President Barack Obama may have secured Congressional support for his Iran deal — thanks to Sen. Barbara Mikulski — but Baltimore-area Jewish organizations opposed to the agreement are still fighting to convince other Maryland lawmakers to follow Sen. Ben Cardin's lead and vote "no."
A dozen members of the Baltimore Zionist District gathered Sunday at a busy Pikesville corner to voice their opposition by holding placards and banners that expressed their fear that the deal will empower Iran, imperil Israel and threaten international security.
"The battle is not over," said Jay Bernstein, a board member of the Baltimore Zionist District.
Mikulski, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, became the fourth member of the state's congressional delegation to support the deal, along with Democratic Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Chris Van Hollen and Donna F. Edwards. Mikulski's support provided Obama the final vote needed to ensure that the deal will survive Republican opposition in Congress
In addition to Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Rep. Andy Harris also announced his opposition. Supporters and opponents of the deal have been putting pressure on undecided Democrats to make a decision. Four other lawmakers in Washington have yet to announce a position on the deal: Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, John Sarbanes, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Delaney.
"It's still important for as many as possible [in Congress] to vote 'no,'" Bernstein said. "It sends a message to the international community, it sends a message to Iran, it sends a message to whomever might be the next president that even if this thing passes the majority of Congress and the majority of the American people are against it."
While the group held a sign thanking Cardin for opposing the deal, some expressed frustration with the prominent Jewish Democrat, who faces re-election in 2018, because he announced his opposition after the deal was a foregone conclusion. Cardin has dismissed such suggestions that his timing was politically motivated.
"Congress needs to insist on getting a better deal," said Brian Sacks, who stood holding a sign that read "Say 'No' to Bad Iran Deal." "The supporters of the deal have put a position together that is a fallacy. They say it's either this deal or war. That's not necessarily the conclusion."
Heather Johnson, an Army veteran from Baltimore, said military action would be inevitable if the deal with Iran does not move forward. The UMBC history graduate joined the Army in 2002 at age 30 and was deployed to Kuwait as an Arabic linguist during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"I think military action against Iran would be a mistake that would make the invasion of Iraq look like nothing," Johnson said. "If we don't agree to this it's going to end up with military action. And that would be bad for everyone."