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Burr, Tillis not sold on Iran pact

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. warned the agreement with Iran could unleash “a nuclear arms race in the most unstable region in the world.”
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. warned the agreement with Iran could unleash “a nuclear arms race in the most unstable region in the world.” AP

North Carolina Republican members of Congress have been some of the most steadfast opponents of the nuclear disarmament deal being pursued by the Obama administration.

But analysts say there is likely little they can do to stop the agreement struck between the U.S. and Iran, and joined by the European Union, as well as Russia and China.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., warned the agreement could unleash “a nuclear arms race in the most unstable region in the world.”

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said the Iranian regime cannot be trusted.

“This framework is undoubtedly taking several steps back in our efforts to prioritize the safety and security of the U.S, Israel and our allies,” Tillis said.

Democrats, like North Carolina Rep. David Price, hailed the agreement as a step toward making the world safer. But with Republicans in control of Congress, the Obama administration has some tough obstacles to overcome.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the House Republicans’ chief deputy whip, warned Obama against removing sanctions without congressional consent. Republican leaders are expected to introduce and pass legislation requiring Congress to pass judgment on the agreement.

Analysts say the deal goes further than expected toward preventing Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon than many experts expected, including requiring an international inspection system of unprecedented intrusiveness.

The fact that it was backed by major American allies, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, puts pressure on the GOP not to try to block the effort, said Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force major general and executive director of the Duke University School of Law’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security.

“Although there are going to be people unhappy with the deal, I think at the end of the day the United States will honor the deal more or less in its present form,” Dunlap said.

Last month, Burr and Tillis signed the controversial letter authored by Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, telling Iran’s leaders that an international nuclear agreement could be scrapped after President Barack Obama leaves office. Burr or Tillis didn’t respond to questions about whether Congress should now follow through and pursue revocation of the agreement.

The deal is intended to curb Tehran’s nuclear technologies, including halting the construction of any new facilities for enriching uranium for 15 years. Iran also agreed to cut by about two-thirds for a 10-year period the 19,000 uranium enrichment machines – known as centrifuges – installed in two facilities.

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, said in an interview that an agreement has not been signed but added that he was concerned about accounts delivered in the Iranian press that described the United States as granting more and more concessions.

“In 15 years, they have no conditions whatsoever,” Pittenger said. “No restrictions in developing their nuclear capacity. Fifteen years is a short time. The year 2000 wasn’t too long ago.”

fordonez@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @francoordonez.

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