US Democratic lawmaker backs Iran nuclear deal

Washington: A House Democrat who represents an American held hostage in Iran says he supports the Iran nuclear deal.

“It’s very clear to me that the agreement is the best path forward,” Rep. Dan Kildee told the Associated Press in an interview. “This agreement allows us to prevent (Iran) from gaining a nuclear weapon, and if they cheat we will know it.

If we don’t have the agreement, we don’t have that certainty.”

American Amir Hekmati has been held in Iran since 2011. Kildee said he has told President Barack Obama and Hekmati’s relatives about his decision to back the international agreement, which calls on Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

A former sergeant in the US Marine Corps, Hekmati was visiting his ailing grandmother in 2011 when he was arrested on suspicion of spying. He was charged in January 2012 with espionage and sentenced to death. His family denies the charge. He is one of four Americans held by Iran.

Kildee’s support is a boost for Obama amid a week of furious lobbying on Capitol Hill, with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee urging lawmakers, chiefly Democrats, to oppose the accord. AIPAC, which is behind a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, argues that Iran cannot be trusted. Obama and his allies say there is no alternative to the deal other than to let Iran proceed unsupervised.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican who has criticized the accord, reiterated his demand that the Obama administration turn over documents related to agreements between the IAEA and Iran that he described as “side agreements.” Secretary of State John Kerry has said there are no side agreements relevant to the accord.

The Republican-led Congress is in the midst of a 60-day review of the deal, and is expected to vote in September on a resolution of disapproval that Obama has vowed to veto. The administration’s goal is to ensure it has enough Democratic votes to sustain the veto.

Obama has aggressively courted Democrats, holding sessions at the White House. He’s also sent his Cabinet members to Congress for briefings and hearings.

Both sides are urging members to decide and announce their positions, in the hopes that those who have gone public will inspire others to follow. Rep Sander Levin, a Democrat, announced this week that he would support the deal. Rep Grace Meng, a Democrat, yesterday said she opposes it.

Kildee said he let Obama know of his decision last night. He said he ultimately he rejected the argument against the deal, in which opponents suggested the US could reject and then renegotiate it to further tighten enforcement on Iran.