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'Major Milestone': Obama Secures Veto-Proof Majority on Iran Deal

Still, experts warn that a 'resolution of disapproval' could 'undermine and eventually unravel the deal'

Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) said Wednesday that she will support President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. (Photo: NASA HQ/flickr/cc)

In what supporters are hailing as a victory for diplomacy and peace, the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers now appears guaranteed to survive a Republican-led congressional challenge.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said on Wednesday that she will support President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, giving the White House the 34 votes needed to sustain a presidential veto of a congressional resolution of disapproval if Republicans pass such a measure later this month.

National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action executive director Jamal Abdi called Mikulski's announcement "a major milestone that ensures the Iran agreement can move forward despite the millions of dollars and misinformation pumped out by opponents in an effort to kill the deal."

However, Abdi added that "work for the agreement's supporters is not done," noting that nearly the entire Republican presidential field has pledged to nullify the agreement if they take the White House, and that the opposition is still working on a "resolution of disapproval" that could "undermine and eventually unravel the deal."

Supporters of the nuclear agreement will now work to secure at least 41 votes in the Senate to block such a resolution and keep Obama from having to use his veto power in the first place.

As the Washington Post reported, Mikulski's "vote now potentially clears the way for other undecided senators to support the deal. There are 10 Democrats who remain undeclared—if seven more of those senators vote for the deal, Obama might not need to pick up his veto pen at all. If 41 senators support the agreement, deal backers could successfully filibuster the resolution of disapproval and the pact will stand."

According to a new University of Maryland poll, the majority of Americans support the Iran deal, with 55 percent of respondents saying Congress should get behind the agreement, despite some concerns.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had personally lobbied U.S. lawmakers to block the nuclear pact, will continue fighting the agreement, an Israeli official said. And Marshall Wittmann, spokesman for the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, said his group also would continue rallying opposition to the nuclear agreement.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports:

In a letter delivered to Congress Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry called Israel's security "sacrosanct," recounting the billions of dollars the U.S. has provided the Jewish state for missile defense and other security assistance. U.S. and Israeli officials, he said, are working on a deal to "cement for the next decade our unprecedented levels of military assistance."

The letter was sent as Kerry defended the Iran deal in Philadelphia. His speech was carried live in Iran, an unusual occurrence.

"Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran, it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling that most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend," Kerry told lawmakers and civil leaders at the National Constitution Center.

Civil society groups and citizens of Iran, the U.S., and the world have joined with academics, faith leaders, and lawmakers to mount a wide-ranging campaign in support of the deal—and by extension, in support of peace in the Middle East and beyond.

Indeed, one of the great victories of the Iran nuclear debate is the potential for "a paradigm shift with regard to Iran that is in lock step with the preferences of a majority of war weary Americans," wrote Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council on Tuesday. "[Obama] knows that the American public overwhelmingly prefers diplomacy and opposes war when it comes to both Iran's nuclear program and America's projection of power around the world."

The Senate and House of Representatives are expected to take up the issue as soon as they return to Washington, D.C. on September 8 after their August recess.

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