Senator Menendez attacks President Obama's stance on pending Iran legislation

During a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ranking Member Senator Robert Menendez (D -NJ) said “the more I hear from the administration in its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.” Menendez’s comments come a day after President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address, in which the President vowed that he would veto any conditional sanctions legislation.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama said that we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program.However, many experts say the Iranian nuclear program has not been halted. The Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium to 3.5% and according to the Institute for Science and International Security, Iran has produced enough enriched uranium for almost two bombs in the last year. The JPOA did not halt  Iran’s ballistic missile development, the Associated Press reports that Iran has continued construction for the Arak reactor which is now 87% complete, and President Rouhani recently announced that Iran will build two new reactors.

To restore the P5+1’s leverage, Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Menendez are co-sponsoring the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, which would re-impose sanctions waived against Iran during the interim agreement, if negotiations fail to produce an agreement by July 6th. The legislation would include no new sanctions during the course of the negotiations extension and would also include a presidential waiver.

During the Senate hearing, Senator Menendez claimed that “breakout time is shorter than the amount of time it would take to make new sanctions.” Additionally, Senator Corker (R –TN) stated that he wants to pursue legislation that would allow Congress to weigh in on any potential deal with Iran. However, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the administration opposes a congressional up-or-down vote on a nuclear deal.


At least 17 Israelis were injured Wednesday when a Palestinian terrorist boarded a Tel Aviv bus and attacked commuters with a knife before being apprehended by Israeli police. In recent months, there has been increased incitement to violence by Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah officials, which was recognized by Secretary of State John Kerry in the aftermath of November’s attack on the Har Nof synagogue. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cast blame for the latest attack on the leadership of the PA: “The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is a direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state.” Several members of Hamas, a terrorist organization which has joined the PA unity government, praised the attack, including Izzat al-Rishq, based in Qatar, who called it “heroic and brave.” Cartoons appeared in the Palestinian media glorifying the attack. Mark Regev, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s spokesman, said, “Hamas, by praising this morning’s attack, is once again demonstrating what Hamas is: a brutal and vicious terrorist organization….President Abbas…cannot have it both ways. He can’t link arms with world leaders in Paris to condemn terror when he links arms with Hamas back at home.” The assailant was identified as 23-year-old Hamza Mohammed Hassan Matrouk, a resident of the Tulkarm refugee camp in the West Bank. In a CCTV video, Matrouk can be seen stabbing a pedestrian in the back while being chased by officers of the Israel Prison Service who happened to be nearby. In an initial interrogation, Matrouk reportedly told Israeli police that he was motivated by, among other things, the recent tensions in Jerusalem. The chairman of the Labor Party and leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Isaac Herzog, called for an “uncompromising war on terror, in any place where there is a threat on Israelis.”


This month, two Israeli pharmaceutical companies received good news from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Jerusalem’s Gamida Cell was granted orphan product development status for NiCord, its enriched stem-cell treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma and myelodysplastic syndrome. Orphan drug designation promotes the development of promising products for the treatment of rare diseases or conditions. Misgav-based cCAM Biotherapeutics got the green light to proceed with a Phase 1 trial for CM-24, a first-in-class immunomodulatory monoclonal antibody for treating various types of cancers. Gamida Cell develops cell-therapy technologies and products for transplantation and adaptive immune therapy. The company’s pipeline of products in development address conditions including blood cancers, non-malignant hematological diseases such as sickle-cell disease and thalassemia, neutropenia and acute radiation syndrome, autoimmune diseases, solid tumors and genetic metabolic diseases. “Receipt of orphan drug status for NiCord in the US and Europe advances Gamida Cell’s commercialization plans a major step further, as both afford significant advantages,” said Gamida Cell president and CEO Dr. Yael Margolin. Two days after the FDA announcement, Gamida Cell revealed that the first person has been successfully transplanted with cryopreserved (frozen) NiCord in the company’s ongoing Phase I/II clinical study for blood-cancer patients. Until now, NiCord has been transplanted as a “fresh” product that must be infused into the patient within a limited number of hours from the moment the product is released from the manufacturing site. (via Israel21c)

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