WATCH: Menendez Says, Iran Deal Is 'Not About Preventing Nuclear Iran, but Managing It'

On ABC's 'This Week,' the former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez lambasted President Obama's handling of negotiations with Iran saying they, 'started with the wrong premise.'

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democratic Senator, is among the 83 senators urging a touch stance on Iran.Credit: AP


(Scroll for the full clip)

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, it makes me anxious because what a deal looks like is incredibly important. And the problem here, George, is that we have gone from preventing Iran having a nuclear ability, to managing it. And what we are doing is basically rolling back sanctions for -- not rolling back Iran’s elicit nuclear infrastructure, but rolling back sanctions for verification.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But according to the administration, putting off for 10 to 15 years. Can any other policy do better than that?

MENENDEZ: Well, I think we started off with the wrong premise. We did not test the premise, can you get some of that infrastructure to actually be removed because, at the end of the day, that’s where we started. We started off with the premise that Iran could not keep its nuclear infrastructure, at least all of it. So we still have a plutonium reactor, reconfigured but still a plutonium reactor. 

We were originally told by Secretary Kerry that is either going to be dismantled by them or it will be destroyed by us. We have uranium enrichment deep inside of a mountain. That doesn’t happen for a peaceful civilian program. That’s going to stay, again, reconfigured to less uranium enrichment.

So the question is, even President Obama said that under this potential deal, in 12, 13 years, they will have a pathway towards a nuclear bomb should they choose to do so. And how this deal structures our ability to make sure that if that’s the best deal you’re going to get, what type of verification inspection regime, is it still going to be any time, any place for the International Atomic Energy Administration, what type of sanctions relief are we giving? And at the end of the day, I hope that notwithstanding a deal, that the president makes a very clear statement to Iran that as it relates to the future, we cannot accept Iran having a nuclear weapon period. That’s the premise we started on. That’s the premise we should finish on.