Maine’s congressional delegation appears split on a historic deal aiming to curb Iranian nuclear programs — a solution that a Colby College expert called “the least bad option” for the United States and other world powers.

The deal, announced Tuesday, aims to keep Iran, which the U.S. considers a state sponsor of terrorism, from having enough material to produce an atomic weapon for at least a decade, while allowing inspectors into Iran’s nuclear facilities. For those concessions, Iran would have international sanctions eased, freeing up $100 billion in assets frozen in banks around the world.

The administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has pushed for such a deal for years. But congressional Republicans have vowed a fight to try and stop it, saying Iran could violate the agreement and have more money to fund terrorism.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation didn’t say in Tuesday statements how they would vote, but they showed their hands. The Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District, expressed concern about the deal’s strength, while Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, and independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, were more open to it.

Kenneth Rodman, a government professor at Colby College in Waterville who specializes in foreign policy and nuclear issues, called the deal “the least bad option” for the United States, since it will open up Iran’s nuclear program to more scrutiny.

Still, he said critics have legitimate concerns, saying while the deal “will make it more difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” it will also “give it more resources to do things in the region that are against U.S. interests.”

“The theory is that you can separate those issues,” Rodman said of the Obama administration’s strategy. “That’s a theory that’s going to be tested.”

Poliquin said the deal “does not go far enough in eliminating their nuclear program,” adding that lifting economic sanctions would “help fuel those who seek to harm Americans.”

“A verifiable diplomatic agreement that prevents Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and dismantles its nuclear infrastructure is the desired outcome; however, it is far from clear that this agreement will accomplish those goals,” Collins said.

King said he looks forward to reviewing the deal “to determine whether or not the deal contains the necessary provisions to ensure that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons capability.” He said it “cannot be based on trust,” but rather on “strict enforcement and verification provisions.”

“The best way to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program is through a comprehensive, international agreement like this one,” Pingree said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

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Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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