WASHINGTON – New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations committee, sounded skeptical of the deal the Obama administration and several leading nations have struck with Iran.
"In my view, this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran's nuclear program for the relief it is receiving," Menendez said in a statement issued Saturday. "Given Iran's history of duplicity, it will demand ongoing, on the ground verification. Until Iran has verifiably terminated its illicit nuclear program, we should vigorously enforce existing sanctions."
Menendez, a Democrat, has long been hawkish in Iran, pressing for stronger sanctions even as President Obama sought to open negotiations with the country's leaders. Menendez said he hopes new sanctions will still be considered by the Senate, with a six month window for the administration and Iran to reach a final agreement on the country's nuclear program. Should the talks fail, he said, the sanctions would be ready for implementation.
"I do not believe we should further reduce our sanctions, nor abstain from preparations to impose new sanctions on Iran should the talks fail. I will be monitoring the enforcement of existing sanctions not covered by the interim agreement to ensure they are being robustly enforced," Menendez said.
He added, "It is my fervent hope that this interim agreement leads to a final agreement with Iran that will ensure that it cannot acquire nuclear weapons capability, in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions, as well as long-term access to Iran by the IAEA to detect any effort by Iran to re-start its illicit nuclear program."