Political Notebook

Fresno’s Costa says he’ll support controversial Iran nuclear deal

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said in a Tuesday statement that he will support the Iran nuclear deal.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said in a Tuesday statement that he will support the Iran nuclear deal. The Fresno Bee

Rep. Jim Costa on Tuesday said he will support President Barack Obama’s controversial nuclear deal with Iran.

“After weighing the pluses and minuses, I have come to the conclusion that although the agreement is not perfect, it is our best option to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East because if Iran complies, this agreement will ensure a nuclear-free Iran for the next 15 years,” Costa said in a statement.

With Costa’s announcement, the entire central San Joaquin Valley congressional delegation has now weighed in on the deal, which places controls on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. Not surprisingly, support or opposition to the deal breaks down strictly along party lines.

Reps. Devin Nunes of Tulare, Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, David Valadao of Hanford and Tom McClintock of Elk Grove – all Republicans – oppose the deal. Costa is the Valley’s lone Democrat.

Nunes last week said during a Fresno Chamber of Commerce breakfast speech that he wants to keep sanctions in place in the hope that it will lead Iranians to rise up against the ruling regime. Other Valley congressional Republicans echoed Nunes, saying the loosening of sanctions will give Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon.

But Costa has a different viewpoint. Without the agreement, Costa said “we have to face the reality that Iran is two to three months away from developing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.”

Instead, he said the will deal will block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon through a number of requirements, such as setting a maximum uranium enrichment level well below weapons-grade and decreasing the country’s uranium stockpile by more than 98 percent.

In addition, Costa said lifting sanctions on Iraq “has the potential to support a middle class that we hope could be a viable force against the extremist regime currently in power.”

Costa’s statement comes the same day as three more Democratic senators said they would support the nuclear deal. There are now 41 Senate supporters of the deal, a number that all but guarantees it would survive any attempts in Congress to derail it.

The agreement struck by Iran, the United States and five world powers in July will provide Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for a decade of constraints on the country’s nuclear program.

Republicans who control the House and Senate strongly oppose the pact, saying it makes dangerous concessions to Iran, and hope to push through a resolution of disapproval this week.

Leaders of Israel have been strongly lobbying against the deal they say could empower Iran, but had succeeded in winning over only three Senate Democrats, albeit all of them prominent figures – Chuck Schumer of New York, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

John Ellis: 559-441-6320, @johnellis24. The Associated Press contributed to this report.