Corker Says Better to Quit Iran Talks Than to Ease U.S. Demands

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015.

Photographer: David Banks/Bloomberg

A key lawmaker put President Barack Obama on notice Monday that he shouldn’t ease U.S. demands on two crucial provisions in order to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter to Obama that he’s “alarmed” by reports of potential U.S. concessions as the Iran nuclear talks approach the June 30 deadline.

The two issues, which are among the main sticking points, are terms for “any time, anywhere” inspections of Iranian nuclear and military facilities and disclosures about suspected Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons and means of delivering them.

“I am alarmed by recent reports that your team may be considering allowing the deal to erode even further,” Corker wrote. “Only you and those at the table know whether there is any truth to these allegations, and I hope reports indicating potential concessions on inspections and on the full disclosure of Iran’s possible military dimensions are inaccurate.”

Corker’s words carry weight because he put together the bipartisan legislation that defines the process by which Congress will review a nuclear deal with Iran. During that review, some senators may look to the Tennessee Republican, who’s sought to be a voice of moderation as committee chairman, in deciding how to vote.

As the negotiating deadline approaches, opponents of the deal are increasing pressure on Congress and playing to public opinion with warnings that Obama is too eager for a deal

The terms of the agreement being negotiated in Vienna between Iran and six world powers -- the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China -- are closely held. Critics mostly cite public remarks by Iranians for clues to possible U.S. concessions.

Intrusive Verification

Secretary of State John Kerry, who’s leading the U.S. negotiations, has said the deal to thwart Iranian nuclear-weapons ambitions will include intrusive verification measures and require that Iran account for past weapons-related activities.

In his letter, Corker raised the contention by opponents of a deal that Obama and Kerry are making too many concessions.

“I understand the dynamics that can develop when a group believes they are close to a deal and how your aides may view this as a major legacy accomplishment,” Corker wrote.

“If Iran tries to cross these few remaining red lines, I would urge you to please pause and consider rethinking the entire approach,” he wrote. “Walking away from a bad deal at this point would take courage, but it would be the best thing for the United States, the region and the world.”

Inspection Regime

The U.S. and Iran are discussing the implementation of an inspection regime, including more stringent provisions under a document known as the Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to U.S. and Iranian officials. U.S. officials have said a deal would require Iran to resolve questions about past weaponization activities.

Lawmakers in both parties oppose forging any agreement that allows Iran to continue a civilian atomic energy program because of concerns that Iran’s leaders would use it to hide an effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Their argument is that Iran still denies covert efforts to acquire nuclear weapons technologies that Western intelligence agencies detected a decade ago, and can’t be trusted to abide by future pledges if it hasn’t come clean about its past.