Measure to Disapprove Iran Deal Blocked in Senate
In a historic vote, the Senate failed to end debate and move to vote on a resolution of disapproval of the nuclear deal with Iran – moving the United States and its negotiating partners a step closer to adoption of the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Yesterday’s vote to end debate did not reach the necessary 60 vote threshold, with 58 senators voting in favor and 42 voting against. Four Democrats, Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Joe Manchin, (W. Va.), and Ben Cardin (Md.) joined the 54 Republicans voting in favor of ending debate.
Shortly after the Sept. 10 vote Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate has spoken with a “clarion voice and declared the historic agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon will stand.” President Barack Obama said in a statement that the vote is a “victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world.”
However, the debate in the Senate is not over. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will hold another vote to end debate next Tuesday at 6:00PM. If that vote reaches 60, the Senate could then vote on a resolution of disapproval of the Iran deal before the Sept. 17 deadline for congressional review.
In the Arms Control Association’s statement on the vote Executive Director Daryl Kimball said that now “Congress must come together and work with the administration to implement and enforce this agreement…It is also essential that the United States, our allies, and states in the Middle East work to strengthen the barriers against further nuclear and missile proliferation by means of region-wide strategies that strengthen the security of all states in the region.”
House Republicans shifted tactics and decided on Sept. 10 to move forward on three resolutions related to the Iran deal, none of which include a resolution of disapproval on the deal.
The House passed a nonbinding resolution yesterday asserting that the president failed to meet the obligations of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act because Congress did not have access to the agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the agency’s investigation into the past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. The resolution said that the failure to provide these documents means that the 60-day review period under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act has not begun. The measure passed 245-186. The documents in question are confidential arrangements between the IAEA and Iran on access procedures for certain site inspections that the Obama administration does not have access to.
The House is scheduled to vote today, Sept. 11, on a resolution to approve the nuclear deal and a resolution inhibiting the the president’s ability to waive nuclear-related sanctions, which is required to implement the agreement.
The JCPOA is set for adoption on Oct. 19. At that point, both Iran and the P5+1 will begin taking steps to meet commitments under the accord. Iran is still in the midst of its own review process.
—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy
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IAEA Hits Next Roadmap Milestone
The IAEA and Iran met the next milestone in the roadmap that the two sides agreed upon on July 14 to close the agency’s investigation into the past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program (PMDs).
The IAEA disclosed in a Sept. 9 statement that it submitted questions to Iran based on the explanations and documents that Tehran submitted to the agency on Aug. 15. Iran will have until Oct. 15 to respond to the IAEA’s questions.
The IAEA also said that “technical-expert meetings, technical measures and discussions will be organized in Tehran prior to 15 October 2015 to remove the ambiguities identified by the IAEA.”
The IAEA aims to complete its final report by Dec. 15.
The IAEA’s announcement came amidst the agency’s Board of Governors meeting. The US statement to the Board noted that it is “essential that Iran uphold this commitment” to continue cooperating with the IAEA’s investigation for implementation of the deal between Iran and the P5+1 to begin.
Iran will not receive sanctions relief under the P5+1 deal with Iran until the IAEA is satisfied that it has the information it needs to complete its investigation.
Watch Out for Poison Pills
While it is extremely unlikely that opponents in the House and the Senate will be able to block implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with a vote of disapproval, the passage of additional legislation that seeks to reinterpret elements of the deal could be introduced in the days ahead that could threaten the implementation of the agreement.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), an opponent of the JCPOA, has begun circulating draft “Iran Policy Oversight” legislation that could become a vehicle for such efforts.
Rushing to pass additional legislation that may become a Christmas tree for additional, harmful amendments designed to block implementation of the JCPOA and potentially violate existing U.S. law is unwise and unnecessary.
Measures that seek to reinterpret the JCPOA, put additional requirements on Iran, or inhibit waiver authority, would undermine implementation of the deal and risk its success.
Additionally, any legislation that seeks to require the IAEA to disclose procedures for carrying out safeguards would be a violation of the agency’s confidentiality with its member states and risk the integrity of the nonproliferation regime.
Additionally, it is not for the United States to determine whether or not the IAEA has sufficiently concluded its own investigation into the PMDs.
Ed Levine, former staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pointed out several problematic issues that violate U.S. treaty commitments that could come up in legislation in a Sept. 8 post for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Levine notes that many members of Congress have proposed providing Israel with the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound bomb that Israel cannot deliver with its own aircraft. Transferring either the B-52 or the B-2, which are certified to deliver the bomb, would violate the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Levine notes that “we cannot transfer B-52’s to Israel without violating the New START Treaty.” He also says that the United States “does not share the B-2 with anybody, and for good reason. We rely upon its advanced technology to maintain” the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
There are, however, steps that the United States Congress can and should take to strengthen nonproliferation norms and ensure that the IAEA has the resources necessary to implement the deal.
Hillary Clinton on Iran
Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton spoke about the Iran deal at the Brookings Institute on Sept. 9. Clinton said “the bottom line is that [the Iran deal] accomplishes the major goals we set out to achieve. It blocks every pathway for Iran to get a bomb. And it gives us better tools for verification and inspection, and to compel rigorous compliance.”
Clinton also dismissed the idea that negotiators could return to the table and get a “better deal.” She said “some have suggested that we just go back to the negotiating table and get a better, unspecified deal. I can certainly understand why that may sound appealing. But as someone who started these talks in the first place and built our global coalition piece by piece, I can assure you, it is not realistic.”
Clinton said that the Iran deal must be part of a larger regional strategy and that the United States cannot expect Iran to change its attitude overnight. She called for expanding the U.S. military presence in the region and boosting U.S. support for Israel’s military.
Arms Control Association Panels Outlines Impacts and Next Steps for JCPOA
In case you missed the Arms Control Association’s event on Sept. 8, the transcript and audio are available online.
The event opened with Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to the president and national security advisor to the vice president, who debunked common criticisms of the deal.
Kahl’s remarks were followed by a panel featuring Ellie Geranmayeh, policy fellow for the European Council on Foreign Relations, George Perkovich, vice president for studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association.
"A Senseless Delay on the Iran Deal," by the Editorial Board, The New York Times, Sept. 9.
“Why we support the Iran deal,” by David Cameron, Francois Holland and Angela Merkel, The Washington Post, Sept. 10.
“Iran deal warrants approval: Our view,” by the Editorial Board, USA Today, Sept. 9.
“Colin Powell defends Iran nuclear deal,” by Theodoric Meyer, Politico, Sept. 6.
Looking Ahead ...
Sept. 17: End of the 60-day congressional review period.
Sept. 29: End of the 12-day veto period.
Oct. 9: End of the 10-day veto override period.
Oct. 15: Iran provides the IAEA with any follow up information on PMD investigation.
Oct. 19: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is adopted and both sides begin taking steps laid out in the text of the deal.
Dec. 15: Target date for the IAEA issuing its assessment on PMDs.