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Higgins adds his support for N-deal with Iran

WASHINGTON – Rep. Brian Higgins on Thursday announced his support for President Obama’s proposed multinational agreement aimed at barring Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“This agreement will do more than any plausible alternative to accomplish America’s objective of blocking Iran’s pathway to a bomb in a way that we can verify,” said Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat who serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security committees.

Higgins was the last member of the Western New York delegation to take a stand on the nuclear deal, which Congress will vote on later this month. Reps. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Tom Reed, R-Corning, announced their opposition soon after the deal was struck in July, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., announced his opposition in early August.

Higgins joined Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in supporting the deal, saying that in return for lifting sanctions, the United States and its fellow signatories – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – had won significant concessions from the Iranian regime.

“The agreement reduces Iran’s stockpile of uranium by 98 percent, limits enrichment of the remaining uranium to well below bomb-grade, eliminates two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges, and provides for regular inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities,” Higgins said in a statement.

“To verify Iran’s compliance, international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iranian nuclear sites, providing as much assurance as is possible that Iran will be caught if it cheats. Should that occur, the agreement allows us to quickly reimpose sanctions, and the United States would still possess all of the diplomatic and military options we have today.”

Higgins said he is concerned about one possible side effect of the deal: that with its economy improving as sanctions are lifted, Iran could boost its support for terrorist proxies.

But he said two factors allay that concern to some degree. First, he said, funding terrorism is unlikely to be the first priority for a country with huge domestic needs. In addition, he said, some hard-liners in the Iranian government actually benefit from the sanctions because they control the black market – and thus will suffer when sanctions are ended.

Higgins also disagreed with those who say the United States should persuade its allies to return to the bargaining table to try to strike a better deal. “It is far more likely that trust in the ability of the United States to lead would evaporate and international support for sanctions would plummet,” he said.

Higgins’ support for the deal will have little political impact. While the Republican-led House is all but certain to vote down the deal, Obama has already secured enough Senate votes to prevent a veto override.

In opposing the deal, Collins has said that it “fails to eliminate the possibility of Iranian nuclear enrichment. It lifts key nuclear restrictions after eight years and grants Iran instant (nuclear) breakout time after 15 years.”