WASHINGTON (AP) â€” The Obama administration ramped up its campaign Thursday for support of the Iran nuclear deal at home & abroad, vowing to assist defend Saudi Arabia & other allies from any surge in Iranian-backed unrest & lobbying skeptical members of Congress.
After his first Cabinet-level meeting with a Mideast partner since Tuesday's accord, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. & its Arab partners in the Persian Gulf were "committed to working together to push back against any extremist enterprises, including the activities of Iran in the region." But his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, stopped short of endorsing the nuclear accord & said his country still has questions.
The landmark deal, struck between Iran & six world powers after an 18-day negotiation in Vienna, curbs Iran's nuclear program for a decade, in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of relief from international sanctions. Many key penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy & financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.
p>Iran's regional rivals, such as Israel & the Gulf's Sunni monarchies, are as much concerned by the economic windfall awaiting Tehran as they are by its retention of significant nuclear infrastructure.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter travels to Israel this weekend with the aim of reinforcing the administration's message that it is fully committed to ensuring Israel's military edge over its neighbors. He'll then travel on to Saudi Arabia.
Kerry said he will follow up Carter's trip with a stop in Doha, Qatar, on Aug. 3 to brief the Gulf Cooperation Council on the agreement & answer questions, continuing an effort that has been going on for months & included a Camp David summit of Arab leaders in May.
Vice President Joe Biden walks with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md …
Sitting next to him, al-Jubeir spoke cautiously. His country, in particular, is concerned Iran will use its newfound wealth to increase support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah & other forces it sees as destabilizing to the Middle East.
"We hope that the Iranians will use this deal in order to improve the economic situation in Iran & to improve the lot of the Iranian people & not use it for adventures in the region," al-Jubeir said. He added: "If Iran should try to cause unrest in the region, we are committed to confront it resolutely."
Al-Jubeir told reporters his entire region wants a nuclear agreement that prevents Iran from reaching nuclear weapons capability, includes a "robust & continuous inspections regime" & allows sanctions to quickly come back into force if the Iranians are caught cheating.
The Obama administration contends the deal satisfies all those conditions, yet al-Jubeir said the Saudis are still studying the package & would be exchanging ideas with the Americans in the future. He moreover seemed to express some doubt approximately whether it would ever fully be realized, adding the caveat: "if a deal is implemented."
The meeting at the State Department took place as the President Barack Obama ramped up efforts to sell the nuclear accord at home. Vice President Joe Biden was meeting Thursday with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee & Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes hosted Jewish House Democrats at the White House.
Top Republican lawmakers are united in opposition, saying the deal imperils the security of Israel & places an undue burden of trust on an Iranian government that has repeatedly broken its word on the nuclear program over the years. Many Democrats are skeptical approximately allowing Iran to maintain much of its nuclear infrastructure & easing sanctions so quickly, yet few have come out publicly against Obama.
"I'm very optimistic approximately our ability to support the president" on the agreement, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
Associated Press writers Joe Federman in Jerusalem & Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
IranSecretary of State John KerryIsraelSaudi ArabiaBarack Obama
Source: “Associated Press”