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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz met with Jewish leaders on Iran deal Friday

WASHINGTON — In a push to sell the Iran nuclear deal, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz met privately with a group of leaders of major U.S. Jewish groups on Friday.

President Barack Obama is facing massive resistance to the agreement from the influential AIPAC — The American Israel Public Affairs Committee — which has been heavily lobbying Congress to reject the deal.

Persuading Jewish Democrats in Congress to back the deal is key to finding enough votes for the pact to survive.

Moniz was at the Friday afternoon White House briefing, coming to it after he spoke with the Jewish organization leaders  — opponents and supporters — and I asked him about the meeting.

“I understand you just had a meeting with leaders of major Jewish organizations before coming here, some who opposed the deal,” I asked.

“Can you tell me if you think you made any headway in selling the deal?  And what are the questions that you think are most formidable to persuading these leaders of Jewish groups who are opposed to it?”

Replied Moniz, “Well, first of all, it was a very good meeting, and a number of the Jewish leaders came in from across the country.  So, I mean, it showed I think right there a very, very strong interest in really having a chance to discuss the agreement in depth.

“Make progress? Again, I don’t like to make value judgments. I can just say that it was a very good discussion. Not surprising, these were people who were well-schooled in the agreement, but also had lots of clarifying questions to ask. I felt that we made real progress in terms of clarification of issues in terms of how this agreement was ultimately good for our security and for the security in the region.

“A lot of the questions, some of the ones being asked here, what really — what’s the 24 days, what’s the IAEA arrangement — I would say a lot of it focused on these questions of verification because we all I think understand that those are central to this question of finding any covert activity.

“I think, for example, a point that we emphasized and I think had impact and had not been as fully appreciated is this idea of having transparency across the entire supply chain of uranium and how that significantly enhanced our capabilities to find anything outside that allowed supply chain.  So I think it was a very, very good meeting, and you are certainly correct that I think it was quite appropriate.  People came to that meeting with very, very different perspectives.”