Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif .
VIENNA – Compromise with Iran will not earn the support of Congress if the Obama administration agrees to one that solely addresses concerns with its nuclear program, a commanding majority of the House of Representatives wrote to the White House.
Delegations from world powers and Iran have convened in Vienna in an attempt to forge a comprehensive agreement, working against a self-imposed deadline of July 20. The task is a tall order: Such a deal has eluded the world’s top diplomats for more than a decade, since the slow-motion crisis began.
Earning the signatures of 344 members, including the Democratic whip and the speaker of the House, Thursday’s letter asserts that “the concept of an exclusively defined ‘nuclear-related’ sanction on Iran does not exist in US law.”
“Almost all sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program are also related to Tehran’s advancing ballistic missile program, intensifying support for international terrorism, and other unconventional weapons programs,” reads the letter, written jointly by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-California) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-New York).
“Similarly,” it continues, “many of these sanctions are aimed at preventing Iranian banks involved in proliferation, terrorism, money laundering and other activities from utilizing the US and global financial systems to advance these destructive policies.”
US negotiators have suggested that Iran’s ballistic missile program, and its endorsement and funding of terrorism around the world, are not a part of the negotiation under way in Austria, as Western diplomats focus on the technical challenges of curbing decades-old nuclear work and the feasibility of enforcing such an arrangement.
Congress has passed four laws codifying sanctions against the Islamic Republic in the past five years, in addition to a series of executive actions taken by US President Barack Obama that have – coupled with sanctions passed through the United Nations Security Council – fueled an economic crisis in Iran and a significant drop in the country’s crude oil sales.
Members of both houses of Congress fear the president will try to circumvent the legislature in the short term, should negotiations in Vienna succeed in forging a comprehensive agreement on the nuclear impasse.
On several occasions, however, the White House has said that a deal that includes the repeal or relieving of sanctions will require a mix of executive and legislative action. Obama administration officials decline, however, to provide a timeline.
AIPAC applauded the letter on Thursday, saying that “greater cooperation between the president and Congress is essential given that any permanent sanctions relief requires congressional approval.”
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