NIAC Deplores Trump’s Push to Violate Iran Nuclear Deal

 

 

 

Washington, DC – Dr. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and author of Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy, issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s speech withholding certification of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:

“Trump’s speech was a national disgrace. This isn’t an effort to stiff a contractor over a real estate project, it’s a matter of war and peace. Donald Trump is in way over his head.

“Contrary to the reporting, Donald Trump is killing the deal – not in one move, but in several moves. First, Congress will attempt to kill it through deal-killing legislation from Tom Cotton. If that is blocked, Trump has vowed to kill it himself. Either way, the deal will get killed by this process triggered by Trump.

“Cotton’s legislation would seek to unilaterally rewrite the nuclear deal, an unequivocal violation of the agreement. A vote for that bill would be as significant as a vote for the 2002 war with Iraq.

“Trump is single handedly destroying U.S. credibility and all but guaranteeing that no country in their right mind would agree to a deal with the U.S. again. The U.S. has shredded alliances through go-it-alone approaches before, to disastrous effect. Trump’s has reduced America’s allies on Iran to just Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi royal family. Trump’s ‘coalition of the willing’ on Iran makes George W. Bush’s old coalition on Iraq look like a diplomatic masterstroke.

“The most insulting of Trump’s lies was when he sought to pass himself off as a champion of the Iranian people. As we speak, Trump is banning nearly all Iranians from the United States. The majority of people targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban are Iranian. Iranian Americans are being cut off from their family members in Iran thanks to Trump.

“Congress must step in and make it clear that it will restrain this President and that the U.S. is fully committed to upholding its word on the Iran deal.”

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European Ambassadors Defend Iran Nuclear Deal

“This agreement is a success, “ asserted European Union Ambassador to the U.S. David O’Sullivan in defense of the Iran nuclear deal on Monday. “[It] needs to be maintained, nurtured, needs to be strictly scrutinized to make sure that everyone, and that includes all the people who signed up to this agreement, deliver on their commitments in order to make sure that this global public good of nonproliferation in the Middle East region is maintained.”
 
With just three weeks before the Trump Administration’s decision whether to certify if Iran has been compliant with the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Atlantic Council hosted a panel of top European ambassadors to discuss their government’s views of the pending decision.
 
French Ambassador Gérard Araud called renegotiating the JCPOA “a nonstarter” and reaffirmed that France is willing to engage in further negotiations with Iran regarding their activities in the region, but would not reopen the nuclear deal. “We are willing to work with our allies here and in the region to be up to the Iranian challenge,” but “walking away from the deal would have serious consequences.”
 
Peter Wittig, the German Ambassador, cautioned those who are discussing withdrawing from the deal against undermining the West’s credibility in future diplomatic negotiations. “What kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea? It would send the signal that diplomacy is not reliable, that you can’t trust diplomatic agreements,” he explained. “To those who advocate to walk away from this agreement, [you] have to come up with an alternative of how to prevent, in a peaceful way, resuming of Iranian nuclear and military capabilities,” something Germany does not believe is possible.
 
Sir Kim Darroch of the United Kingdom highlighted how the deal makes his country safer, and that “as long as the Iranians continue to comply with it, in the view of the IAEA, we will continue to support it.” He put a particular emphasis on the fact that representatives from the UK have been speaking avidly to members of Congress regarding this deal, trying to convince their counterparts to continue to comply with the deal by explaining how it is beneficial to the national security of the UK. Amb. Darroch also told the audience how May and Trump spent nearly half of a fifty-minute long meeting discussing ways to push back on Iran’s non-nuclear behavior, though still asserted that the deal should be maintained. According to Darroch, “In a sense, this administration has changed the climate on Iran…But let’s keep the JCPOA.”
 
Another important aspect of the deal, particularly for the Europeans, was the normalization of trade with Iran. Should Trump choose not to re-certify the deal, Congress will have the power to re-impose new sanctions on Iran under expedited procedure, which would risk breaking the already fragile business ties Iran has started to rebuild since the sanctions were lifted last year. When asked if this would affect European companies dealing with Iran, each ambassador reiterated their commitment to the deal, expounding on how the resuming of normalized trade with Iran has helped each of their economies. “I have no doubt that if this scenario materializes, which it’s not clear it will, the European Union will act to protect the legitimate interests of our companies with all the means at our disposal,” said Ambassador O’Sullivan.
 
Amb. Araud reminded the audience that when the US originally imposed sanctions on Iran and forced their European allies to comply, “the burden of the sanctions has been carried by the Europeans,” who, up to that point, had enjoyed a healthy trade relationship with Iran. Now that the sanctions have been lifted, he insisted that France was merely returning to the relationship they had before, a natural result of the deal. If the situation were to devolve into a crisis, Araud said that French companies would “[base] their decision on the basis of their own calculations of their interest.”
 

Amb. Wittig went a step further and explained the history of Iran and German relations, dating back to the Qajar dynasty. He voiced his support for the French Ambassador’s remarks regarding the normalization of trade with Iran, and described how German companies “have suffered billions and billions and billions of dollars because we imposed sanctions [on Iran].” He believes that through the normalization of economic ties with Iran and bringing them into the international economic fold, Western power can strengthen their political with the country to improve Iran’s relationship with the rest of the world over time. “Iran is a very vibrant civil society. It’s a very young society… It’s a country with a future, and we want this Iran to gradually move to our values, to our world view.”

 

NIAC Statement on Passage of Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act

Washington, DC – National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Policy Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement following Congressional passage of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (H.R. 1191):

“With the final passage of this bill, the onus is now on every member of Congress to evaluate a final nuclear deal its merits, compare it against the alternatives, and decide between war and peace with Iran.

“If our negotiators secure a deal that implements the inspections, verification, and constraints on Iran’s nuclear program that was outlined in the framework agreement, they will have achieved a core U.S. objective without firing a single shot. If Congress were to vote down such a deal, it would unravel a historic nonproliferation victory in favor of a historically reckless act of self-sabotage. Killing the deal would significnatly damage and isolate the United States, eliminate restraints and verification over Iran’s nuclear program, and set the stage for a disastrous war.

“Many supporters of this bill have argued that the American people must have a say on a final deal. We agree and will be working over the coming weeks to ensure that every member of Congress hears loud and clear from their constituents why Americans overwhelmingly support a diplomatic resolution with Iran.

“We applaud the 151 Representatives who endorsed the framework agreement in a letter last week and who sent a strong signal that, if the President is forced to use his veto to protect a good deal, there is likely sufficient support in Congress to uphold that veto. We hope that such an outcome is not necessary and that lawmakers will listen to the American people and vote for peace.”

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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

Statement Opposing the Corker-Menendez Bill Compromise

Press Release - For Immediate Release

 

 

 

Washington, DC – National Iranian American Council Policy Director Jamal Abdi released the following statement concerning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s consideration of S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act:

“NIAC has consistently opposed S.615 because of our concern that it threatened to undermine negotiations and derail a deal. The compromise amendment that was struck by Senators Corker and Cardin does not change the fundamental problems with this bill. It still threatens to derail the talks and kill a deal, and we remain opposed to it.

“The passage of this bill will make already difficult negotiations with Iran even more difficult. The stakes for war and peace, nonproliferation, and the future of the region could not be higher. This is a historic moment and the Senate risks sabotaging it. 

“As written, this bill would delay the implementation of a deal by 30 to 82 days, and risk blocking implementation completely. This is not oversight, this is interference. This bill undercuts U.S. negotiating leverage by casting as an open question whether the U.S. can honor it commitments. This does not help our negotiators, it hamstrings them and undermines our credibility. 

“The bill risks sending an open invitation to hardliners in Iran to interfere with the negotiations. There is no shortage of actors in Iran who will view this as an opportunity to stand up to the U.S. and play bad cop, if not spoiler. Hardliners in Iran’s Majles are poised to respond to this legislation in kind and add restrictions to elements already agreed to in the framework. We know how such actions by Iran to renege or adjust the terms of the deal after the fact would be perceived in the U.S. Passage of S.615 will be interpreted the same way in Iran and threatens to set off a chain reaction of counter escalations.

“We have already seen the lengths that 47 Senators were willing to go to undercut the President and these negotiations. It is difficult to envision how they will act more responsibly if they are rewarded with increased powers to kill an agreement. 

“We are hopeful that, because the Administration has indicated they can live with this version of the bill, there is a plan in place to ensure it will not derail a deal. We are concerned, however, that this bill only drives up the cost of securing a deal with Iran. The uncertainty the bill creates regarding U.S. ability to provide sanctions relief, combined with the backlash that it could generate in Iran to limit their negotiators’ maneuverability, could very well mean greater U.S. concessions will be necessary to secure a deal.”

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Organizations Call for Key Changes to Corker-Menendez Bill

Washington, DC – A letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee members warns that legislation pertaining to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran (S.615, The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act) should either be substantively amended or rejected. The legislation, also known as the Corker-Menedez bill, will be considered by the committee this afternoon.

The letter calls for key changes to ensure Corker-Menendez does not derail the nuclear talks and “risk sacrificing what may be our best chance to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and prevent a war.” The White House says that the President will veto the bill in its current form.

The organizations that signed the letter include: National Iranian American Council, Americans for Peace Now, Council for a Livable World, Friends Committee on National Legislation, J Street, National Security Network, Women’s Action for New Directions, and Win Without War.

PDF Version of the Letter

April 13, 2015

To: Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

 Dear Senators,

We write to urge you to oppose S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, as currently written. As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers the legislation this week, we strongly urge the incorporation of substantive changes to address the legitimate concerns regarding this bill. 

If advanced by the committee, S.615 should be amended to meet the following principles:

  • Do not delay the implementation of a final nuclear agreement.
  • Do not insert new demands, including non-nuclear demands, into the nuclear negotiations.
  • Do not block the United States from honoring commitments it has made in multilateral negotiations.

Failure to resolve these key concerns would risk undermining the nuclear negotiations, derailing a final comprehensive nuclear agreement, and unraveling multilateral cooperation regarding Iran. We urge committee members not to risk sacrificing what may be our best chance to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and prevent a war.

Sincerely,

Americans for Peace Now

Council for a Livable World

Friends Committee on National Legislation

J Street

National Iranian American Council

National Security Network

Women’s Action for New Directions

Win Without War

NIAC Logo

Fifty Pro-Diplomacy Organizations Urge Senate to Reject Dangerous Iran Legislation

Press Release - For Immediate Release

 

 

 

Washington, DC – On the heels of a series of political stunts on Capitol Hill that have heightened partisanship and threatened to sabotage nuclear negotiations with Iran, 50 organizations sent a letter to the Senate today warning against legislation that would entrust Congress with expanded powers to block an eventual nuclear deal. 

The letter urges Senators to oppose the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (S.615), and was signed by groups including the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Win Without War, MoveOn.org, CREDO, and Americans for Peace Now.

“The outrageous political stunts in the Senate have made it clear that some in Congress will stop at nothing to kill nuclear talks with Iran, regardless of the consequences,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi. “Tom Cotton and his colleagues should not be rewarded with additional powers to sabotage a deal and drag the U.S. into war.”

As detailed in the letter below, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act contains numerous elements that risk disrupting negotiations in their final stage and blocking the President from using existing authorities to implement a prospective deal. The bill would delay implementation of any agreement for 60 days, insert conditions that are outside the scope of the P5+1’s negotiations, and provide Congress with new veto powers over a deal.

A copy of the letter is below:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

To: Members of the U.S. Senate

As organizations representing millions of Americans that support a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff with Iran, we strongly urge you to oppose S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. By threatening to reject a prospective nuclear deal, inserting conditions outside the scope of negotiations, and delaying the implementation of any agreement for months, this bill risks derailing the best chance to both prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and avert a disastrous war.

We understand that some members of Congress seek additional consultation and oversight regarding a final agreement. This bill is not the means to do so. Instead, this bill risks ensuring that there is no agreement for Congress to oversee in the first place. The politicized manner through which some have attempted to advance this bill, by seeking to bypass regular procedure and pass the bill at such a delicate time in negotiations, should give pause to those members who do not want to subject a potential nuclear deal to a vote that is based on politics rather than substance. If Members of Congress support this bill and it ends up defeating a nuclear deal, they would own the consequences of a diplomatic failure: an expanding Iranian nuclear program, the unraveling of international sanctions on Iran, and an increasing threat of war.

There are appropriate ways to increase Congressional oversight of a nuclear deal with Iran without threatening to scuttle a diplomatic solution. However, in order to give negotiations the best chance to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and avert war, it is important that Congress reject S.615.

Sincerely,

American Friends Service Committee

American Values Network

Americans for Peace Now

Arab American Institute

Arms Control Association

Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Center for Interfaith Engagement of Eastern Mennonite University

Center for International Policy

Citizens for Global Solutions

Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness

CODEPINK

Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Council for a Livable World

CREDO

Daily Kos

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Global Exchange

Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

The HAND Foundation

Historians Against the War

Institute for Policy Studies

International Civil Society Action Network

Jewish Voice for Peace

Just Foreign Policy

Maryknoll Office of Global Concern

MoveOn.org Civic Action

National Council of Churches

National Iranian American Council

National Security Network

NETWORK

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Pax Christi International

Peace Action

Peace Action West

People Demanding Action

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Progressive Democrats of America

RootsAction.org

Sojourners

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

United for Peace and Justice

United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

U.S. Labor Against the War

USAction

Veterans for Peace

WarisaCrime.org

Win Without War

Women’s Action for New Directions

World Beyond War

Memo: Oppose the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act

View as PDF

Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced S.615 – the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), which claims to merely provide Congressional oversight of a nuclear agreement with Iran. In reality, INARA goes beyond an appropriate oversight role, and risks undermining negotiations and killing a good deal by changing the rules of the game midstream.

Undermines U.S. Negotiating Leverage

Negotiations have hit their final stretch, but INARA changes the rules of the game for our negotiators and risks scuttling a deal that prevents an Iranian nuclear weapon. 

  • This bill would block a deal from being implemented for 60 days.
  • This bill enables Congress to pass a “Joint Resolution of Disapproval” that would block the President from implementing a deal by revoking his authority to waive or suspend sanctions.
  • By threatening to delay and revoke the President’s waiver authorities, this bill creates uncertainty that the U.S. can suspend sanctions, let alone ever lift them.

Moves the Goalposts

This bill plays into the claims of Iranian hardliners who say the U.S. cannot be trusted to lift sanctions under a deal but will instead shift pressure to other issues.

  • The bill requires the President to certify every 90 days that Iran has not supported terrorism against the U.S., which is beyond the scope of the already complex nuclear deal.
  • If the President fails to make these certifications, there would be an expedited process for Congress to pass legislation to re-impose sanctions and undo the deal.
  • By including terrorism issues, the bill risks signaling that Congress is shifting the terms of a deal and would re-impose nuclear sanctions even if Iran upholds the deal. 

A Dangerous Last-Minute Interference

Those who orchestrated the Netanyahu speech debacle have shown they will stop at nothing to defeat this President’s diplomatic efforts. This bill entrusts them with new tools to kill a deal.

  • Congress can have an oversight role and additionally will decide whether or not to finalize the deal by lifting sanctions. But this legislation goes beyond appropriate oversight.
  • The US is working to get Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and Iran on board to agree on a nuclear deal.
  • Adding 535 new negotiators to the talks is a mistake that risks isolating the U.S. instead of Iran.