U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will give a speech Wednesday in Philadelphia in support of the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, while Democrats in Congress are on the verge of guaranteeing lawmakers will not be able to pass a measure opposing the deal.
Kerry and top diplomats from Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and the European Union agreed with Iran in July to limit the country’s nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.
Congress is due to debate the agreement next week in the closing days of its 60-day review period before lodging a vote for or against. Critics have argued it does not do enough to guarantee Iran would not develop nuclear weapons, and would endanger U.S. ally Israel while allowing Iran to use newly unlocked funding to support terrorists.
But supporters say the provisions amount to the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In addition to his speech Wednesday, the Associated Press says Kerry will send a letter to members of Congress outlining U.S. security commitments to Israel and Gulf Arab countries.
Kerry and President Barack Obama are working to get enough support from Democrats to keep Republicans, who overwhelmingly oppose the deal, from voting against the pact and overriding President Obama’s promised veto.
They need 34 Senators to protect the deal, and now have to get just one more commitment to reach that level after Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Chris Coons of Delaware declared their support on Tuesday.
Backers of the deal could also block a veto override with the support of 146 members of the House of Representatives, but that amount of support will be much more difficult to reach.
Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who himself remains undecided, predicted Tuesday that Obama will have the support of 34 senators by the end of this week. So far, two Senate Democrats have opposed the agreement, while 11 have yet to say how they would vote.
If Congress did vote against the deal and override a presidential veto, that would open up the possibility of lawmakers deciding to keep in place sanctions they have imposed against Iran and thus threaten the international agreement.
The American public appears sharply polarized along party lines on the subject. A new poll released Tuesday by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation found 52 percent of Americans backing the deal, while 47 percent would like to see it rejected.
The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution in July endorsing the agreement. It says economic sanctions from the U.N., U.S. and EU against Iran would be lifted once the International Atomic Energy Agency determines that Iran complied with its long-running probe into questions about whether Iran worked to develop nuclear arms. Iran has insisted its program is peaceful, and the IAEA plans to issue its final report by the end of December.
If the deal goes into effect, and Iran is found to have later violated restrictions such as limited the number of uranium centrifuges it employs or the level of uranium enrichment it is allowed, the agreement includes a so-called snapback feature that would reimpose the sanctions.