60-day clock begins ticking for Congress to vote on Iran deal

Secretary of State John Kerry took to the country’s Sunday morning shows to warn of severe consequences if Congress kills the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The US Congress received the full text of the nuclear agreement with Iran on Sunday, including provisions kept secret from the public.
Receipt of the agreement starts a consequential clock: As of July 20, Congress has 60 days to review the agreement, hold hearings and ultimately choose to vote to approve or disapprove of the deal. The president has the ability to override any resolution of disapproval, and Congress has the ability to vote to override his veto.
Secretary of State John Kerry took to the country’s Sunday morning shows to warn of severe consequences if Congress kills the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The agreement is intended to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington’s historic regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia chief among them, have condemned the deal in the strongest possible terms. Israel is actively lobbying Congress to vote to disapprove of the agreement.
For that reason, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter left for Jerusalem, Riyadh and Amman on Sunday to assuage concerns over the inking of the JCPOA. Jordan has expressed concerns over the regional consequences of the Iran deal.
“The fact is that the real fear of that region should be that you don’t have the deal,” Kerry said in one of several granted interviews, speaking to the people of the Middle East and the US legislature. “If Congress doesn’t pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate.”
Kerry engaged personally in the two-year diplomatic effort, alongside his counterparts from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. Berlin’s finance minister traveled to Tehran on Sunday with a business delegation to begin the process of normalizing financial relations.
“I assure you,” Kerry continued, “Ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] – if the United States arbitrarily and unilat - erally kills this – you’re not going to have another negotiation. And they will feel free to go do the very things that this prevents.”
Kerry and the administration of President Barack Obama assert that the deal they have achieved with Iran assures that the Islamic Republic cannot acquire a nuclear weapon.
The agreement is structured to prevent Iran from coming within one year of having enough material to build a nuclear warhead. That year-long standard lasts for one decade, after which point, Iran is allowed to begin expanding its program and installing more efficient technologies.
But several inspections and monitoring practices remain in place beyond that point, the administration asserts. And Iran has committed, in the document, not to produce materials necessary for the construction of a nuclear warhead outside of the fissile material itself – of primary concern in the text of the deal.
“The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran – that is now off the table. I mean, that’s a success,” British Prime Minister David Cameron asserted in an interview with NBC. “What we’ve done is make sure the timeline for them possibly getting a nuclear weapon has gotten longer, not shorter.”
Cameron’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, has harshly criticized the Israeli government for its position on the deal. Both the government and its opposition are vehemently opposed to the JCPOA in its current form.
Also in his interviews, Kerry addressed concerns aired on Fox News Sunday that the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, does not have sufficient access to undeclared nuclear facilities.
The IAEA is to have daily, round- the-clock access to Tehran’s declared nuclear-related sites, including its enrichment facilities, processing and storage facilities. But Iran is able to object to IAEA requests for access elsewhere, and the process for resolving those potential disputes may last as long as 24 days.
“There is no such standard within arms control inspections” of access anytime and anywhere for the IAEA, Kerry said. “We never had a discussion about ‘anywhere, anytime’ managed access.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post ’s annual conference last month, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew outlined the administration’s position entering the final phase of the negotiations.
“A potential deal must prevent Iran from using a covert site to break out,” Lew said. “And that is why any deal must ensure comprehensive and robust monitoring and inspection anywhere and everywhere the IAEA has reason to go.”