March 4, 2014

NIAC Statement on House and Senate Iran Letters


Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: [email protected]

National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Policy Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement regarding Congressional letters on U.S.-Iran negotiations sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in the Senate and Representatives Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in the House:

The attempts by some organizations and elected officials to undermine U.S. negotiations with Iran and to undo the historic diplomatic achievement of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) have been met by the reality that the Obama Administration, the American people, and a majority in Congress are united in their desire to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran peacefully. Americans do not want war or more sanctions and believe that now is time to give diplomacy a chance to succeed. Their elected officials are following their lead.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been at the center of efforts that would derail diplomacy. After failing to pass new sanctions that President Obama promised to veto and the Senate refused to consider, then failing to secure introduction of a Congressional resolution outlining ultimatums for a final deal that House Democratic leadership would not endorse, AIPAC has been forced to settle for plan C in the form of a House letter and Senate letter.

NIAC welcomes that both of these letters acknowledge the most critical area where Congress must focus its energy to ensure that diplomacy succeeds—lifting sanctions if and when a final deal is struck. It is critical that Congress work with the Administration to ensure necessary authorizations are in place to enable nuclear-related sanctions to be lifted, as outlined by the JPOA. Those authorizations do not currently exist. Without efforts to begin resolving this, a hard fought diplomatic victory could fall victim to the difficult process of removing sanctions. NIAC is pleased to see that AIPAC is supporting letters that recognize this reality.

However, NIAC has serious concerns with the language in the Senate letter regarding demands for a final deal. NIAC outlined its position on what principles should guide Congressional action regarding U.S.-Iran diplomatic efforts in a recent letter to Congressional leadership that was signed by forty organizations. That letter urged that Congress uphold the JPOA, not issue demands on negotiations that contradict the interim terms or the terms outlined for a final deal in JPOA, and that Congress work with the Administration regarding the need to eventually lift sanctions.

The House letter meets those standards. NIAC has minor concerns with the House letter, but will not oppose it and commends the efforts of those in the House who succeeded in securing a more balanced letter. 

Unfortunately, the Senate letter does not meet those standards and NIAC therefore opposes the Senate letter.

The Senate letter uses new language to offer old ultimatums that will complicate ongoing negotiations, box-in U.S. negotiators, signal that the U.S. would violate the terms outlined in the JPOA, and serve as an invitation to hardliners in Iran to issue similar escalatory demands that will narrow options for compromise. Sections of the letter will be construed to rule out any final deal in which Iran retains a civilian enrichment program, in contradiction of the Joint Plan of Action. This, in combination with demands regarding dismantlement of infrastructure and facilities, and requiring the deal to have regional implications beyond its scope, can only interfere with the work of U.S. diplomats to resolve key concerns at the negotiating table.

NIAC urges that the Administration and Congress coordinate closely regarding ongoing negotiations and work towards the shared goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and averting a disastrous war. NIAC urges that members of the Senate abstain from signing onto the Menendez-Graham letter and instead consider language that supports the ongoing negotiations towards a final deal instead of adding unnecessary complications. 

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