Republican senators who were briefed on Wednesday about recent talks with Iran were reportedly told to “ignore anything the Israelis say” about the issue, BuzzFeed reports.
Members of the Senate Banking Committee who spoke to the website after a briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry and lead Iran negotiator Wendy Sherman sharply criticized the presentation.
The briefing came as part of an ongoing appeal by the Obama administration to the Senate to hold off on a new round of sanctions against Iran.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Il.), a member of the Banking Committee, described the briefing as “very unconvincing” and, in what seems more disturbing, he said it was also “anti-Israeli”.
“I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me, and I think the Israelis probably have a pretty good intelligence service,” Kirk told BuzzFeed. He added that the Israelis had told him that the “total changes proposed set back the program by 24 days.”
A Senate aide familiar with the meeting told the website that “every time anybody would say anything about what would the Israelis say they’d get cut off and Kerry would say, ‘You have to ignore what they’re telling you, stop listening to the Israelis on this.’”
“They had no details,” the aide told BuzzFeed. “They had no ability to verify anything, to describe anything, to answer basic questions.”
Another member of the Banking Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said he was left “undecided” following the presentation, adding that he was “very disappointed in the presentation.”
Corker said that senators were given no details of the interim deal being formulated in negotiations between Iran and world powers in Geneva this month.
“I am stunned that in a classified setting when you’re trying to talk to the very folks that would be originating legislation relative to sanctions, to have such a lack of specificity - I feel I may get that over the next 24 hours in another setting, but it was solely an emotional appeal,” Corker said.
Kirk also criticized Sherman, whose “record on North Korea is a total failure and embarrassment to her service.” Sherman was part of the U.S. negotiating team that focused on North Korea in the 1990s.
“Wendy wants you to forget her service on North Korea,” Kirk said. “You shouldn’t allow her.”
He added, “Today is the day I witnessed the future of nuclear war in the Middle East. How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money.”
Kirk said that he supports multiple avenues for increasing sanctions, including an amendment on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is supposed to come to a vote later this month.
Members of both the Republican and Democratic parties have overwhelmingly backed tougher economic pressure on Iran in recent years amid concern it is closing in on nuclear weapons capability.
Several weeks ago, a group of Senators from both parties called on Iran to end all its uranium enrichment activity and pushed for a speedy escalation of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The Senate Banking panel has been considering whether to act on legislation hitting Iran’s oil industry. The House overwhelmingly passed such legislation in July, but the White House has been urging Senate Democrats to hold off while multilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program continue.