73 Prominent International Relations Scholars Say Iran Deal Will Help Stabilize Middle East

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: (202) 386-6408
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org  
 
Washington, DC – 73 prominent International Relations and Middle East scholars have issued a letter in support of the Iran deal, arguing that it is a “strong and positive step toward stabilizing the Middle East,” and that a potential Congressional rejection of the agreement would further destabilize the region and “reignite Washington and Tehran’s gravitation towards a military confrontation.”

 
The letter’s signers include some of the most renowned thinkers in the fields of International Relations, political science, and Middle East studies including Professors Richard Bulliet, Noam Chomsky, Juan Cole, John Esposito, Fawaz Gerges, Robert Jervis, Rashid Khalidi, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt and Ehsan Yarshater.
 
The letter was organized by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
 
Scientists and other non-proliferation experts have hailed the agreement’s clear non-proliferation benefits, though the potential positive regional implications of the deal have received comparatively little scrutiny.
 
“In addition to advancing non-proliferation goals, this agreement could be the key that unlocks solutions to some of the most intractable conflicts in the Middle East,” Trita Parsi, President of NIAC, said. “The region suffers from a diplomacy deficit and the nuclear deal paves the way for an increase in dialogue and diplomacy on a whole set of issues – which is critical for stability in the Middle East.”
 
In the letter, the scholars argue that an important driver of instability in the region has been the dysfunctional relationship between the U.S. and Iran. Resolving the nuclear issue is a critical step towards taming the US-Iran rivalry and reducing its negative impact on the region.
 
“For the past 36 years, the US and Iran have been embroiled in a zero-sum geopolitical struggle,” the letter reads. “The arena for this contest has been the larger Middle East, where the two have sought to undermine each other at every given opportunity, at the expense of the stability of the region as a whole.”
 
“Many of the signers of the letter publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003,” Parsi added. “History proved them right. Clearly they know a thing or two about international relations, the Middle East and Iran.”

See the letter online here.

 
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The Nuclear Agreement with Iran:
A Plus for Regional Stability
 
Statement from Middle East and International Relations Scholars
 
The nuclear deal with Iran (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA) is a strong and positive step towards stabilizing the Middle East, beyond its undeniable non-proliferation benefits.
 
The Middle East is in turmoil. It is suffering from a broad range of problems that all, one way or another, contribute to the instability plaguing the region. Increasingly, the instability is not in the form of inter-state violence, but rather intra-state bloodshed with the eventual collapse of the states themselves.
 
While the region’s problems have many sources, one critical driver of instability has been the dysfunctional relationship between the West and Iran in general, and US-Iran tensions in particular.
 
For the past 36 years, the US and Iran have been embroiled in a zero-sum geopolitical struggle. The arena for this contest has been the larger Middle East, where the two have sought to undermine each other at every given opportunity, at the expense of the stability of the region as a whole.
 
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, US-Iran competition significantly contributed to the destabilization of these two countries. In other countries, the two have funded and backed rivaling groups, adding fuel to an already destabilizing fire.
 
Even at moments where both sides desired an opportunity to tame their rivalry, the absence of a dialogue between the US and Iran closed off all paths towards de-escalation.
 
While the JCPOA is primarily a non-proliferation agreement that successfully closes off all weaponization pathways in the Iranian nuclear program, it carries with it significant peace dividends by making diplomacy and dialogue available for conflict resolution – a necessary step to tackle all of the region’s sources of tensions, be they terrorism, sectarianism, or unilateralism.
 
The region suffers from a diplomacy deficit and the mere fact that the US and Iran can talk to each other again is in and of itself a stabilizing factor for the Middle East and an encouragement for regional rivals to pursue dialogue instead of proxy fights.
 
Indeed, the carnage in Syria can not be ended in the absence of US-Iran diplomacy. Nor can the threat of the ISIS be neutralized without US-Iran dialogue and possibly cooperation.  The plague of sectarianism will not be halted unless the US has the ability to engage with all sides of that divide. The deal can prod constructive diplomacy in ever wider circles across the region in part by providing a successful example of patient, win-win negotiations.
 
Clearly, the nuclear deal will not automatically or immediately bring stability to the region. But reactivating diplomatic channels between the United States and Iran is a necessary first step. Ultimately, a Middle East, where diplomacy is the norm rather than the exception, will enhance US national security and interests.
 
Conversely, a Congressional rejection of the deal will further destabilize the region. Such a move will isolate the United States while Iran will be freed from the nuclear constraints the deal would impose on it. Beyond the proliferation risk this would entail, US-Iran tensions will increase once more and reignite Washington and Tehran’s gravitation towards a military confrontation.
 
As such, we urge the members of the US Congress, as well as the leaders of the P5+1 states and Iran, to swiftly endorse the JCPOA and fully implement it. The historic agreement will prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and can prove that through creative diplomacy, the most complex conflicts can be resolved peacefully
 
Endorsed by:
 
1.     Prof. Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
2.     Prof. Gordon Adams, Emeritus, American University
3.     Prof. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, University of London
4.     Prof. Robert Art, Brandeis University
5.     Prof. Reza Aslan, University of California Riverside
6.     Prof Guitty Azarpay, University of California Berkeley
7.     Prof. Kathryn Babayan, University of Michigan
8.     Prof. Shiva Balaghi, Brown University
9.     Dr. Bahman Baktiari, Executive Director, International Foundation for Civil Society
10.   Prof. Ali Banuazizi, Boston College
11.   Prof. Asef Bayat, University of Illinois
12.   Prof. William O. Beeman, University of Minnesota
13.   Prof. Peter Beinart, City University of New York
14.   Prof. Seyla Benhabib, Yale University
15.   Prof. Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University
16.   Prof. Richard Bulliet, Columbia University
17.   Prof. Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver
18.   Prof. Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
19.   Prof. Juan Cole, University of Michigan
20.   Prof. Dale Copeland, University of Virginia
21.   Prof. Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University
22.   Prof. Dick Davis, Ohio State University
23.   Prof. Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame
24.   Prof. Carl W. Ernst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
25.   Prof. Hadi S. Esfahani, University of Illinois
26.   Prof. John Esposito, Georgetown University
27.   Prof. Stephen W. Van Evera, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
28.   Prof. Tom Farer, University of Denver
29.   Prof. Farideh Farhi, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
30.   Prof. Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University
31.   Prof. Gene R. Garthwaite, Dartmouth College
32.   Prof. Mark Gasiorowski, Tulane University
33.   Prof. Fawaz A. Gerges, London School of Economics and Political Science
34.   Prof. George C. Herring, University of Kentucky
35.   Prof. Robert Jervis, Columbia University
36.   Prof. Kevan Harris, University of California Los Angeles
37.   Prof. Ross Harrison, Georgetown University
38.   Prof. Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
39.   Prof. Richard Herrmann, Ohio State University
40.   Amb. Robert Hunter, Center for Transatlantic Relations.
41.   Prof. Shireen Hunter, Georgetown University
42.   Prof. Toby C. Jones, Rutgers University
43.   Prof. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, University of Maryland
44.   Prof. Arang Keshavarzian, New York University
45.   Prof. Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University
46.   Prof. Rami Khouri, American University, Beirut
47.   Prof. Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington
48.   Prof. Charles Kurzman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
49.   Prof. Deborah Welch Larson, University of California Los Angeles
50.   Dr. Judith A. Lerner, New York University
51.   Prof. Peter Liberman, City University of New York
52.   Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University
53.   Prof. John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
54.   Prof. Najmedin Meshkati, University of Southern California
55.   Prof. Mohsen Milani, University of South Florida
56.   Prof. Stephen Miller, Harvard University
57.   Prof. Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University
58.   Prof. Mehdi Noorbaksh, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
59.   Prof. Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council / Georgetown University
60.   Prof. Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
61.   Prof. D. T. Potts, New York University
62.   Prof. William B. Quandt, University of Virginia
63.   Prof. R.K. Ramazani, University of Virginia
64.   Prof. Brian Spooner, University of Pennsylvania
65.   Prof. Tamara Sonn, Georgetown University
66.   Prof. Ahmad Sadri, Lake Forest College
67.   Prof. Mahmoud Sadri, Texas Woman’s University and the Federation of North Texas Area Universities
68.   Prof. Muhammad Sahimi, University of Southern California
69.   Prof. Emile Sahliyeh, University of North Texas
70.   Prof. Randall Schweller, Ohio State University
71.   Dr. John Tirman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
72.   Prof. Stephen Walt, Harvard University
73.   Prof. Ehsan Yarshater, Columbia University
 
Added Signatures:
 
74.   Prof. Niloofar Haeri, Johns Hopkins University
75.   Prof. Thomas Juneau, University of Ottawa
76.   Dr. Abbas Kadhim, Johns Hopkins University
77.   Prof. Mohsen Kadivar, Duke University
78.   Prof. Philip Khoury, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
79.   Prof. Peter Kuznick, American University
80.   Dr. Mojtaba Mahdavi, University of Alberta
81.   Prof. Augustus R. Norton, Boston University
82.   Prof. Rouzbeh Parsi, Lund University
83.   Prof. Omid Safi, Duke University
84.   Prof. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Virginia Tech
 
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Will Iranian Americans Get Sanctions Relief?

Despite the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. trade embargo with Iran will not be among the sanctions to be lifted.  This means that Iranian Americans will continue to be prohibited from engaging in most trade-related transactions with Iran or Iranian parties. 

On April 14, 2015, the United States agreed to and endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”), which limits and rolls-back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for comprehensive relief from all nuclear-related sanctions.  Sanctions relief, which will be delayed until the IAEA verifies that Iran has met its key nuclear-related commitments under the deal, includes those sanctions targeting Iran’s energy, financial, and trade-related sectors.

As an organization that has long viewed sanctions as counterproductive to the objectives of diplomacy and unduly harmful towards the Iranian people, we at NIAC are encouraged by these developments.  However, we must offer an important cautionary note: Contrary to popular belief and barring certain limited exceptions, the nuclear deal with Iran leaves in place most of the current restrictions on the activities of U.S. persons, including Iranian Americans, vis-à-vis Iran. Iranian Americans will still not be allowed to trade with Iran or Iranian parties, invest in Iran, or facilitate the activities of non-U.S. persons entering Iran.  Sanctions on each of these activities (and more) remain in place.

However, certain limited parts of the U.S. trade embargo will be relieved under the nuclear deal.  These include:

  • Imports of Iranian-origin carpets and foods into the U.S.
  • Transactions related to the sale or transfer of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran

It’s important to remember that the U.S. will not implement sanctions relief until Iran has taken key nuclear-related steps to constrain its nuclear program.  That may not take place until Spring 2016.  Therefore, the current restrictions remain in place until that time.

Moreover, because of the lifting of restrictions on banking transfers between Iran and Europe, U.S. persons may find it easier to transfer funds between the U.S. and Iran, as intermediary (third-country) banks become more widely available.

Nonetheless, it is important to reiterate that – outside of the two changes listed above and the possible relaxation of certain banking restrictions – the U.S. trade embargo with Iran will remain firmly in place under a nuclear deal.  U.S. persons cannot trade with, invest in, or facilitate trade with Iran.  Any violations of these sanctions prohibitions could lead to civil and criminal penalties. 

We will continue to press on this issue.  We believe that ending the trade embargo with Iran will enable Iranian Americans to bridge the divide between their two countries.  At a time in which foreign parties are being permitted to enter Iran, we fail to see the sense of maintaining trade restrictions on U.S. persons with Iran.  However, until the trade embargo is lifted, we believe it necessary to inform the Iranian-American community as to restrictions that will remain to temper expectations and ensure full compliance with U.S. sanctions laws.       

Congressional Support for Iran Framework Agreement

Following the announcement of a framework nuclear agreement with Iran, several key Members of Congress have voiced their support:

Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA)

“I congratulate the American negotiators, led by Secretary Kerry, as well as our P5+1 partners on reaching this political framework agreement. More issues remain to be resolved, but this framework could form the basis of a historic agreement that will peacefully prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, thereby removing one of the greatest threats to the security of a region which certainly needs no more instability.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“Despite efforts by many to scuttle diplomacy with Iran, today’s framework agreement is an extension of steady, incremental progress from all sides, since day one. It makes clear that all parties are committed to securing the only alternative to military action in Iran, which is a negotiated solution to their nuclear program. 

We’ve set the stage for a paradigm shift in the country and in the region, but much heavy lifting remains because there’s no deal until a final deal is reached. As a result, Congress must restrain itself from unhelpful actions in the coming months. It is not constructive to demand a ‘better deal’ that no negotiator could secure.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

“The Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to reach this point and I will work to ensure that Congress has the patience to support this diplomatic effort because the risks of walking away from the table are simply too high.” 

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

“Americans want to find a peaceful means of ensuring Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon. It appears the framework agreement with Iran reached by the U.S. and other UN Security Council nations will serve as the basis for the kind of comprehensive and verifiable agreement for which we had been hoping. 

I have not seen the details, and look forward to being briefed on its terms. But the initial reports are positive, and Congress must now give the Administration the time to fill in the details necessary to make the agreement effective, strong and durable.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)

“Some believe that no deal is the best deal. But I believe we must give peace a chance. As the president has said repeatedly, he will not be party to a bad agreement and, on first blush, this looks like a pretty good deal for the United States. It is not a deal based on trust – it is one based only on verification and one that becomes binding only if the Iranians hold up their end of the deal. Once we’ve had a chance to drill down on the details of the agreement, we may very well find that this is a very good deal for everyone.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

“No one wants a nuclear Iran, and this tentative agreement reflects that reality. Those who sought to undermine these negotiations would be well served to remember that the alternative to an agreement is an Iran with no limits on or international monitoring of its efforts to enrich uranium. We should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, especially when the “perfect” that many seek is unrealistic. I, along with many of my colleagues, look forward to learning the details of the final June 30th agreement and hope it is a step in the right direction towards a non-nuclear Iran.” 

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)

“The Obama Administration’s painstaking diplomatic efforts are yielding one of the great international agreements of our time: a verifiable plan to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The framework agreement will not only promote long-term security in the Middle East but also help remove the short-term specter of a destructive military confrontation. Today’s announcement will unquestionably make the Middle East and the broader world safer.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)

“This agreement provides a sound framework to make our families safer.  It is not based on “trust;” it is based on “verify.”

The interim Joint Plan of Action has already given us more insight and given the Iranians less capability to go nuclear.  The same voices that condemned that interim agreement before they knew what was in it are condemning this agreement.  These “bomb Iran” rejectionists are wrong again.” 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

“I’m encouraged to hear that negotiators have agreed to a framework—a major step toward achieving a final deal. Our shared goal in the United States is clear: to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The stakes couldn’t be higher and I commend Secretary Kerry and our entire negotiating team for their commitment to finding a diplomatic solution that guarantees our security and that of our allies.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)

“The framework agreement announced today is a positive step towards securing a final agreement that will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. President Obama, President Rouhani and the P5+1 remain committed to the difficult work of diplomacy—even as hardliners in the United States and Iran call for war. Peaceful diplomacy, especially at a time when the divide between the United States and Iran is so wide, is always preferable to war. This agreement shows that there is political will on all sides to cross the finish line to a final agreement.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

“There is no realistic solution to Iran’s nuclear program outside of a verifiable, broad-based and ironclad diplomatic agreement. After being briefed and reviewing the parameters, I believe the negotiators have made substantial progress and that this is a sufficient framework to produce a final agreement by the end of June.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

“Americans want to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and they would prefer to do it through diplomacy rather than military action. This breakthrough agreement is an important step toward that goal. I believe that Congress now should give our negotiators time and space to work out the details of a strong, verifiable comprehensive agreement.”

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ)

“The framework announced today by the P5+1 negotiators is a promising step towards lasting peace and security, not just in the Middle East, but the world over. We now have demonstrable progress in keeping the worlds’ most sinister weapons out of Iran’s hands, and a success to build upon towards one day achieving normalized relations. It is a diplomatic victory that exhibits exceptional leadership from President Obama. Lawmakers from every political persuasion should applaud and support his ongoing efforts.” 

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)

“It is welcome news that the U.S., it’s international partners, and Iran have agreed on a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program. While some of my colleagues have objected to negotiations with Iran, it must be noted that thanks to these historic diplomatic efforts, the world is further from a nuclear-armed Iran and the risk of war over this issue.”

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)

“I am hopeful that today’s announcement of a framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran will lead to a verifiable and effective final deal regarding the Iranian nuclear program, with the ultimate goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While critical details are still pending, this framework presents a promising foundation for a long-term solution.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) 

“Today’s framework agreement would prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, enhances our national security and shows that diplomacy works. This is a major step forward for diplomacy, national security and global peace. This type of smart, strategic diplomacy brings us closer to a more peaceful and secure world while promoting U.S. national security.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)

“As outlined by the framework, the final agreement would not only be a “good deal” – it has the potential of being an historic one.  A strong and verifiable final agreement will also avert the U.S. and other nations from engaging in yet another war in the Middle East, which I believe is an unthinkable alternative.  At the same time, this framework and the final agreement would strengthen all efforts to contain nuclear weapons globally.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

I will continue urging my Senate colleagues to allow negotiators to represent the United States’ best interests without taking action that would, intentionally or not, jeopardize the discussions taking place. Those who are critical of today’s framework have the responsibility to present a serious, credible alternative that would get us to our ultimate goal: achieving a nuclear-free Iran in a way that doesn’t require another war in the Middle East.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

“I commend President Obama and Secretary Kerry for their smart, tough leadership in reaching the preliminary nuclear framework announced today.

We have no illusions about the record and conduct of the Iranian regime. That is why this framework to roll back Iran’s nuclear program is founded not on trust, but on vigilance and enforcement. Critically, this framework significantly restricts Iran’s enrichment capability and enables us to intensify our vigilance where it is needed most and that is inside Iran’s facilities. The aggressive inspections and restrictions outlined in the preliminary framework offers a strong, long-term plan to stop Iran from building a bomb.”

Rep. David Price (D-NC)

“I commend President Obama and our international partners on negotiating an historic framework agreement with Iran. After years of uncertainty and tentative progress, this agreement would advance the safety of the United States, Israel and other allies, and the global community. We must now see the process through the final, technical phase and work to implement a comprehensive, lasting agreement.

Members of Congress will need to scrutinize this agreement carefully. Unfortunately, some seem to have prejudged it, undermining the President’s efforts and proposing unilateral congressional action that could undo the progress made by our negotiators and risk grave consequences.”

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)

“Those who would thwart diplomacy or undermine the talks should remember that failure could come at a steep price for our troops and national security.  Some of the loudest critics of diplomacy with Iran today wrongly backed a rush to war with Iraq, which ended up empowering Tehran and strengthening their hand in the region.  We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.” 

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

“I spoke to President Obama today and he informed me that negotiators have agreed upon a framework with the goal of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. I am cautiously optimistic about this framework. We must always remain vigilant about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon but there is no question that a diplomatic solution is vastly preferable to the alternatives.

Now is the time for thoughtful consideration, not rash action that could undermine the prospects for success. We have much to learn about what was negotiated and what will take place between now and the end of June. In the coming days and weeks, we should all take a deep breath, examine the details and give this critically important process time to play out.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)

”While much more work remains to be done this framework is an important step forward. It is imperative that Iran not get a nuclear weapon. It also is imperative that we do everything we can to reach a diplomatic solution and avoid never-ending war in the Middle East. I look forward to examining the details of this agreement and making sure that it is effective ‎and strong.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

“I am grateful to President Barack Obama, Secretary John Kerry and his team, as well as our allies for establishing this robust and verifiable agreement.  Over the next three months the t’s must be crossed and i’s dotted in order to put the agreement into action. I will be working in Congress to make sure that we play a constructive role in supporting this historic diplomatic achievement, one that will make the region – including our closest ally, Israel – the United States and the world safer.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)

“While I reserve judgment on whether a final deal will materialize or would enjoy my support, enough progress has been made to warrant the additional time necessary to determine if the remaining issues can be resolved. In the interim, Congress must ensure that its actions do not preclude reaching an acceptable agreement or be seen as scuttling a peaceful path to ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

“The announcement of a framework for a comprehensive agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program is a positive development. I look forward to closely reviewing the framework and continuing my work, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to ensure that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)

This deal has the potential to cut off all of Iran’s paths to a nuclear weapon in a verifiable way. Opponents should seek to guide the framework towards a positive outcome, not attempt to derail a final comprehensive deal. No final deal will be perfect, but the objective is to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon without going to war. In the months ahead, I will follow negotiations closely and encourage a peaceful and positive outcome. 

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)

“It was an honor to be at the White House for this historic announcement to limit Iran’s nuclear program and prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon. I believe this is a deal worth supporting, but we must wait to ensure there is no backsliding on any parameters before a final agreement is signed. I commend President Obama and Secretary Kerry, as well as our global partners, for this breakthrough that holds the promise of a safer world and more stable Middle East.”

Congress Lays Tripwires for Iran Nuclear Accord

As negotiators work to clear the final hurdles for a framework nuclear deal with Iran, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have decided to delay a markup of a bill that would lay tripwires that threaten any final deal. Diplomacy has been given more time to succeed, yet the threat of Congressional obstruction still looms on the horizon. The committee will now consider the bill on April 14 after a two week recess, in what could be the first Congressional action on Iran following a potential diplomatic breakthrough. While Corker has sold the bill as a way to ensure Congress can “weigh in,” on an agreement, legislators supportive of a negotiated solution to the Iran nuclear crisis should recognize the bill for what it is: a dangerously written measure that injects new demands into the negotiations and risks laying the foundation to kill a historic agreement.

There are three major tripwires that the Corker bill would impose on a deal.

First, the legislation would delay implementation of any deal for sixty days while Congress decides whether or not to reject the accord. This poses a major problem because it means Congress would be injecting a new demand into the talks. If an accord is reached, the timeline of a deal will be carefully worked out between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and Iran. Congress would be jumping in at the eleventh hour to demand the negotiators discard the implementation schedule in order to build in a two-month buffer window for Congress to consider whether or not they want to kill the agreement.

Further, one of the major benefits of a nuclear deal is that it would empower Iranian moderates and isolate hardliners who have opposed any form of reconciliation with the West, potentially leading to positive reverberations outside of the nuclear issue. However, unilateral moves by the U.S. Congress to halt implementation would lead to the opposite. The sixty day delay on implementation would give hardliners time to dissect and condemn every Iranian concession, while moderates that brokered the deal would be left to defend the concessions after the U.S. reneged on the timeline and without any tangible sanctions relief to point to. This could complicate the moderates’ ability to fully implement the terms of an agreement and, in turn, enable opponents in the U.S. to retaliate in response.

The second tripwire requires the President to certify throughout the duration of the agreement that Iran is not providing support or financing for terrorism. If the President fails to make the certification, Congress would be empowered to expedite consideration of legislation to snap sanctions back into place, effectively nullifying the deal. Countering Iranian support for terrorism is, of course, a worthwhile and necessary undertaking. However, it should not be inserted into a nuclear deal. We don’t want to be in a position where Iran is upholding the nuclear deal but the President is unable to make certifications on non-nuclear issues, forcing us to renege on the agreement. Such a requirement would shift the goalposts of the negotiations, which are focused solely on the nuclear issue, and guarantee that we get neither a nuclear deal nor address Iranian support for terrorism.

The final tripwire, which has received the most attention, enables Congress to pass a Congressional vote of disapproval to revoke the President’s sanctions waiver authorities. A vote of disapproval would need a simple majority to pass, which could be secured solely through partisan opposition to the agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will use the vote of disapproval to turn the screws against Democrats and force anyone who isn’t willing to destroy U.S. international credibility for political gain into taking a very tough vote. Even if they fail to override the expected veto, they will be empowered to continue their efforts to kill a deal after the 60 day review period ends.

The fact that this legislation presents severe complications for negotiations should not come as a surprise. The last several weeks have seen absurd partisan maneuvers by hawkish Republicans aimed at undercutting the negotiations, highlighted by the letter from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-KY) and 46 of his fellow hawks in the Senate warning Iran’s leaders not to trust the President of the United States. S.615 would help these saboteurs achieve their goal of scuttling the talks and lead to an expanding Iranian nuclear program and an increasing likelihood of war.

There are alternative measures available to Congress that would increase Congressional oversight without threatening to scuttle a potentially historic accord. For example, the bill from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the “Iran Congressional Oversight Act” (S.669), would require reports on Iran’s adherence to an agreement and, if Iran violates its commitments, expedite the snapback of sanctions. Further, in the wake of the Helsinki Accords, Congress created an independent commission to monitor signatories’ compliance with the accord. Either the Boxer bill or a Helsinki-like commission could potentially be a workable alternative to S.615. Critically, neither of these options interferes with the implementation timeline, inserts issues outside the scope of negotiations, or risks a rash rejection of what would be a historic, multilateral agreement.

As the parties inch ever closer to a historic agreement, would-be Congressional spoilers will only intensify their efforts to throw a wrench in the works. Legislators who want to secure a diplomatic solution shouldn’t ease their path by supporting S.615.

This article was originally posted in The Huffington Post.

Memo: Congress Considers Its Options on an Iran Deal

With growing confidence that a framework nuclear deal with Iran will be sealed before the March 31 deadline, Congress is turning its attention to oversight of any nuclear agreement. Two recently introduced Senate bills offer a lesson in contrasts as to how Congress may approach its oversight role and serve as a reminder that Congressional interference still poses a considerable hurdle to a peaceful resolution of the nuclear dispute.

The Corker-Menendez Bill

S. 615, the ‘Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act’, goes well beyond additional oversight and risks scuttling a nuclear deal. Introduced by Senators Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, and Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, this legislation makes less — rather than more — likely our ability to peacefully secure a nuclear deal with Iran.

S.615 would delay the implementation of a nuclear deal for 60 days – restricting the President’s authority to suspend sanctions. It provides Congress a mechanism to vote down a deal, which would revoke the President’s sanctions waiver authorities and prevent a deal from being implemented. The effect would be to force the U.S. to violate its commitments, likely isolating itself from its international partners while freeing Iran from the tough constraints of a nuclear deal as well as any multilateral sanctions.

The Corker-Menendez bill would also require the President to provide certification on not just Iran’s adherence to a nuclear deal, but that Iran had not committed an act of terrorism against the United States or U.S. nationals. Failure to do so would enable Congress to consider expedited legislation to reimpose nuclear sanctions–and violate a nuclear deal. The United States should contest Iranian support for acts of terrorism, but not at the cost of reneging on a nuclear deal and freeing Iran from constraints on its nuclear program.

The Boxer Alternative

The second of these bills – S.669, the ‘Iran Congressional Oversight Act’ – takes a more balanced approach to Congressional oversight. Introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, this bill would require the President to report to Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with a nuclear deal. If the President determines Iran has violated the agreement, then Congress can expedite legislation re-imposing sanctions on Iran.

Additionally, the Boxer bill clarifies the role Congress will play in lifting sanctions if and when it is required to do so under a nuclear deal. In doing this, this legislation proves a more appropriate vehicle for Congressional oversight. It does not insert Congress into the negotiations at the 11th-hour and does not stymie our chance to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran in a peaceful manner.

The Helsinki Approach

As Congress debates its role following a nuclear deal, it is important to recall historical precedent. In cases where the President has entered into non-binding political commitments with other countries, Congress has tended to keep its distance and not interfere with the negotiations.

Where Congress has claimed a more assertive role, it has done so in ways that do not threaten either the negotiations or an agreement itself. For instance, following the Helsinki Accords, Congress passed a statute creating an independent agency whose task was to measure signatories’ compliance with the Helsinki Final Act. Congress did not threaten to kill the Accords nor to expedite legislation should a violation be found. It did not predetermine the outcome in either of these ways. Instead, it formed a more deliberate body, which continues to exist today, to soberly assess the compliance of all parties to the agreement.

In the weeks and months ahead, Congress will seek to claim institutional prerogatives to oversee a nuclear deal with Iran and to do so in ways that threaten an agreement itself. It is critical, however, that lawmakers consider past precedent and figure out how to exercise their oversight authorities in ways that strengthen the U.S.’s position in negotiations, help secure a strong nuclear deal, and sustain that nuclear deal over the long-term.

CNN: Understanding Iran’s Diplomatic Push

NIAC Research Director Reza Marashi says Congress can either play a positive role or a spoiler role in U.S.-Iran negotiations. “Now more than ever we need the American Congress to work with the President to help achieve American interests,” says Marashi.