Democratic Senators and Congressmen warn against a bad deal


Democratic Senators and Congressmen, both current and former, have publicly expressed their concerns about the emerging Iran nuclear deal. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry last Friday, in which he said, “If Iran insists on these red lines [set by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech last week] in negotiations, then I strongly urge you to suspend negotiations rather than accept a bad deal with Iran.” He also said from the floor of the Senate, “I’m concerned …when the secretary of state says we are prepared to ease sanctions on Iran without fully understanding how far Iran progressed on its secret nuclear weapons program. . .That…is simply unacceptable.” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) emphasized the importance of Iran’s disclosure of its past military nuclear research: “Failing to require such transparency from Iran would undermine the enforceability of any deal… We cannot have confidence in a deal that provides Iran, the world's number one state sponsor of terror, with access to over $100 billion in frozen assets without demanding it recognize the authority of international weapons inspectors.” On the floor of the House, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) blasted Iran’s imprisonment of American citizens during negotiations, calling it “ludicrous” and then proceeded to remark that it “casts a pale on any potential agreement that we have with Iran on June 30th. If this is the way they are treating Americans, how can we rely on them or count on them to fulfill their obligations under any agreement we sign with them?”Former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) wrote an op-ed warning about the importance of inspections and access: “While Tehran maintains its posture of innocence, the IAEA’s findings point to guilt. For over a decade, the Agency’s efforts to investigate have been met with Iranian obfuscation.” Finally, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) took to the pages of the Houston Chronicle to write that, among other things, a good deal must “require Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and … commit - long-term - to abandoning their nuclear plans, and that includes basic research and enrichment.”


Human rights activists have added a new dimension of coverage to the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna between the P5+1 global powers and Iran, despite declarations by top American officials that they would prefer not to let human rights issues interfere with sealing a nuclear deal.

The families of Americans jailed in Iran arrived early in Vienna to express concerns that the deal would have the United States abandoning what leverage it has left over Iran without securing the release of their loved ones. The Wall Street Journal noted that the dynamic has become especially pressing given that Western and Iranian officials are expected to seal a final agreement in the coming days:

Relatives of the imprisoned Americans have increasingly voiced their concerns in recent months that the Obama administration could reach a nuclear accord with Iran–potentially freeing up hundreds of billions of dollars of Tehran’s oil wealth–without their family members being released.

Iran currently holds three Americans known to be alive: Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati. The prisoners are held in Evin prison, one of Iran’s most notorious jails and a focal point of human rights criticism. Another American, retired FBI agent, Bob Levinson, went missing in Iran eight years ago. Levinson’s whereabouts remains unknown.Amir Hekmati’s family explicitly linked the nuclear deal’s success or failure to his fate, with his sister declaring to journalists that “we welcome all efforts to free Amir. But if he’s not home, they haven’t done enough.” Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, was imprisoned by Iran in 2014 and charged with espionage. His brother, Ali Rezaian, told reporters in Vienna that the talks were “a unique opportunity to speak with journalists and Iran experts and remind them of Iran’s cruel and unjust treatment of Jason for nearly a year.”The issue is likely to rebound politically as Congress takes up an expected agreement. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) implicitly criticized the administration at a recent hearing for trying to separate the nuclear issue from broader concerns over Iranian behavior, including human rights behavior:

[F]or the next thirty days, U.S. negotiators will sit across from their Iranian counterparts. I appreciate their efforts made to raise these cases at every meeting, but the time has come to turn up the pressure… We’ve been told for a variety of reasons why the nuclear issue should be dealt with separately>… [It is] about respect for human rights and human dignity, and it’s about justice. The United States government must not rest until Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, and my constituent Bob Levinson are home.


Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation has approved $8 million in funding for 10 new projects between American and Israeli companies. In addition to the grants from BIRD, the projects will access private sector funding, boosting the total value of all projects to approximately $19 million.The 10 projects — in healthcare & wellness, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing technologies, and water innovations – were approved by the Board of Governors at a recent meeting in Washington DC. The BIRD Foundation has approved 910 projects for funding during its 38 year history. “The Board of Governors selected ten quality projects covering diverse disciplines, of high priority for the U.S. and Israel, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Water and Digital Healthcare,” said Dr. Phillip Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and co-Chairman of BIRD’s Board of Governors. “It’s satisfying to see companies from across the U.S. participating in the BIRD program and cooperating with Israeli companies to innovate and bring both economic and social value.” BIRD’s total investment in joint projects has been over $300 million, helping to generate direct and indirect sales of more than $10 billion. “The United States is the leading R&D partner for Israel including various programs funded by the Chief Scientist. The BIRD Foundation continues to be the main vehicle for leveraging the strategic cooperation between the two countries focused on innovation and technology. The success of the Foundation is a solid basis for further expansion of cooperation between the United States, including federal R&D programs as well as programs with US States where the [Israeli] Chief Scientist has cooperation agreements,” said Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy and co-Chairman of BIRD’s Board of Governors. (via Israel21c)

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