Sen. Coons: ‘I Have Real Concerns’ About Iran Nuclear Deal

‘I can imagine a scenario where I’d look at the deal and reach my own conclusions’

[rush transcript]

MITCHELL: “What about the possibility that they soften some of the U.N.'s sanctions against conventional weapons sales to and from Iran which is one of the sticking points now late in the game? It's a sticking point that frankly is to Russia's benefit because Russia makes money selling these arms and this is one of the issues that has been bubbling up for a while but it's front and center right now.”

COONS: “That's right, Andrea. I think this is a last-minute gamut by the Iranians to try and drive a wedge into the P5+1. The partners with which we’ve been negotiating for so many months now because, as you mentioned, it would be to Russia's benefit to be able to sell conventional arms to Iran. Look, Andrea, like many other senators I have real concerns about what Iran will do with a funding that they would get from sanctions relief in the event there is an agreement. Tens of billions of dollars would be newly available to Iran to make mischief in the region. They're already actively supporting the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad; they are supporting Hezbollah, they are supporting Houthis in Yemen. And the idea that we would accept a relaxation of the arms embargo which was imposed on Iran not because of their elicit nuclear weapons program but because of their support for terrorism, strikes me as just nonsensical. My understanding is that the American position in the negotiations is that that is a nonstarter. I see this really as an Iranian effort to try and drive a wedge between what has been a very solid and unified negotiating team by the United States and its European allies and China and Russia.”

MITCHELL: “Senator, can you imagine a scenario where you as a Democrat would go against the president if he and John Kerry tell you that this a good deal?”

COONS: “I can imagine a scenario where I would look at the deal and reach my own conclusions that it was not strong enough. That's my job as a senator, is to exercise my own independent judgment. I am a Democrat. I have supported the president and the secretary. I served with Secretary Kerry in the Senate. And I am optimistic that they will walk away from a bad deal. But there's plenty of reasons to be concerned. There's certainly been lots of statements by the Iranians that  if they were true, would cause me to oppose a deal on those terms. But I'm listening to and believing President Obama at the moment that they will not be presenting us with a deal that lacks a verification, that provides all sanctions relief up front. An additional concern, Andrea, that I've had is the limits that controls on centrifuge research and development past the tenth year of an agreement. I am concerned that as initially discussed the framework of this deal might allow Iran too much freedom to build a nuclear enrichment capability in the long term and thus present some real threats to the region that some of our allies would insist on a more robust nuclear enrichment and R&D capability.”

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