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Backers, foes of Iran nuclear deal lobby US Congress

US President Barack Obama (C) speaks alongside Speaker of the House John Boehner (L), Republican of Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), Republican of Kentucky, prior to a meeting of the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, January 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Washington: Israel’s ambassador to the United States implored congressional Republicans today to scuttle President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and other nations as the White House dispatched senior administration officials to the US Congress to make the case for the accord.

The intense lobbying on both sides of the issue reflected the importance of the pact for Obama, seeking a foreign policy capstone in the final months of his presidency, and the fierce opposition from Israel to the accord with Tehran.

Congress this fall will cast the most significant national security vote since 2002, when it backed President George W. Bush on invading Iraq.

Rep Dave Brat, a Republican, said Ambassador Ron Dermer’s main argument during a nearly hour-long meeting with 30-40 House Republicans was “pay less attention to all the details” like centrifuges and years, and “pay more attention to who’s on the other side of the ethical debate, and that is Iran.”

Congress is in the midst of a 60-day review period of the deal designed to slow or halt any attempt by Iran to produce nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of economic and other sanctions.

Rep Steve King, a Republican, said he invited Dermer to address a weekly breakfast of conservatives and about 40 members attended.

Dermer’s message, according to King, was: “‘Congress is the last stop to avoid this, and if this Congress doesn’t shut down the president’s deal … It paves the way for not just a nuclear Iran but a very highly powered nuclear Iran, and it changes the dynamics in the region, it changes the destiny of the world.'”

There was discussion of the possibility of overriding an Obama veto. “That’s the pivot point on this altogether is can we in this Congress do something that would be historic and that’s overriding a presidential veto on an agreement of this nature,” King said.

Countering that argument are Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who planned to hold back-to-back classified briefings for House and Senate members today.

The Republican leader of the House, Speaker John Boehner, promised tough questions from lawmakers at the sessions. “A bad deal threatens the security of the American people – and we’re going to do everything possible to stop it,” he told reporters.