Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) declared his opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran Tuesday, explaining that the deal effectively rewards the country for sponsoring terrorism for decades.
"As I struggled with this decision, I could not ignore the fact that Iran, the country that will benefit most from sanctions being lifted, refuses to change its 36-year history of sponsoring terrorism," Manchin, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Tuesday.
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He labeled the Obama administration’s description of the deal as solely about nuclear weapons "false," warning that Iran’s hypothetical possession of a nuclear bomb would be most worrisome because of the country’s sponsorship of terrorism.
"For me, this deal had to be about more than preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon for the next 10-15 years," Manchin explained. "For me, this deal had to address Iran’s terrorist actions. Without doing so would reward Iran’s 36 years of deplorable behavior and do nothing to prevent its destructive activities."
"The fact of the matter is that we are concerned about Iran having a bomb because, in large part, it is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror," the Democratic lawmaker later added. "Asking us to set aside the terrorist question is irresponsible and misses the point."
Manchin charged that the billions Iran would receive in sanctions relief would at least in part help the country fund terrorism and as a result would "further destabilize the Middle East."
"Lifting sanctions without ensuring that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is neutralized is dangerous to regional and American security," the senator warned.
"Iran is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers," Manchin said. "This regime has shown no signs that its deplorable behavior will change, and this deal does nothing to guarantee that behavior changes."
With his announcement, Manchin became the fourth Democratic senator to come out against the deal, joining Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), and Ben Cardin (Md.) in their opposition of the agreement brokered in July.
Manchin insisted that a diplomatic path to disabling Tehran’s nuclear program and addressing its involvement in terrorism is still possible.
"I will support a path towards peace and diplomacy over war and aggression," Manchin said, "but make no mistake about it: I will vote to use all of our military might to protect our homeland whenever it is threatened, defend our allies whenever they are put in harm’s way and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."
On Tuesday morning, the Associated Press reported that President Obama has rallied enough support among Senate Democrats to avoid having to veto a resolution rejecting the deal.
A majority of Americans want Congress to reject the agreement with Iran, according to polling released last month.