New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez announced his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal today in a speech at Seton Hall University.

Menendez laid out his reasons why the deal not only was bad, but also worse than the alternatative. Hope, he said, is not a strategy.

“Whether or not the supporters of the agreement admit it, this deal is based on ‘hope’– hope that when the nuclear sunset clause expires Iran will have succumbed to the benefits of commerce and global integration. Hope that the hardliners will have lost their power and the revolution will end its hegemonic goals. And hope that the regime will allow the Iranian people to decide their fate.

“Hope is part of human nature, but unfortunately it is not a national security strategy….

“I know that, in many respects, it would be far easier to support this deal, as it would have been to vote for the war in Iraq at the time. But I didn’t choose the easier path then, and I’m not going to now. I know that the editorial pages that support the agreement would be far kinder, if I voted yes, but they largely also supported the agreement that brought us a nuclear North Korea.

(Full text here)(full video at bottom of post)

Menendez addressed Obama’s claim that people opposing the Iran deal are the same people who called for the invasion of Iraq:

“Unlike President Obama’s characterization of those who have raised serious questions about the agreement, or who have opposed it, I did not vote for the war in Iraq, I opposed it, unlike the Vice President and the Secretary of State, who both supported it. My vote against the Iraq war was unpopular at the time, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

He rejected the claim that his opposition was reflexively political:

“I also don’t come to this question as someone, unlike many of my Republican colleagues, who reflexively oppose everything the President proposes. In fact, I have supported President Obama, according to Congressional Quarterly, 98 percent of the time in 2013 and 2014…. I have been a reliable supporter of President Obama.

“But my support is not – and has not been driven by party loyalty, but rather by principled agreement, not political expediency. When I have disagreed it is also based on principled disagreement.

“The issue before the Congress in September is whether to vote to approve or disapprove the agreement struck by the President and our P5+1 partners with Iran. This is one of the most serious national security, nuclear nonproliferation, arms control issues of our time. It is not an issue of supporting or opposing the President. This issue is much greater and graver than that.

Menendez then got to the heart of Obama and Kerry’s negotiating failure, the abandonment of the original goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief:

“In that context, let’s remind ourselves of the stated purpose of our negotiations with Iran: Simply put, it was to dismantle all — or significant parts — of Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure to ensure that it would not have nuclear weapons capability at any time. Not shrink its infrastructure. Not limit it. But fully dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.

“We said we would accommodate Iran’s practical national needs, but not leave the region — and the world — facing the threat of a nuclear armed Iran at a time of its choosing. In essence, we thought the agreement would be roll-back-for-roll-back: you roll-back your infrastructure and we’ll roll-back our sanctions.

“At the end of the day, what we appear to have is a roll-back of sanctions and Iran only limiting its capability, but not dismantling it or rolling it back. What do we get? We get an alarm bell should they decide to violate their commitments, and a system for inspections to verify their compliance. That, in my view, is a far cry from ‘dismantling.’

Read or listen to the whole thing.

Here is the marker Menendez laid down for Democrats, at the end of the speech:

“I have looked into my own soul and my devotion to principle may once again lead me to an unpopular course, but if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it.

“It is for these reasons that I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto.

“Thank you. May God Bless these United States of America.”

Full Speech: