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Menendez dismisses reports that U.S. pursuing an interim nuclear deal with Iran

‘Everything I’ve seen the administration be in the midst of is in a different direction,’ the top Senate Foreign Relations Democrat, a nuclear deal opponent, said

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Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, makes his way to the Senate Chambers at the U.S. Capitol on August 03, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dismissed recent reports that the Biden administration is nearing an interim, “less-for-less” nuclear deal with Iran to replace the moribund Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Menendez — a vocal critic of the JCPOA and the administration’s efforts to reenter it — said in a brief interview with Jewish Insider on Thursday that he had not seen any indications that the administration is pursuing a deal for Iran to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, as multiple recent reports have suggested.

“I haven’t heard that at all,” Menendez said. “Everything I’ve seen the administration be in the midst of is in a different direction.”

The New Jersey senator said that the administration’s strategy is currently focused on “engaging” with Saudi Arabia, “a mutual defense system with the Gulf countries” and “giving Israel greater capability.”

“If it’s doing [an interim deal,] it’s doing a good masquerade game,” Menendez concluded, with a chuckle.

The White House offered a similar denial Thursday afternoon.

“Any reports of an interim deal are false,” a National Security Council spokesperson said, according to Reuters.

The latest denials are consistent with senators’ comments following a mid-May classified briefing on Iran. Following that meeting, senators both opposed to and in favor of nuclear talks said that they did not hear about any progress toward either reentry into the previous deal or a more limited agreement.

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