September 23, 2014

NIAC Details Concerns with New Congressional Letter

Washington, DC – Last Thursday, a group of ten organizations including the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) led an organizational sign-on letter detailing concerns with a new Congressional letter being circulated for signature in the House by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY). 

The Royce-Engel letter outlines concerns with the recent missed deadline for the IAEA’s investigation into prior, possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program. In the organizational response to that letter, groups conveyed that they shared concerns regarding Iran’s failure to meet two out of five benchmarks for the investigation, but also warned that language in the Royce-Engel letter appears to “suggest that the IAEA’s PMD investigation must be fully resolved before the P5+1 and Iran can cement a final nuclear agreement.” The organizations cautioned that that the IAEA investigation was never intended to be resolved in such time and that Congress must not make the investigation “a prerequisite for an agreement, rather than an element of a final deal” because doing so “could ensure that neither goal is achieved.”

Below, you can find a copy of the organizational letter sent to Reps. Royce and Engel, which was signed by representatives of ten organizations:

September 18, 2014

The Honorable Ed Royce Chairman
House Foreign Affairs Committee

The Honorable Elliot Engel Ranking Member
House Foreign Affairs Committee

Dear Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel,

We are writing to convey our concerns about a letter you are circulating concerning the IAEA investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program.

We share your concern about Iran’s failure, thus far, to fully address two out of the five issues that are part of the IAEA’s investigation. However, we believe that some of the language in your letter is inaccurate and, if translated into policy, would be harmful – not only to the IAEA investigation itself, but also to the entirely separate, but related, efforts by the United States and P5+1 to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Specifically, your letter appears to suggest that the IAEA’s PMD investigation must be fully resolved before the P5+1 and Iran can cement a final nuclear agreement1. This assertion is both inaccurate and problematic. This is not a minor issue: making resolution of the PMD issue a prerequisite for an agreement, rather than an element of a final deal, could ensure that neither goal is achieved.

As you know, these negotiations have proceeded on the understanding that the effort to achieve a comprehensive nuclear deal is independent of a resolution of the IAEA’s investigation. There is thus no basis for the assertion that the achievement of a nuclear deal is predicated on first resolving all past PMD issues. Indeed, an effective monitoring and verification regime that would detect and prevent potential nuclear weapons activities can be established prior to completion of the IAEA investigation23. Furthermore, under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), the implementation of a final nuclear deal will require Iran to fulfill its NPT obligations, including resolution of the PMD issues.

We also believe your letter’s characterization of Iran missing this deadline on two out of five elements of the PMD investigation as a “refusal to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency” is an overstatement that is as unhelpful as it is misleading. In fact, the IAEA itself reports4 that the agency remains in discussion with Iran about resolving the two remaining issues and that Iran has fully implemented its obligations under the Joint Plan Of Action (JPOA). While Iran’s failure to meet the IAEA’s requirements on the two remaining issues is indeed a serious issue, it makes no sense to ignore the fact that Iran met the previous two deadlines for the IAEA’s investigation and provided information and access to resolve 13 areas of concern, including a PMD issue. Yes, Iran should fully address all remaining issues in the IAEA investigation, as it committed to in an agreement with the agency last November. But equating a missed deadline with a “refusal to cooperate” is inaccurate and misleading, given the status of the overall investigation and the ongoing contacts to resolve the issues.

In addition, we are concerned that the letter mischaracterizes the IAEA’s investigation as an “unrestricted inspection and verification regime.” The IAEA effort is a targeted and time-limited investigation into past issues, not an inspections and verification regime to monitor future activities. The latter is, in fact, what is under discussion in the P5+1 talks. This is important because, while the IAEA investigation can provide insights into past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, the P5+1 negotiations are aimed at preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon in the future. Your letter unfortunately conflates these two tracks and their respective timelines, and in so doing risks undermining them both.

Finally, we are very concerned this letter can be read to suggest a Congressional demand that any final agreement include unfettered access to all Iranian military facilities by international inspectors5. Such a requirement is a nonstarter for a negotiated solution – indeed, it is difficult to fathom how any country could consent to such terms – and is manifestly not a necessary component of a strong inspections and verification regime. Instead, a final deal will require Iran to implement the Additional Protocol6, which is specifically designed to guard against illicit nuclear programs. The Additional Protocol gives the IAEA the authority to visit any facility where nuclear material may have been introduced to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in Iran’s nuclear activities to ensure that the program is entirely peaceful.

We recognize that Congress has an important oversight role to play with respect to the Obama Administration’s efforts to resolve the challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program. We believe it is absolutely right for you, as leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to ask questions and raise concerns. At the same time, we want to emphasize to you how critical it is that Congress supports both the IAEA investigation and the P5+1 negotiations. Together, they provide a critical opportunity to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, in all its aspects, diplomatically.

Regrettably, some of the language in your letter could undermine, rather than support, these diplomatic opportunities. We urge you to revise the letter to ensure this is not the case.


Jamal Abdi
Policy Director
National Iranian American Council

Kelsey Davenport
Director for Nonproliferation Policy
Arms Control Association

Lara Friedman
Director of Policy and Government Relations
Americans for Peace Now

Kate Gould
Legislative Associate, Middle East Policy
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Sara Haghdoosti
CEO & Co-Founder

Laicie Heeley
Director of Middle East and Defense Policy
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Paul Kawika Martin
Policy Director
Peace Action

Stephen Miles
Advocacy Director
Win Without War

Jon Rainwater
Executive Director
Peace Action West

Susan Shaer
Executive Director
Women’s Action for New Directions

Please direct correspondence to: 1411 K St NW #250, Washington, DC 20005

“A resolution of this issue is also essential to establishing a baseline regarding the status of the 




“We are concerned that an agreement that accepts Iran’s lack of transparency on this key issue would set the dangerous precedent that certain facilities and aspects of Iran’s nuclear program can be declared off limits by Tehran, resulting in additional wide-­‐ranging restrictions on IAEA inspectors, and making effective verification virtually impossible.”


Photo Courtesy of AP


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