Kerry, Netanyahu Push Opposing Views of Deal as Clock Ticks

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Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the Sunday talk shows to push opposing viewpoints on the nuclear agreement with Iran, as the Obama administration started a 60-day lead-up to a vote in Congress on the agreement.

The appearances took place as the State Department sent documents on the deal to Congress, which means the 60-day review period leading up to a vote on the agreement will start on Monday.

Kerry, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will be on Capitol Hill in the coming week trying to sell the agreement in the face of opposition from the Republican majority in both houses.

“The Republicans have already made it clear what their position is, to a large measure,” Kerry said. Still, “I hope there are enough minds open, ready to consider this on its merits, that could be persuaded. And we’re going to work very hard.”

Netanyahu, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” called the agreement “a very bad deal with a very bad regime” and said it was his obligation as Israel’s prime minister to “make my case” with members of Congress.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter left for Israel Sunday to meet with that country’s leaders. He will use the visit to discuss ways to bolster U.S.-Israeli cooperation and maintain Israel’s military edge in weaponry, according to a U.S. defense official who briefed reporters Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

‘Compensating Israel’

“Everybody talks about compensating Israel,” Netanyahu said of Carter’s visit in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, if this deal is supposed to make Israel and our Arab neighbors safer, why should we be compensated with anything?”

Carter’s trip will include a visit to Israel’s northern command near the Lebanese border, and a meeting with Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s defense minister.

Carter also plans to meet with Saudi officials in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss ways to counter Iran’s aggression in the region and the effort to defeat Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. defense official said.

While no new weapons deals are planned, the talks will build on the cooperation outlined at the Camp David summit that Obama held in May with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the official said.

Kerry’s Warning

Kerry, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” restated comments made several times since the Iran deal was concluded: “The real fear of that region should be that you don’t have the deal. If Congress doesn’t pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate.”

During the time the deal is under review by Congress, President Barack Obama can’t waive or reduce sanctions against Iran. Lawmakers could vote on a joint resolution to approve or reject the deal, although they also may not act at all.

A vote to disapprove the pact wouldn’t necessarily be the end. Obama could veto the resolution, and the House and Senate would each need a two-thirds majority to override his veto -- making support from Obama’s fellow Democrats key.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS that “the jury is out” on whether members of her party will support the president on the Iran deal.

“I certainly hope so,” she said. “I believe it’s our one opportunity.” Feinstein said that while she had “listened carefully” to Netanyahu’s objections, “I think it’s pretty clear to everybody that America has Israel’s back.”

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