Letter to key Senators on Corker Iran bill

Letter from Council for a Livable World to key Senators on the flaws in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (S.615) introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Corker (R-Tenn.)to require a congressional vote on any nuclear deal with Iran.

March 18, 2015

Dear Senator:

We are writing about The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 S.619, introduced by Senator Bob Corker, to require a congressional vote on any deal to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

We appreciate your concern that Congress should have a role in any final deal with Iran—and it will. Congress ultimately will have to vote to lift sanctions to implement a deal. However, that should happen after a deal is delivered, as only then can it be properly judged.

The Corker bill is an imperfect piece of legislation that has a number of severe weaknesses and should not be voted prior to a final deal.

1. Moving the goal posts:  A required element of the 90-day presidential certifications in the bill is that “Iran has not directly supported or carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or a United States person anywhere in the world.” While Iranian support for terrorism is a significant issue, it is not one that has been addressed in the nuclear agreement now being negotiated. It is significant that although he had added an important provision that is “moving the goalposts,” Corker conspicuously fails to include this provision in his summary of the bill. We suspect that this omission is no accident.

2.  Delaying implementation of a final agreement: The Corker measure will delay U.S. compliance with any agreement by up to 65 days. Thus while the Germans, French, British, Chinese and Russians are prepared to begin implementation of the agreement, there will be a two-month delay in U.S. participation. Two months is a long time in world affairs, or for that matter in Congress. If instead Congress permitted the agreement to move forward during those 65 days, this forward progress would not inhibit Congress from considering the new agreement.

3.  The Corker Bill establishes a process for congressional review that is rushed, impractical, and unnecessary. The requirement to submit an agreement to Congress within five calendar days after reaching an agreement is invitation to error. Agreements are not normally submitted to Congress until an authoritative section-by-section analysis has been prepared by the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Department of State. The process of analyzing an agreement and preparing this section-by-section analysis often takes months. The Corker Bill cuts short the needed time for the Administration to prepare this analysis and Congress to give the time needed for truly reasoned consideration of an agreement.

4,  The Corker Bill is a trap. The legislation may look reasonable enough for some Democrats to sign onto now, but it will ultimately hand the power to the Republican hawks to kill a deal and undermine the entire sanctions regime. Some in Congress have demonstrated they will stop at nothing to kill a deal; supporters of diplomacy should not supply them with new tools to do so. As White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough wrote in his letter to Senator Corker, his bill “would potentially make it impossible to secure international cooperation for additional sanctions, while putting at risk the existing multilateral sanctions regime.”

In short, we urge you to hold back any support for the Corker bill. While the legislation might sound reasonable now, it has the dangerous potential to become the vehicle for Congress to block a diplomatic effort that provides the best chance to forestall any Iranian nuclear weapons program and another war in the Middle East.


Angela Canterbury
John Isaacs