WASHINGTON — Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who backs the Iran nuclear deal, was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff when the president built the international coalition that forced Iran to the bargaining table through tough sanctions.
Talking to reporters in Chicago on Tuesday, Emanuel said, “The simplest way to say it is, if I was in Congress, I would support the president’s initiative. But I’m not in Congress, thank God,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel’s quip comes as undecided Democrats face heavy pressure from both sides, the president and his team seeking support, and organizations mounting campaigns to oppose the pact.
For now, though, Emanuel is not twisting any arms on behalf of the Obama White House.
“I am not doing anything to round up votes and I do support it. I am doing my job here,” Emanuel said in an interview with the Sun-Times last week. He added, “I don’t want anyone to think the Mayor of Chicago is off doing foreign policy. I’m not.”
Still, while Emanuel, a prominent Jewish Democrat whose father was born in Jerusalem, is watching the home front, the White House made sure the word got out when Emanuel first said he backed the deal earlier this month.
“When strong validators from the Jewish community like Rahm Emanuel come out in support of the agreement, we want to make sure the community knows about that,” said Matt Nosanchuk, the White House liaison to the Jewish community.
On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Menendez D-NJ, announced his opposition to the deal, joining Sen. Chuck Schumer D-NY in being the only two Senate Democrats so far to reject the pact between Iran and six nations, including the U.S.
Congress, currently on break, is set to vote on the agreement next month. Obama said he will veto legislation rejecting the deal and opponents so far do not have the votes to override a veto.
Emanuel said in his Sun-Times interview the agreement “is the right decision at the right time because it is a reflection of the purpose of the sanctions in the first place.”
Doing nothing — just keeping the sanctions in place — was never an option, Emanuel said. “You would never hold the international community. The international community went along…they got on board with a set of withering sanctions so they would lead to negotiations, not so they would be held.”
In Chicago, Emanuel expanded on that theme.
“The product of those negotiations based on all of the alternatives: meaning bombing, you’re the only one with sanctions because the international coalition would fall apart, or a way that would actually finally get inspectors into Iran in dealing with the nuclear material — I would vote for that because . . . that’s the best alternative. And not only that, it is exactly the end point that the original coalition and sanctions were intended to produce,” he said.
RAHM ON HILLARY
Also on Tuesday, Emanuel predicted Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton would rise above the email scandal surrounding her tenure as Secretary of State to capture the Democratic presidential nomination—no matter who runs against her.
“Hillary Clinton will be the nominee and Hillary Clinton will be the President of the United States,” Emanuel said.
Fran Spielman reported from Chicago.