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The Iran Deal & Congress: What Happens Next

On April 2, 2015, the P5+1, the EU, and Iran announced the key parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  These foundational points lay the groundwork for the final text of an agreement, details of which are to be hammered out between now and June 30. 

As President Obama stated, “The work is not yet done and success is not guaranteed.” In the meantime, congressional leaders—many of whom have played a crucial role in U.S. foreign policy toward Iran for years — are eager to have their say.

What to Watch:

If there is not a final deal by June 30, the Senate will move quickly to vote on S.269: The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act (Menendez-Kirk).

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act (Kirk-Menendez) would enhance U.S. leverage in the negotiations – and thereafter – through the threat of renewed and intensified sanctions. This legislation currently has 63 bipartisan cosponsors, 4 shy of the 67 required to make it veto-proof.

In January, Sen. Menendez led a letter of ten Senate Democrats confirming that they “will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24…. After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.”  As the parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have been announced, this bill is essentially...

Date: 4/7/2015
AJC Dispatch 4/3/2015 We Have a Deal, the UN and Israel, and more...

To keep you up-to-date on AJC issues and priorities, we've created AJC Dispatch. This weekly email provides a dynamic summary of important news stories sure to interest our supporters and friends. Feel free to forward this to any contacts you think might enjoy it. They can sign up to receive their own AJC Dispatch every week by clicking here.


"Our work is not yet done and success is not guaranteed. But we have a historic opportunity to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran and to do so peacefully, with the international community firmly behind us. We should seize that chance."
— President Obama, in remarks welcoming the framework nuclear agreement with Iran


After days of round-the-clock negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced that a framework agreement has been reached, but that the details would have to be worked out over the next two months. On Thursday, AJC released a statement responding to the news and laying out our questions and concerns about the framework deal, which would put in place an inspections regime, remove all nuclear-related sanctions, and allow Iran to continue many of its nuclear enrichment and development activities.

An Argument for the Deal
The New York Times / 5-minute read
William Burns, a former Deputy Secretary of State, who engaged in back-channel bilateral talks with Iranian leaders in the ongoing effort toward this framework agreement, argues that—our more muscular dreams notwithstanding—it's impossible to "bomb away the basic know-how and enrichment capability that Iran has developed." Thus, he argues, the inspections regime put in place by this deal is the world's best hope against an Iranian bomb. The main hurdles now are to actually get the Iranians to sign this deal (and not a watered-down version), to reassure U.S. allies in the region (most notably Israel), and to make clear to the entire world where the lines are between nuclear power and nuclear weaponization. Read more

...And One Against
Politico / 5-minute read
Ari Shavit isn't buying it. In a poignant piece, Shavit compares this "terrible historic mistake" to the one the U.S. made in 2003 in starting the Iraq War. For Shavit, there are two main issues. First, he does not believe that it is possible to trust Iran's leaders. He views it as inevitable that they will cheat, and he worries that they will succeed. And he is worried about the large-scale nuclear proliferation (among state and non-state actors alike) an Iranian bomb would forebode for the rest of the region. Read more

Missing the Big Picture
Vox / 6-minute read
Once, the goal of nuclear talks with Iran was to end the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, but negotiators ultimately focused on limiting its ability to build nuclear weapons. Prominent nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis suggests that the way the media has represented the West's approach missed the big picture. Before yesterday's announcement, Lewis said that instead of counting centrifuges and focusing on extending the time it would take Iran to "break out" to a bomb using the facilities we know about, Western negotiators should be working to install a firm inspections regime to limit Iran's ability to create new secret facilities—in other words, guarding against a "sneak out." This, Lewis argues, would be much more likely to keep Iran from going nuclear. There are signs in yesterday's framework agreement that the Western negotiators agree with Lewis and are working toward this goal. Read more

Good to know

Should They Stay or Should They Go?
The Atlantic / 6-minute read
Updating his terrific—and terrifying—cover story from this month's issue of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC Paris, to get her perspective on the situation on the ground for European Jews. Simone pointed to the "everyday acts of courage" that have become commonplace for them: going to a synagogue, dropping kids off at a Jewish school, or wearing anything—a kippa or Star of David, for example—that might identify one as Jewish. She declined to tell other European Jews whether to stay or go, but drove home the importance of AJC's work: "to get the government, civil society, the media, and policymakers to understand that we are going through a crucial moment in history, where the destiny... of Europe and liberal democracies worldwide" will be decided. Read more

Tragedy in Kenya
The New York Times / 6-minute read
Terrorists from the radical Islamic Al Shabab group attacked Garissa University in Kenya on Thursday and killed nearly 150 people. The attackers from the Al Qaeda affiliated group are said to have specifically targeted Christian students. Al Shabab, based in Somalia, said that it carried out the attack because "the Christian government of Kenya has invaded our country." Read more

The UN's War on Israel
The New York Times / 3-minute read
In a scathing critique of the body in which he sits, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor lamented the extent to which the UN has lost its way. Envisioned as a "temple of peace," Prosor notes that the "once great global body has been overrun by the repressive regimes that violate human rights and undermine international security." Indeed, the UN has a singular focus on possible Israeli wrongdoing, to the exclusion of all other countries. In March, the Commission on the Status of Women condemned only Israel, out of all the countries in the world. And, according to Prosor, that's only the beginning of the problems with this once-august organization. Read more

Help AJC spread an important message! Copy the tweet below and share it with your followers:

I agree with @AJCGlobal: Any final deal with Iran should be subject to Congressional engagement and approval.

Date: 4/3/2015
3 Reasons Why Congress Must Review Any Iran Deal

In recent weeks, 367 members of the House of Representatives signed an open letter to President Obama warning him that any nuclear deal with Iran will require congressional approval for implementation. Another quite controversial letter, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and signed by 47 Republican senators, warned the Iranian regime that any nuclear deal could be rolled back by a future president. Congress is huffing and puffing; is it threatening to blow the White House down?

AJC recognizes the constitutional prerogatives of the President, but has long believed that any deal of the magnitude, duration, and foreign policy implications of a prospective nuclear agreement with Iran must not go forward without congressional engagement and approval. There are 3 reasons why:

  1. Congress played a key role in kick-starting the international framework of energy and financial sanctions that has brought the Iranian regime to the negotiating table. It should surely have its say on the review process to lift the sanctions.
  2. While it is widely understood that punitive U.S. economic sanctions would be phased out over time as part of any agreement, permanent relief from congressionally authorized sanctions requires Congress to change existing laws. The P5+1 negotiations have focused solely on Iran’s...
Date: 4/2/2015
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