MONTGOMERY — Anniston's representative in Congress said he's not happy with the nuclear deal the U.S. and its allies struck with Iran over the weekend.
"I'm pretty disappointed," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks.
The Obama administration announced over the weekend that the United States and other countries had struck a six-month deal with Iran, in which Iran would give up with nuclear weapons ambitions, and submit to inspections, in exchange for an easing of Western sanctions.
The result of months of secret negotiations, the deal is expected to lay the groundwork for talks in pursuit of a more permanent nuclear deal. But Rogers, head of the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, believes the U.S. has now given away its best bargaining chip.
"Sanctions were starting to have a real effect over there," Rogers said. If the U.S. had held out longer and waited for the Iranians to feel more of the sanctions' bite, he said, Iran would have offered a better deal.
The nuclear deal allows Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief — estimates range from $7 billion to $10 billion — in exchange for concession on Iran's nuclear program, including descriptions of buildings at nuclear sites and UN inspector access to those sites.
Rogers believes Iran will take the money, but will likely cheat on the inspections regime.
"It reaffirms their belief that we're weak and stupid," he said.
Rogers is among several critics, including some Democrats, who've emerged since the plan was unveiled on Saturday.
Obama countered those critics in a speech Monday, according to the Associated Press, saying the U.S. "cannot close the door on diplomacy" with Iran. Over the past decade, Western countries have eyed Iran's nuclear ambitions as a possible flashpoint for war.
"Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it's not the right thing to do for our security," Obama said, according to the AP.
As head of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, Rogers is a key player in the House approach to its own nuclear forces. The Alabama Congressman has rarely seen eye-to-eye with the president on nuclear issues. Obama has advocated treaties to cut the number of nuclear weapons; Rogers wants them modernized.
Rogers proposed a bill earlier this year that would have removed all funding from efforts to implement the New START treaty Obama negotiated with Russia.
Rogers said there's little a House member can do to block the Iran deal. The sanctions lifted in the deal were imposed by the executive branch, he said, and can be lifted by the president.
There's an ongoing effort in the Senate, Rogers said, to impose additional sanctions by law — something that could kill the president's chances for brokering a permanent deal with Iran.
Attempts to reach Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. Richard Shelby, to ask their position on those sanctions, were unsuccessful Monday.
Obama appealed to senators last week to put those sanctions on hold, the AP reported.
Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.