial-scale nuclear power program, complete with industrial scale enrichment," Menendez later added.

Menendez also acknowledged that the deal would bar the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government from reintroducing or reimposing certain sanctions. He said President Barack Obama has been wrong to say the nuclear deal permanently stops Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, but instead it recommits Iran to agreements -- such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and Security Council resolutions -- but Iran already has previously violated those terms.

Menendez said Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry's alternative to the nuclear deal is war, but he rejects that idea and believes there is a pathway to a better deal.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., gives a speech announcing he will not support President Obama's Iran nuclear deal at Seton Hall University on August 18, 2015.
(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images) U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., gives a speech announcing he will not support President Obama's Iran nuclear deal at Seton Hall University on August 18, 2015.

"It is difficult to believe that the world's greatest powers, the U.S., Great Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union, sitting on one side of the table, and Iran sitting alone on the other side, staggering from sanctions and rocked by plummeting oil prices, could not have achieved some level of critical dismantlement," said Menendez.

Menendez recommended the Obama administration to renegotiate, even providing parameters to guide the talks.

"We must send a message to Iran that neither their regional behavior nor nuclear ambitions are permissible. ... The agreement that has been reached failed to achieve the one thing it set out to achieve -- it failed to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state at a time of its choosing. In fact, it authorizes and supports the very road map Iran will need to arrive at its target," Menendez said.

Menendez understood that his opposition may lead him into an unpopular course, which won't be the first time, as he recalled his opposition to the Iraq War in 2002.

The senator said, "I have looked into my own soul and my devotion to principle may once again lead me to an unpopular course, but if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it. It is for these reasons that I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto."

Watch Sen. Menendez's speech about the Iran nuclear deal:

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