July 15, 2014

Menendez-Graham Iran Letter Could Derail Iran Nuclear Deal, Box-in Senate

 Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council sent the following letter urging Senators serving on the Armed Services, Banking, and Foreign Relations Committees to refrain from signing the Menendez-Graham letter to President Obama regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran:
Dear Senator [ ],
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has serious concerns that a new Iran letter being circulated by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) could derail diplomatic efforts to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and to avert a disastrous war. NIAC strongly urges Senators to consider the consequences of undermining these critical negotiations and to refrain from signing this unhelpful letter.
Coming just days before the July 20th deadline for either an agreement or an extension, the Menendez-Graham letter outlines a set of inflexible demands that will complicate the talks and risk derailing negotiations during the most critical phase.
Congress, the Administration, and U.S. negotiators on the ground in Vienna are working towards one bottom-line: securing an agreement to prevent an Iranian-nuclear weapon. Members of the Senate should evaluate any nuclear deal with Iran based on whether or not it achieves that goal.
There are different formulations for what restrictions, monitoring mechanisms and transparency measures must be implemented to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is limited to only peaceful purposes. Establishing the right balance, and employing creative solutions as necessary, is the tough work diplomats have been undertaking for the past six months.
By signing the Menendez-Graham letter, Senators risk boxing-in negotiators to a set of inflexible, unnecessary, and potentially unachievable demands. And, if a good deal is still salvaged but does not hit the arbitrary benchmarks established in the letter, Senators risk having boxed themselves in against a good deal.
Furthermore, by sending this letter at this time and potentially playing spoiler, Senators risk sending the signal that the United States is the inflexible party that has undermined the diplomatic process. This is exactly the letter that Iranian hardliners will seize on to attempt to convince the world that, if no deal materializes, it was the U.S. rather than Iran setting unreasonable demands.
Given the need for Congressional approval to comprehensively lift nuclear-related sanctions, it is clear that Congress has a role to play. But Senators should keep their powder dry and provide our negotiators the space to secure an agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran and prevents a disastrous war.
The P5+1 and Iran have until Sunday, July 20 to strike a comprehensive deal or extend the talks. It would be the ultimate tragedy if a set of unnecessary demands helped unravel this critical opportunity to limit Iran’s nuclear program to verifiably peaceful purposes and avert a disastrous war.

Jamal Abdi
Policy Director
National Iranian American Council

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