Obama marks anniversary of nuke deal; GOP aims to undermine

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WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama marked the anniversary of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday by vowing that the United States and its partners will uphold their commitments as long as Iran abides by the pact. Congressional Republicans again tried to undermine the international accord, which outlines what Iran must do to pull back its nuclear program from the brink of weapons-making capacity.

The seven-nation pact also spells out the West’s obligation to end many of the financial, trade and oil sanctions that had battered Iran’s economy.

Obama said in a statement Thursday that the deal has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, “avoiding further conflict and making us safer.”

The Republican-controlled House, meanwhile, approved a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran for its continuing development and testing of its ballistic missile program. The 246-179 vote was largely along party lines.

Lawmakers also were considering a measure that would restate U.S. policy to deny the Iranian government and banks access to U.S. dollars.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said the Obama administration has shown it does not intend to hold Iran accountable for its ballistic missile program, human rights violations and support of terrorism.

“We want to penalize the Iranian government for their continued illegal activity,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said of congressional Republicans.

Democrats called the GOP bills cynical attempts to score partisan points in an election year.

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the GOP bills have “zero chance of becoming law,” since they are unlikely to pass the Senate and would face a near-certain veto from Obama if approved by Congress.

“This isn’t a serious bill,” Engel said of the sanctions measure. “It would force the United States to violate our obligations under the nuclear deal. I think that’s a mistake. We should not relitigate this issue. Our work now should be to hold Iran to its obligations and make sure the deal is being fully implemented.”

The vote on the sanctions bill comes a day after the House approved a measure Wednesday that calls for prohibiting the Obama administration from buying more of Iran’s heavy water, a key component in certain nuclear reactors. The White House has said removing the country’s surplus heavy water denies Tehran access to a material that may be stored for potential nuclear weapons production.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the Iran deal was a “triumph of diplomacy over coercion. Same stark choice for US today, and reminder: old methods produce same old failures. Progress will remain elusive as long as short-sighted bragging, lackluster implementation of obligations and tired slogans are preferred.”

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