Metro area backers, foes pound pavement on Iran deal

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Urging American citizens to ask lawmakers to reject an Obama administration deal aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett offered his own experience in 2005 as proof of the Middle Eastern nation’s intentions.

“The truth is that Iran wants to kill us,” Bartlett, who served in Iraq, told a crowd of about 100 people gathered beneath an overcast sky near the Southfield Civic Center on Wednesday. “They teach it in their schools, they teach it in their streets, they teach it in their government. Doesn’t mean all Iranians are bad — it just means this regime is bad.

“To take away all the sanctions we put against them just enables them to continue to kill more Americans. I’m the reality of that truth. A bomb cut me in half from the left corner of my temple down through my jaw. An Iranian bomb.”

Veterans Against the Deal, the nonprofit Bartlett is active in, partnered with the non-partisan group Citizens Against a Nuclear Iran to host the rally Wednesday calling on leaders to vote no on the deal.

Earlier, others gathered on the street in front of a Detroit federal building office for U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, who remains undecided about the nuclear pact, asking him to back it. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Monday she would do so; Democratic U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn — the last remaining Michigan House Democrats who were undecided — also said they would back the proposed accord.

The demonstrations Wednesday came as President Obama sought to convince Michigan residents to support the deal. He gave brief interviews to several TV stations across the country — including with WXYZ (Channel 7), an ABC affiliate in Metro Detroit. It was the first local TV interview Obama has granted to a Michigan station in several years.

A key Republican committee chairman acknowledged Tuesday that the White House lobbying campaign for the Iran nuclear deal has generated results, and said he doesn’t know if opponents of the deal can prevail.

The comments from Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and is a leading voice against the deal, came as supporters of the agreement claimed growing momentum. A 29th senator, Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, came out in favor of the deal Tuesday.

That put supporters within reach of the 34 votes required to uphold a presidential veto of a resolution disapproving of the agreement struck by the U.S., Iran and five world powers. The deal aims to dismantle most of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions in sanctions relief, but opponents say it makes perilous concessions to Iran.

Some supporters have now begun aiming to get 41 votes, which would allow Democrats to kill the disapproval resolution outright in the Senate and protect President Barack Obama from having to use his veto pen.

At the Southfield rally, activists, religious leaders and others decried the deal, claiming it could lead to catastrophic results worldwide since Iranian officials have not been trustworthy.

“This deal is not only bad, it’s morally wrong,” said Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek. “In releasing billions of dollars to the Iranian regime… we are effectively saying to Iran: ‘If you return your gun to your holster rather than pointing it at us, we’ll give you a knife with which to go around and hurt others instead.’ ”

Activists congregated in front of Peters’ office Wednesday carried signs with messages such as “Seal the Deal with Iran” and “Create Peace.” The demonstration was among more than 200 events across the country aimed at urging Congress members to back the deal, organizers said.

“As this historic, diplomatic agreement was announced, MoveOn members committed to fighting like hell to defend it and stop opponents from dragging the U.S. into yet another costly, deadly war of choice,” said Anna Galland, executive director of Civic Action, in a statement.

“This nationwide day of action will bring together thousands of Americans committed to diplomacy and urging their representatives to support diplomacy over war and back this deal.”

The Associated Press and Detroit News Staff Writer David Shepardson contributed.