Behind closed doors, Democrat Senate chairman dismisses Biden's pursuit of Iran deal as ‘fantasy’

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez tells Iranian dissident group the administration's drawn-out negotiations with Tehran are "unrealistic and unproductive."

Updated: August 3, 2022 - 7:42am

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In a recent private speech to Iranian dissidents, the Democrat chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee provided a stinging dismissal of President Joe Biden's pursuit of a new nuclear deal with Tehran as a "fantasy" that ignores the country's widespread malign activities.

Sen. Bob Menendez's videotaped remarks late last month to the MEK dissident group in its home in exile in Albania were his harshest assessment yet of the Biden administration's strategy toward Iran.

Menendez was originally invited along with dignitaries from both parties to speak July 23 to the MEK at its new Ashraf 3 compound in Albania by the group's American arm, known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran. But the annual Free Iran event was abruptly canceled 24 hours earlier by an unspecified terrorism threat. A few years back, an Iranian terror attack was foiled at the last minute during one of the group's meetings in Paris, and a man was recently convicted in Belgium for the plot.

The New Jersey Democrat has charted a cautious path on the nuclear negotiations, voting to oppose President Barack Obama's original 2015 deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but then harshly criticizing President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal in 2018.

In his videotaped remarks to the MEK, obtained by Just the News, Menendez made clear he believes the Biden administration is wasting its time seeking a deal with an Iranian regime engaged in wide-ranging hostile activities across the globe, including some in collaboration with Russia.

"It continues to support terrorism abroad and advance its nuclear capabilities at home," Menendez said. "Unfortunately, despite severe overtures from this administration to engage in a constructive dialogue on Iran's nuclear program, a return to the 2015 deal is not only unrealistic and unproductive. It is a fantasy."

He added: "Iran is drawing out negotiations with delaying tactics and brinkmanship. Meanwhile, it partners with Vladimir Putin to provide drone technology to deploy in its illegal war in Ukraine. And Iran continues to advance its nuclear program in the face of the international community's censure."

You can watch his remarks in the video player above or here on Rumble.

Menendez's sentiments received bipartisan endorsement, as the ranking Republican on his committee gave a similar thumbs-down to the Biden negotiations during the same MEK event, video footage shows.

"All efforts to bring the Iranian government back into the international community have failed," said Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), insisting that the "Iranian regime is negotiating in bad faith" with the U.S. government.

"At this late stage, the nuclear deal does little to contain its nuclear program, and sanctions relief will only supercharge Iranian terrorism," Risch added. "There are other policy options in our toolkit. It is time to walk away from these talks."

The rare bipartisan rebuke of U.S. policy by two U.S. senators on foreign soil was brought to the attention of Just the News by attendees at the MEK event.

For Menendez, the harsh assessment of Biden's continued negotiations is a departure from the posture he has taken in the past.

Back in 2015, before he voted against the Obama-era deal, Menendez gave an address widely praised as thoughtful in which he explained why the deal wasn't the best option for America or its ally Israel.

Distinguishing himself from his Republican colleagues, "who reflexively oppose everything the president proposes," Menendez noted in the August 2015 speech: "I have supported President Obama, according to Congressional Quarterly, 98% of the time in 2013-14. I can tell you my dear late mother would have loved for me to have listened to her 98% of the time."

Menendez gave a far harsher assessment when Trump canceled the JCPOA in 2018.

"Trump is risking U.S. national security, recklessly upending foundational partnerships with key U.S. allies in Europe and gambling with Israel's security," he declared. "Today's withdrawal from the JCPOA makes it more likely Iran will restart its nuclear weapons program in the future."

But back in the 2015 speech, Menendez made clear he didn't see eye-to-eye with Biden, going out of his way to note the then-vice president — a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee himself — supported the Iraq war when the New Jersey senator had opposed it.

In recent months, Menendez has offered more polite criticism of the Biden administration's floundering negotiations with Iran, suggesting they were unlikely to succeed.

"The Iran of May 2022 is a much more dangerous threat and is a far less interested party in negotiating than the Iran of 2015," Menendez said during a committee hearing this spring. "The United States must demonstrate we have the will, as well as military capabilities if absolutely necessary, to defend our people and our interests. We must back up President Biden's statement that Iran will 'never get a nuclear weapon on my watch.'"

His recent dismissal of the negotiations as "unrealistic and unproductive” and "fantasy" marked a major escalation of his criticism, officials told Just the News.

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