In letter defending Iran deal, Obama pledges increase in aid to Israel


(JTA) — President Barack Obama promised Democratic lawmakers that the United States will increase missile defense support for Israel and continue to pressure Iran economically if his administration’s nuclear deal with Tehran goes through.

Obama said in a letter, dated Aug. 19 and addressed to New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, that if Iran rushes to build a nuclear weapon, “all of the options available to the United States — including the military option — will remain available,” the New York Times reported Friday.

The president also said in the letter, which the Times obtained, that the United States will uphold sanctions targeting Iran’s non-nuclear activities, such as its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and what Obama calls Iran’s “destabilizing role in Yemen.”

The letter emphasizes U.S. support for Israel, saying Obama has “consistently viewed Israel’s security as sacrosanct.”

Obama further pledged in the letter to increase missile defense funding for Israel, accelerate co-development of missile defense systems, and boost tunnel detection and mapping technologies, according to the New York Times.

Nadler, who received the president’s letter after raising doubts about the deal, said on Friday that he decided to support the agreement even though Obama’s answers “do not cover every challenge in the agreement.”

Atill, he wrote in a statement: “It is, in large part, because of my support for Israel that I have made the decision,” adding that he is “convinced is the best option for achieving our overriding security imperative.”

On Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., became the latest to declare her backing for the Iran deal. The previous day, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., also endorsed the deal.

Their support brings to 26 the number of Senate Democrats who’ve come out in favor of the agreement aimed at dismantling Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Supporters now include 10 of the 12 members on the Democratic side of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

With the majority of Republicans opposed, Obama needs 34 Senate Democrats to sustain his veto of a resolution disapproving the deal. The disapproval measure may pass next month.

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