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Sen. Coons among lawmakers asking Iran deal questions in first Congressional hearing

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s junior senator was among lawmakers quizzing Secretary of State John Kerry and other Obama Administration officials during the first hearing on the Iran nuclear deal Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tangled with Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew for over four hours about the details of the deal.

Coons specifically asked Kerry about a joint commission that will resolve disputes over inspector access to sites where there is suspicion Iran is cheating.

"How confident can we be of our allies enduring support of our interests in the, I think, likely event of cheating?" Coons asked.

"I think we can be very confident, and here’s the reason why," said Kerry. "The access issue goes to the core of, the absolute core of this agreement. When we have any indicator that there is a site we need to get into and we’ve shared that amongst each other, we’re in agreement, they will prosecute that.  They will understand the circumstances"

Coons also asked Kerry about “snapback sanctions” - sanctions that would be re-imposed on Iran if its breaks the agreement.  He wanted to know if the U.S. would be able to go to the UN Security Council and fully reinstate the sanctions Congress approved if Iran is found to be cheating. 

"Are they the broad, sweeping financial sector sanctions that we worked on together that brought Iran to the table?" asked Coons. "Or are they a paler version of that?"

"Oh, no.  They’re the full monty," Kerry responded.

"Because as you know we’ve had debate among some of the colleagues on this committee whether or not this agreement prevents the reimposition..." said Coons.

"Well, we have a choice.  We do have some discretion," said Kerry. "I mean, the language is in there that says in whole or in part. If we find there is something we want to slap their wrist, we can find an “in part.” So, that’s up to us."

"So, in your view, we have the ability to ratchet back sanctions in pieces or in whole?" Coons asked.

[As] needed or in whole," answered Kerry.

Congress is in the midst of a two-month window to review the Iran deal before voting whether to support it or not.

Coons, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Congressman John Carney (D-Delaware) all say they wish to fully vet the agreement before deciding if they’ll vote for it.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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