Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has yet to say whether he’ll support President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, angering liberal groups.
Reid told Nevada political reporters last week that he is still studying the agreement, and hinted that he wants to consult with prominent Jewish backers before he makes the decision – although he never said so outright.
“I have some papers I need study,” Reid said. “I finished reading the document, a hundred and some-odd pages. But the one thing I need to do – I have people I need to meet with. I need to meet with people who have been very good to me over the years."
“You could probably figure out who some of them are. And I haven’t done that,” he added.
According to a report on Washington-based website The Hill, Reid wants time to consult with “heavy hitters in Nevada.” It names two such "heavy hitters," both of whom are Jews: Brian Greenspun, the publisher and CEO of the Las Vegas Sun, and Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor who has a good relationship with Reid.
“I’m not sure that Harry’s not doing this for maximum leverage for whatever. That seems to be the classic Harry Reid play. I talked to only a couple of people who think there’s any chance he’ll go against the deal,” Nevada political commentator Jon Ralston told The Hill Monday.
“It’s clear to me that he wants to go and talk to people like Brian Greenspun and Sheldon Adelson and whatever other prominent Jewish leaders there are in Nevada to explain why he’s going to do what he’s going to do,” he added. “My guess is Sheldon Adelson thinks he can turn him on the deal. They have a much closer relationship than people think.”
Dan Hart, a Nevada-based Democratic consultant, told The Hill Reid is in a tough position of having to choose between Obama and longtime supporters who are staunchly pro-Israel.
“I think there is a natural affinity between people who are concerned about Israel and Harry Reid and throughout his career he has proven that. But on the other hand he is a president whom he has supported in very tough times asking him to get this thing passed,” Hart said.
Adelson is a billionaire casino chain owner who is a close ally of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and exceedingly hawkish on Iran. Adelson has said that if he were president, he would launch a nuclear missile at the Iranian desert and then warn Iran that unless it gives up its nuclear weapons program, the next missile will hit Tehran.
Following this, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called to "crush Adelson's mouth."
Brian Greenspun is a Democrat and longtime ally of Sen. Reid's. In an op-ed written right after the signing of the deal with Iran, he listed the conditions under which the deal should be opposed. They included these two:
“If Iran has immediate access to hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can foment more insurgencies, more destruction and more turmoil throughout its sphere of influence.”
“If Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries threatened by Iran’s hegemonic aspirations believe they have 10 years or less to acquire their own atomic weapons to counter an overtly ambitious Iranian mullocracy, thereby embarking on their own nuclear arms race.”
Greenspun is the son of Hank Greenspun, founder of The Las Vegas Sun, who was a prominent figure in supporting the struggle to establish the State of Israel. In 1947, Hank Greenspun shipped machine guns and airplane parts to the Haganah in violation of the U.S. Neutrality Acts, a crime for which Greenspun was arrested and ultimately convicted, together with Charles Winters and Al Schwimmer. He was fined $10,000 but received no prison time. All three were eventually pardoned.
Eighteen Senate Democrats remain undecided on the deal, which is opposed by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the man whom Reid picked to succeed him in the next Congress.
“It's mystifying why Leader Reid hasn't come out in support of the Iran Deal, when rejecting it would set us on a path to war,” claimed Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, according to The Hill.
“As the Democrats' leader in the Senate, Reid should be leading the effort to ensure his colleagues aren't tricked into allowing yet another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East by many of the very same war-mongering neo-conservatives who pushed us into Iraq,” he added.
Reid plans to wait until Congress returns from the August recess on September 8 before announcing his decision.
Obama will be at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, next week, to deliver the keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit, which Reid has co-sponsored and is one of his top priorities. Obama recently helped ingratiate himself with Reid by declaring 700,000 acres of Nevada wilderness a national monument.
Congress has until September 17 to vote on the deal, which places temporary limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. A formal resolution of disapproval is expected to come up for a vote as well.
Since Obama is expected to veto any legislation that kills the deal, two-thirds of lawmakers are needed to block the agreement. Assuming all Senate Republicans oppose the deal, 13 Democrats will also be required to override the veto. The only Democrat to announce his opposition thus far has been Schumer.
The Hill lists Reid among seven Democrat senators "leaning" toward supporting the Iran deal. Another 21 out of the total of 44 Democratic senators now publicly support the deal, while 17 are "unclear/undecided" and would probably be influenced by Reid's position.