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Iran Gets Everything for Free if Congress Overrides Deal, White House Says (Updated)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani  stands next to a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Behrouz Merhi/Getty Images File Photo)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani  stands next to a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Behrouz Merhi/Getty Images File Photo)

Updated 4:16 p.m. | White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest warned Iran would get what it wants even if Congress overrides the Iran nuclear deal.  

“Iran will get all of the benefits of this deal without having to give up anything,” Earnest said Friday. He predicted the international economic sanctions would collapse and Iran would get the economic benefits it has sought anyway — and noted that even if American sanctions stay in place Iran has far more at stake economically with sanctions from other countries around the world.  

“The problem is Iran is going to get all that money and the United States doesn’t get anything for it,” he said, predicting Iran would get sanctions relief from the international community even if they don’t reduce their stockpile, centrifuges or all-but-dismantle their plutonium-producing reactor.  

A vote to kill the deal is a “vote to allow Iran to get off scot-free and to get all the sanctions relief.”  

The White House, meanwhile, is hoping the 150 House Democrats who signed a supportive letter after the interim deal with Iran in May stick with the president now . Earnest said they aren’t taking their votes for granted but noted that would be enough to sustain a presidential veto if Congress passes a disapproval resolution. (The magic number is 146 to ensure the House sustains his veto.)  

Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, called out Earnest’s comments later Friday.

“Just three days after the president claimed he wanted a serious, fact-based debate on his Iran deal, this White House is already misleading Americans and only offering false choices,” Fritz said in a statement. “Is the president afraid he can’t win over the American people, and his own party in Congress, on the details of this agreement?”

Many Republicans have argued that the United States should demand, among other things, the continuation of arms and ballistic missile embargoes against Iran beyond the 5- and 8-year extensions in the deal, and some have demanded any deal dismantle Iran’s nuclear program entirely — something Obama has said the United States does not have the leverage to achieve without a war.  

Others have said a credible military threat and increased sanctions would bring Iran to the table — but the administration has repeatedly opposed any efforts to ratchet up sanctions for fear they would tank the talks.  

Obama himself acknowledged Wednesday that the United States would be able to withhold at least some tens of billions from Iran if they didn’t go along with the deal, but said Iran would still get most of the benefits even if Congress overrode him.  

Earnest also argued that the deal would enhance America’s ability to strike Iran’s nuclear program militarily because the inspections would give the military better information for targeting purposes.  

And the press secretary said the president isn’t concerned about sending the deal to the United Nations Security Council before Congress votes on it. That’s something that brought bipartisan criticism from Capitol Hill. Earnest noted that the group negotiating with Iran all along included the permanent members of the security council.  

Congress doesn’t get a vote on the international sanctions but on Obama’s decision to waive congressional sanctions.  



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