Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is among a group of senate Democrats pushing a bill that would increase oversight of Iran’s nuclear development program and increase military assistance to Israel.
The legislation, introduced Thursday by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., ups the ante on a multilateral deal passed last month that allows sanctions on Iran to be lifted in exchange for a monitoring protocol for its nuclear facilities to ensure weapons aren’t being constructed.
Blumenthal kept private for months his opinion of the Obama administration-promoted Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, brokered in part by Secretary of State John Kerry. Blumenthal ultimately spoke out in cautious support of the deal.
When news of a brokered deal first emerged this summer, Blumenthal welcomed the use of diplomacy but warned against deception.
“While our common hope may be that diplomacy has succeeded in barring an Iranian path to nuclear weapons capability, Congress must apply exacting standards and strict scrutiny, especially given Iran’s history of deceit and international law violations,” he said at the time.
Cardin’s “Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015” does not denigrate that agreement, but shores it up, Blumenthal said in a release.
“This proposal strengthens and improves the agreement — while in no way contradicting or undermining it — by providing vital oversight and vigorous enforcement to prevent a nuclear armed Iran,” Blumenthal said. “It confirms by law that a nuclear-armed Iran will never be permitted; reaffirms our dedication to sanctions related to terror financing and human rights abuses; and assures that our allies, especially Israel, will be provided with enhanced assets needed to deter Iran. The proposal seeks a regional strategy that pushes back against Iran’s malign, destabilizing influence — an approach hopefully bringing together both Republicans and Democrats.”
The newly proposed legislation sets U.S. policy on Iran to state explicitly that “Iran does not have an inherent right to uranium enrichment,” and that “all of the options available to the United States, including the military option, remain available to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.”
Cardin’s legislation also puts in place expedited procedures for sanctions, and attempts to limit any Iranian attempts to build ballistic cruise missiles as a nuclear weapons delivery system.
Israel’s status as a local deterrent also is bolstered by Cardin’s proposal. The measure provides Israel with “applicable ordnance and delivery systems to counter non-peaceful nuclear activities by Iran,” and “additional foreign military financing as may be needed to address threats from Iran,” and the “acceleration of co-development of missile defense systems.”
In a release, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “As Israel continues to face threats from Iran, we need to make sure the United States can provide the necessary security assistance to help Israel deter and counter those threats, and this bill does exactly that.”
Schumer was the lone U.S. senator to vote against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action when it came to the senate floor.
In addition to Blumenthal, Schumer, and Cardin, who is ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-CO, Ron Wyden, D-OR, Chris Coons, D-DE, Mark Warner, D-VA, Cory Booker D-N.J., and Brian Schatz, D-HI.
“I support Congress taking additional steps, consistent with the Iran nuclear agreement, to crack down on the growing threat of Hezbollah and other terrorist extremists, and assure that verification and inspection are strictly enforced,” Blumenthal said.
Jordan Fenster can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.