- With Senate approval of Corker-Menendez, pressure increases on White House to get a better Iran deal
The Senate Foreign Relation Committee’s unanimous bipartisan approval Tuesday of the Iran Nuclear Amendment Review Act of 2015 underscores momentum in favor of achieving a better deal with Iran, by providing for congressional review on any final agreement. The unanimous vote on the legislation reflects widespread American public opinion: 72% of respondents in a USA Today poll released Tuesday stated that Congress should have a role in any final deal with Iran. As details have emerged from the understanding reached on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the media has become increasingly critical of the pending deal between the P5+1 and Iran. On April 2, The Washington Post editorial board wrote, “The ‘key parameters’ for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration….In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.”
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, was quoted on Tuesday saying, “We’re involved here. We have to be involved here. Only Congress can change or permanently modify the sanctions regime.” The Senator also said that he thought the legislation was a “thoughtful and a meaningful way to weigh in.” Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the committee who introduced the legislation, stated, “I think this puts Congress in its rightful role,” while Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), co-sponsor of the legislation, lauded the bill, continuing, "Let's send a message to Tehran that sanctions relief is not a given and not a prize for signing on the dotted line.”
The White House has previously threatened to veto the Corker-Menendez legislation, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday before the vote that the bill was “the kind of compromise that the president would be willing to sign.” Senator Corker argued that the administration’s change in position on the legislation “occurred when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this, and only when that occurred.” He also said that the bill that was passed was not substantively different from what Corker-Menendez always was meant to be: “This legislation is exactly the congressional review we’ve been working on from Day One.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Monday that he will introduce companion legislation to the House floor that would also call for giving Congress an oversight role in a deal with Iran. “If he [Corker] is able to get his agreement and get it out of the Senate, it’s my intention to bring it to the floor of the House and move it,” McCarthy stated, adding that he expected that the House would pass it with a veto-proof majority.
Hamas has accelerated the rebuilding of its terror tunnels, which were destroyed last summer during Operation Protective Edge, even as it neglects rebuilding homes that were damaged during its war against Israel, The Times of Israel reported today.
Hamas has begun using heavy machinery and engineering tools to accelerate the excavation of attack tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip under the Israeli border, sources in the Palestinian enclave told the Times of Israel Wednesday. ...
The Gaza-based terrorist organization has been using whatever cement it can get its hands on for the construction of the tunnels, and fortifying the walls of its underground structures with wood as well. ...
Meanwhile, the physical and economic situation of Gaza’s residents hasn’t changed much. Heavy rains earlier this week left several main streets in the Strip flooded. Temporary housing units for refugees who fled their homes after this past summer’s war between Israel and Hamas were flooded as well. The Rafah border crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egypt remains shut, and the ongoing wage crisis involving Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has not been resolved. The general reconstruction of Gaza continues to be delayed, and the rebuilding of 17,000 houses to replace the those destroyed during Operation Protective Edge has not yet started either.
Today's report follows a report from Monday that Israel has accused Iran of arming both Hamas and Hezbollah, warning that "Iran is acting in recent days and weeks to prepare and arm Hezbollah for conflict with Israel, on a large scale."