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Kerry Back on Hill Facing Tough Questions on Iran Deal

Secretary of State John Kerry is back on the Hill again today after facing critical questions from House members Tuesday on the Iran nuclear deal.
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Secretary of State John Kerry is back on the Hill again today after facing critical questions from House members Tuesday on the Iran nuclear deal.

This time he is testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey and answering questions not only on the nuclear agreement with Iran, but also what it means for military balance in the Middle East.

"Let me underscore — the alternative to the deal we’ve reached isn’t a better deal — some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation. That’s a fantasy plain and simple," Kerry said on Wednesday during his opening statements. "The choice we face is between a deal that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program is limited, rigorously scrutinized, and wholly peaceful or no deal at all.”

For days, the Obama administration has vigorously defended the historic accord between Iran and six world powers aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear program to deeply skeptical GOP lawmakers who have been vocal in their criticism.

"It is a good deal. It prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon in a comprehensive and verifiable way. Once implemented, it will therefore remove a critical element of risk and uncertainty from the region," Carter said during his opening statements. "For those reasons, and those my colleagues have provided in testimony before other Congressional committees, I urge you to support it."

On Tuesday, Kerry and other administration officials were grilled for several hours on details of the accord. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern about the broader impact of lifting economic sanctions on Iran and that nation's willingness to hold to the agreement.

At times those exchanges were heated.

The administration officials on Wednesday are testifying before a committee headed by two military veterans Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona and Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island.

The tone during Wednesday morning's hearing was, for the most part, less heated, though there were a few tense moments. Republican presidential candidates and Senators Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Ted Cruz, of Texas, were especially pointed in their questioning.

"Could we win a war with Iran? Who wins the war between U.S. and Iran? Who wins? Do you have any doubt who wins?" Graham asked Carter.

"No," Carter answered. "The United States wins."

"We win," Carter said emphatically.

The deal still faces a vote in Congress, although it is unclear whether Republicans and some Democrats who object to the deal will actually be able to override the decision — and Obama has threatened to veto any attempt to reject the accord. On July 20, members of Congress began a 60-day review of the deal

Tony Capra contributed to this report.