Illinois GOP Senator Mark Kirk was welcomed last night by a standing ovation from a crowd of nearly 300 members of Chicago’s pro-Israel community gathered for the “Campus Champion Gala,” a project of the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs.
Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January 2012, brought the crowd back to their feet with the announcement that he will be revitalizing the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013” also known as the Menendez/Kirk bill.
“The first thing I will do when I return to Washington is make sure the Menendez/Kirk bill is finally voted on and passed to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Kirk said.
Originally introduced by a bipartisan group of 26 senators in December 2013, the legislation was quickly rejected by the White House. A month earlier the United States, European Union, and China signed an agreement with Iran described by the Washington Post as “a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions.”
The agreement with the Islamic Republic was intended to be a first step toward a comprehensive nuclear pact that originally had set a six-month deadline for completion. That deal halted the installation of new centrifuges used to enrich uranium and limited the amount and type of enriched uranium that Iran is allowed to produce. In exchange, Iran received sanctions relief.
Peggy Shapiro, Midwest Director, StandWithUs, praised Kirk’s work on the legislation, telling Watchdog.org, “The Menendez/Kirk bill is very important as Iran has been toughening its stance in recent weeks and demands that all sanctions be lifted immediately, rather than a gradual lifting as Iran meets its end of the agreement.”
Shapiro continued, “The UN’s atomic agency just reported that Iran is still failing to answer critical questions about its nuclear program.
The White House has stood adamantly against the bipartisan legislation, fearing it would damage negotiations with Tehran and the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who the administration and EU regard as a more moderate partner.
With the one-year anniversary approaching, no final resolution has been reached; Iran is expected to be granted yet another six-month extension or a less strict agreement will be reached.
A recent report by the Tehran-based PressTV claims Iran has received over $6 billion in frozen oil revenues since the original agreement.
Last week Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi announced, “Iran’s [uranium] enrichment will continue. This issue has been agreed upon by both sides.”
Kirk spokesman Danielle Varallo told Watchdog.org, “The Senator has repeatedly said that this [Menendez/Kirk bill] will be a priority for him moving into the new Congress – even prior to the elections.”
Senator Menendez office did not respond to request for comment.
Paul Miller is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.