Menendez on the Iranian nuclear file and the testimony of the head of the Mossad and the West Bank

Robert Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday that the Biden administration is committed to submitting any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program to Congress for consideration.

Speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem, Menendez, a Democrat who opposed the original 2015 Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, said such a review would be conducted by his committee and that a Senate vote on any agreement would be taken.

But he added that he was “not sure” that the outcome of this vote would hinder the agreement.

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Any congressional review of the Biden administration’s agreement with Iran would likely require it to overturn a two-thirds majority, making it unlikely the Senate would block an agreement, if signed.

Menendez, the senior senator from New Jersey, is part of a bipartisan Senate delegation currently in Israel, led by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (R), which includes Senator Cindy Hyde Smith of Mississippi (Republic), Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee (R), Cynthia Loomis of Wyoming (R), and Representative Ronnie Jackson of Texas (R).

The administration is committed that if it reaches an agreement to pursue what was known as the JCPOA, it will present it to Congress and we will consider it. “This review begins in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, which I chair,” Menendez said at the press conference.

The senator said he had “full intent” to have discussions about such an agreement and to hold a vote, but added that “the question of whether such a vote would meet the limit set forth in law to rescind this agreement is another matter.”

Senator Robert Menendez speaks during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the CARES Act on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, September 28, 2021, in Washington. (Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Menendez was very skeptical that the new deal could be an improvement on the previous one.

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The senator added that the IAEA’s investigation of Iranian nuclear sites suspected of engaging in undeclared nuclear activity before 2015 should not stop in an effort to reach a deal with Iran.

It demanded that Tehran stop the investigation before signing a new nuclear deal with the United States.

Graham also spoke at the press conference and said there would be bipartisan opposition to any deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

But he promised to be constructive in his criticism of the deal, and indicated that he and Menendez offered other solutions to revive the JCPOA, that is, to allow Iran and the Sunni Arab states to develop nuclear energy, but by enriching uranium outside the region to “prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.”

In response to a question about a recent Israeli press report that Mossad director David Barnea was prevented from testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Graham said Barnea spoke to his delegation.

Senator Lindsey Graham (GOP) speaks to reporters on the rooftop of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, June 1, 2021 (Lazar Berman/Time of Israel)

Sources familiar with the matter said the Senate Intelligence Committee was not scheduled to meet this week during Barnea’s visit, and that he would instead hold one-on-one meetings with US officials.

Graham said that one of the delegation’s main goals, besides gathering information about Iran’s nuclear program, was to ensure that US support for Israel would remain unchanged regardless of the outcome of the midterm elections — a congressional mandate in November.

“Regardless of the outcome of the elections in the United States, there will not be a significant shift in support for Israel, regardless of House and Senate officials,” Graham said.

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The senator said the visit was intended to “reassure the Israeli government – left, right and center – that relations between the United States and Israel are fundamental to both countries.” [et que] Whatever happens in November, the assistance that Israel receives from the US government will continue.”

Graham also touched on the deteriorating situation in the West Bank, saying that the problems were “getting worse rather than improving”, and worried that “extremist elements” could take over the area.

In this context, the senator said efforts are needed to bolster Israeli security, but also to ensure that the Palestinians are “advancing and not regressing,” adding that it would take “a lot of effort.”

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