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Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., wants the Biden administration to make sure Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons, but warned that any new deal with the Islamic nation must come with strong terms that would actually keep them from doing so.
Menendez, who opposed the original Iran deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, indicated in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that a good enough deal does not appear to be on the horizon at this point in time.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., arrives to meet with fellow Democrats, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
“We are all in agreement that Iran cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. It will change the entire nature of the region, we will have a nuclear arms race in the region, and our ally, the state of Israel, will have an existential threat. We cannot tolerate that,” Menendez said.
“By the same token,” he continued, “We were told by the administration, that if the negotiations didn’t conclude by the end of February, that in fact, the time that would be lost, and what we would gain would be of very little importance–of value–to us. Well, now it’s the end of April. And so if the end of February wasn’t going to buy us what we need, certainly the end of April is not.”
Menendez said that returning to the old deal negotiated by then-President Barack Obama would not work, given that it did not address Iran’s ballistic missiles and had sunsets that are close to expiring.
The senator said that in order to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, there are three things the U.S. must address. One is their missile capability, which they have. Another is the necessary level of uranium enrichment, which Menendez said Iran is “on the verge of having,” and the third is detonation capabilities, which they still lack.
In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with army’s air force and air defense staff in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. Iran’s supreme leader said the U.S. must lift all sanctions if it wants Iran to return to its commitments to the nuclear deal with Western powers. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
When asked if he thinks the administration should pull back from the negotiating table, Menendez did not go that far, but he cautioned that this could be the better option.
“I want the administration to understand that no deal is better than a bad deal,” the senator said, noting that an agreement that does not cover all three of those elements and would place Iran six months from reaching the necessary enrichment level would not work.
“Some of the sunsets of the original deal, for all its imperfections—as you know I didn’t support the original deal—are even closer in terms of ending a pathway where Iran could ultimately achieve its goal,” Menendez continued. “So, from my perspective, unless there are other elements of the deal, that would not be a good deal.”
One item that has reportedly been discussed is removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. Menendez said it is “critically important” that this not happen, and acknowledged that this point could very well be the reason why a new deal is not reached.