WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump chided Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the senior Jewish lawmaker in Congress, for not backing his proposal to amend the Iran nuclear deal.
“Dem Senator Schumer hated the Iran deal made by President Obama, but now that I am involved, he is OK with it,” Trump said Monday morning on Twitter. “Tell that to Israel, Chuck!”
Schumer, D-N.Y., is a leading pro-Israel voice in the U.S. Senate, calling himself a “guardian of Israel” because of his name, which is rooted in the Hebrew for guard.
On Friday evening, after Trump earlier in the day had asked Congress to effectively amend the 2015 nuclear deal, Schumer said on Twitter he favored preserving the deal. The senator also implicitly chided Trump for ignoring the counsel of top advisers who favor keeping it including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Military Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.
“The @SenateDems agree with #SecDef Mattis and General Dunford,” Schumer said. “We won’t allow the Iran deal to be undone.”
In 2015, Schumer voted against the deal, which trades sanctions relief for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program. But like virtually every other Democratic opponent at the time, he now adamantly supports preserving it, joining the others in saying the pact remains the best means of building an international alliance to pressure Iran and pulling out of it would damage U.S. credibility.
In a statement to JTA following Trump’s tweet attacking him, Schumer said that there were existing tools outside the deal to pressure Iran.
“President Trump’s own Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Generals Mattis and Dunford, both said that it’s in our national security interest to keep the JCPOA in place and I agree,” he said. “I believe Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, will heed their recommendation. If the President is serious about countering Iran, his first step can be to implement the tough sanctions Congress passed in July and urge the House to pass the Hezbollah sanctions legislation that recently passed the Senate.”
Trump wants Congress to mandate sanctions should Iran fail to meet conditions not covered in the deal. They include maintaining restrictions on enrichment past the deal’s deadlines, which begin to kick in within the next decade, and allowing more ready access for inspectors to military facilities.
If Congress does not amend the agreement to Trump’s liking, the president has said he will pull out of it. Other partners to the deal, including close U.S. allies in Europe, oppose amending the deal, instead favoring increased pressure on Iran outside the context of the deal.