Washington, DC – Twenty-six organizations called on the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee today to clarify a pending Congressional sign-on letter to the President concerning nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The U.S., along with UN powers, are in what may be the final stage of negotiations with Iran to secure a deal to verifiably prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting nuclear-related sanctions.
The organizations expressed their concern that the Congressional letter could be read to imply that, unless a prospective nuclear agreement with Iran addresses additional concerns beyond the nuclear issue, Congress would refuse to lift nuclear-related sanctions.
The organizations urged the letter’s sponsors, Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), to clarify that their letter is not intended to imply that Congress would scuttle a nuclear deal by refusing to implement necessary sanctions relief.
“The notion that Congress would choose to keep sanctions in place rather than secure an agreement that prevents an Iranian nuclear weapon is alarming,” the groups wrote.
The organizations, which included the National Iranian American Council, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Win Without War, MoveOn.org, CREDO and Americans for Peace Now, noted that they agreed with elements of the letter. The groups wrote that the White House and Congress should consult closely regarding the nuclear negotiations and that they agreed that the lifting of sanctions would likely require an act of Congress.
However, as nuclear negotiations intensify with Iran in the coming weeks, the organizations strongly cautioned against inserting demands beyond the nuclear file into those talks.
“Demanding that non-nuclear issues be added to the nuclear negotiations at this time will only ensure that we get no deal and face the prospect of an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program or a disastrous war opposed by the American people.”
The full letter is below, a PDF is available here.
June 19, 2014
The Honorable Ed Royce
House Foreign Affairs Committee
The Honorable Eliot Engel
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Dear Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel,
We write with regard to the letter you are currently circulating regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran. We agree with you that the White House and Congress should consult closely regarding the nuclear negotiations. While the President has the authority to issue sanctions waivers on a renewable but time-limited basis, lifting sanctions would likely require an act of Congress.
However, as nuclear negotiations with Iran enter a crucial phase, we have serious concerns regarding your letter. As written, it could be understood as implying that, unless a nuclear deal also includes non-nuclear elements on the U.S. agenda with Iran, Congress will refuse to lift any sanctions. The notion that Congress would choose to keep sanctions in place rather than secure an agreement that prevents an Iranian nuclear weapon is alarming, and we urge you to clarify that this is not the implication of your letter.
Demanding that non-nuclear issues be added to the nuclear negotiations at this time will only ensure that we get no deal and face the prospect of an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program or a disastrous war opposed by the American people. Under the Joint Plan of Action, the United States committed to “Comprehensively lift…nuclear-related sanctions…on a schedule to be agreed upon” as part of any comprehensive agreement to the nuclear dispute. As Iran conceded this week, the lifting of sanctions would be implemented over a period of time, contingent on Iran’s implementation of its own requirements under a final deal.
A comprehensive agreement that verifiably prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon would be a major national security achievement that would greatly benefit the U.S., as well as its allies, and resolve the issue that Congress has consistently identified as the top priority regarding Iran. It would be a travesty if the very sanctions that Congress enacted under the premise of stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons proved to be the obstacle that blocked a nuclear deal.
As the nuclear negotiations intensify in the coming weeks, we hope Congress and the Administration will work together to provide the U.S. with the best possible opportunity to peacefully resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran. This should include leaders in Congress like yourselves making clear that you do not endorse the position that there can be no lifting of sanctions unless a nuclear deal addresses non-nuclear issues. We urge you to clarify that this is not the intent of your letter. We look forward to your response.
Americans for Peace Now
Center for Interfaith Engagement of Eastern Mennonite
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Council for a Livable World
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Jewish Voice for Peace
Just Foreign Policy
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
National Council of Churches, USA
National Iranian American Council
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Peace Action West
Peace Catalyst International
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Progressive Democrats of America
The Shalom Center
United for Peace and Justice
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions