PORTLAND, Maine - U.S. Sen. Angus King is calling on Congress to approve the Iran nuclear agreement. King explained his support during a forum last night at the University of Southern Maine.
King discussed the deal inside a packed lecture hall at USM with former Sen. George Mitchell and Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who served as President George W. Bush's undersecretary of state for polical affairs.
About half-way through the session, Burns, who was the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran's nuclear program from 2005 to 2008 asked King how he came to support the deal.
Some colleagues in the Senate, King noted, came out against the deal moments after it was announced, "before they'd even seen it, let alone read it," King said. "I mean, on something this important, I just didn't get that."
Watch the entire forum:
King read the agreement. He read it again, and marked up the margins. He consulted arms control experts, military officials, and career diplomats - like Nicholas Burns. And he came up with a list of the deal's many shortcomings, like its 15-year time horizon and the 24 days that weapons inspectors could have to wait to get access to nuclear sites not on the current list of known production facilities.
"I ultimately ended up with a long list of flaws in the agreement, but then ended up thinking, what would the alternative be?" King said. "And where I ended up was, if we don't do this, if Congress walks away it's clear that the sanctions regime which brought Iran to the table is going to - I'll use the words 'fray,' 'erode.'"
It's a development that King says would leave the U.S. and its allies with the worst of all worlds: a weaker sanctions regime and an Iran without any incentive to halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons.