In his first public remarks since declaring his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, Senator Charles Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Monday that the United States should try to broker a better deal with Iran, since the current deal has too many flaws, Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle reported.
“I believe we should go back and try to get a better deal,” he said, speaking at the Braddock Bay Marina in Greece, New York. “The nations of the world should join us in that.”
Schumer didn’t deny that brokering a new deal would be difficult, but he said that since sanctions would remain in place if the United States withdrew its support for the agreement, that could bring Iran back to the negotiation table.
Schumer said that the Iranian regime, which he called “ugly, dictatorial [and] theocratic,” would very likely hold on to power in Iran for another decade and would exploit the current deal’s sanctions relief while continuing its support for terrorism and causing chaos in the Middle East.
“If you believe the Iranian regime may change, then you say OK, it’s a gamble,” Schumer said. “But if you think they’re going to be the same horrible regime they are now, you don’t want the United States and the other nations of the world putting the stamp of approval on Iran being a threshold nuclear state.”
Regarding his opposition to the deal, Schumer said that his decision was made after intensely studying the agreement, and many meetings with individuals on both sides of the debate, including three classified briefings.
Schumer laid out three reasons for his opposition to the deal. Firstly, the lack of “anytime, anywhere” inspections and the 24-day delay period at Iran’s disposal, which, while radioactivity could still be detected, could be used to cover up other signs of bomb-making. He also opposed the codification of Iran as a nuclear threshold state after 10 years, and finally he expressed concern that Iran will use money it will obtain after sanctions are lifted to support its proxies, like Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Schumer is the first Democrat in his chamber to break with President Obama and oppose the deal. However, he joins Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey and Steve Israel among New York Democrats who plan to vote against the deal in September.
The Senator informed the White House of his opposition to the deal before it broke to the media. White House officials commented that while they were disappointed in Schumer’s decision, they were not surprised.
White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said that it was difficult to determine how Schumer’s choice would affect other Democrat senators, but that the administration was confident they would made their own, independent choices.
Earnest noted that New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand came out in support of the agreement earlier the same day that Schumer announced his opposition.
“So I think there’s a preponderance of evidence to indicate that Democrats are going to make up their minds not based on Senator Schumer’s conclusion, but based on their own conclusions about the merits of this agreement and the strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and, as long as they do that, we’re gonna’ continue to feel quite confident about our ability to build support for this agreement in the Democratic caucus,” Earnest said.
Earnest also left the issue of Schumer’s qualification to serve as Democratic leader of the Senate in the next Congress up to the Senator’s colleagues. Schumer, however, dismissed the possibility that his choice would affect his chances for the leadership position, saying, “This is a decision of conscience and my colleagues respect that, as I will respect their decisions of conscience,” he said. “So no, I don’t think that means very much.”