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April 15, 2015

Summary of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, as Amended by Committee

Under the amended version of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, S.615, most fundamental elements of the original Corker-Menendez bill remain intact. This includes the most problematic elements of the original legislation. As amended, S.615:

  • Delays the implementation of a comprehensive nuclear deal reached with Iran by revoking the President’s authority to relieve sanctions on Iran during a “review period” that could last anywhere from 30-82 days in length (the original bill had a 60-day review period); and
  • Enables Congress to block a final deal by enacting a Joint Resolution of Disapproval, which would prohibit the President from relieving sanctions on Iran and thus force the U.S. to renege on its commitments.

The only major substantive fix under the compromise is that the President would no longer be required to certify that Iran had not supported an act of terrorism against the United States or U.S. persons, which would have triggered expedited legislation to re-impose sanctions on Iran had the President failed to make such certification. 

Delaying Implementation of a Deal

The amended bill would provide for a Congressional review period of at least 30 calendar days, during which time the President would be unable to relieve sanctions on Iran. If Congress passes a Joint Resolution of Disapproval regarding a nuclear deal, that timeline would extend an additional 12 days; and if the President vetoed such a Joint Resolution, then the timeline could extend a further 10 days. During these extended periods, the President would likewise be barred from providing sanctions relief to Iran pursuant to the agreement.

Moreover, if a nuclear deal is not submitted to the Congress as provided in the legislation by July 10th, then the Congressional review period would be extended to 60 calendar days to account for the Congressional recess in August. During this time the President would also be unable to relieve sanctions on Iran. Together, these provisions maintain the central concern about the bill – i.e., that it unreasonably delays the implementation of a nuclear deal by not just the United States, but Iran as well (as Iran will likely wait to see the disposition of the Congressional review period before undertaking its own nuclear-related obligations).

Joint Resolution of Disapproval

By retaining a provision for Congress to enact a Joint Resolution of Disapproval – the effect of which would be to remove from the President his ability to provide Iran the necessary sanctions relief – the legislation threatens to impede the U.S.’s ability to honor its commitments. As a result, U.S. negotiating leverage is severely undermined in the months ahead, as U.S. negotiators will likely need to compensate the Iranians for the risk they are incurring from entering an agreement with a divided U.S. government.

Full Summary of Changes in Amended Version of S.615

  • President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees (which now also includes the Intelligence Committees in each House) and leadership a comprehensive nuclear deal
  • In regards to the Verification Assessment Report that the Secretary of State is obligated to prepare with respect to a comprehensive nuclear deal, that report will need to assess “the capacity and capability of the IAEA to effectively implement the verification regime required by or related to the agreement, including whether the IAEA will have sufficient access to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of covert nuclear-related activities.”
  • Neither a Verification Assessment Report nor certification as to the comprehensive nuclear deal is required for the “EU-Iran Joint Statement” or any materially identical extension of the JPOA
    • Any agreement meeting the definition in subsection (h)(1), whether concluded before or after enactment of this act, would not be subject to this exception
  • The Congressional period of review of a nuclear agreement with Iran is 30 calendar days
    • However, if the agreement is transmitted to Congress between July 10 and September 7, 2015, the period of Congressional review shall be 60 calendar days
  • Prior to and during the review period for transmission of an agreement and during the Congressional period itself, the President may not suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law or refrain from applying any such sanctions pursuant to an agreement
    • If a Joint Resolution of Disapproval passes the Congress, the President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law or refrain from applying any such sanctions pursuant to an agreement, for a period of 12 calendar days from the date of passage of the Joint Resolution of Disapproval
    • If a Joint Resolution of Disapproval passes the Congress and the President vetoes such Joint Resolution of Disapproval, the President is prohibited from relieving sanctions on Iran pursuant to the agreement for a period of 10 calendar days following the date of the President’s veto
    • Exception is kept intact for sanctions relief granted pursuant to the Joint Plan of Action if both consistent with the law in effect on the date of enactment of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and made not later than 45 calendar days before the transmission by the President of an agreement
  • Sense of Congress language added, including:
    • That this legislation does not require a vote by Congress for the agreement to commence
    • That this legislation provides for Congressional review, including for approval, disapproval, or no action on statutory sanctions relief under an agreement
    • Only Congress can permanently modify or eliminate the sanctions regime imposed on Iran
    • The fair and appropriate compensation for Americans who were held as hostages by Iran in 1979 and their families, the human rights abuses of the Government of Iran against its own people, and the continued support of terrorism worldwide by Iran are matters critical to the national security of the United States and should be expeditiously addressed
    • Sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under an agreement
    • Agreement should not compromise the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security, nor its support for Israel’s right to exist
  • Provision was added that the President shall keep the appropriate Congressional committees and leadership fully and currently informed of all aspects of Iranian compliance with respect to agreement
  • Time period during which President shall make a determination as to whether a potentially significant breach or compliance issue constitutes a material breach has been extended from 10 calendar days to 30 calendar days
  • Additional items to the President’s reporting requirements include:
    • Any procurement by Iran of materials in violation of the agreement or which could otherwise significantly advance Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon
    • Any centrifuge research and development conducted by Iran that may substantially enhance the breakout time of acquisition of a nuclear weapon by Iran, if deployed
    • Any covert nuclear activities undertaken by Iran, including any covert nuclear weapons-related or covert fissile material activities or research and development
    • Iran’s advances in its ballistic missile program, including development related to its long-range and inter-continental ballistic missile programs
    • An assessment of:
      • Whether Iran directly supported, financed, planned, or carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or a United States person anywhere in the world;
      • Whether, and the extent to which, Iran supported acts of terrorism, including acts of terrorism against the United States or a United States person anywhere in the world;
      • All actions, including in international fora, being taken by the United States to stop, counter, and condemn acts by Iran to directly or indirectly carry out acts of terrorism against the United States and United States persons;
      • The impact on the national security of the United States and the safety of American citizens as a result of any Iranian actions reported under this paragraph; and
      • All of the sanctions relief provided to Iran, pursuant to the agreement, and a description of the relationship between each sanction waived, suspended, or deferred and Iran’s nuclear weapons program
    • An assessment of whether violations of internationally recognized human rights in Iran have changed, increased, or decreased, as compared to the prior 180-day period
  • Certification requirements as to whether Iran has carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or a United States person are removed
  • An agreement subject to this legislation is defined as an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran that includes the United States, commits the United States to take action, or pursuant to which the United States commits or otherwise agrees to take action, regardless of the form it takes, whether a political commitment or otherwise, and regardless of whether it is legally binding or not, including any joint comprehensive plan of action entered into or made between Iran and any other parties
  • Material breach is also defined, in the case of non-binding commitments, to any failure to perform those commitments
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