The leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken this morning that “there really can’t be any marginalization of Congress” on Iran nuclear negotiations.
“Any attempts to sidestep Congress will be resisted on both sides of the aisle,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
Engel also announced that lawmakers have crafted another Iran letter and are ready to send it to the president — signed by 360 members. It began circulating around Congress earlier this month.
He and chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) are hoping to get “a prompt response from the White House.”
The letter to Obama notes that “of the 12 sets of questions that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been seeking, Tehran has answered just part of one. Just last week, the IAEA reported that it is still concerned about signs of Iran’s military related activities, including designing a nuclear payload for a missile.”
“The potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program should be treated as a fundamental test of Tehran’s intention to uphold the final agreement. Unless we have a full understanding of Iran’s past program it will be impossible for the international community to judge Iran’s future breakout time with certainty.”
The letter notes Iran’s “decades of deception” and said “any inspection and verification regime must allow for short notice access to suspect locations, and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program must last for decades.”
The hundreds of lawmakers also said the administration cannot split Iran’s “destabilizing role in the region and state sponsorship of terrorism from the nuclear deal.”
“Iran’s Supreme Leader has also called for an expansion of his country’s ballistic missile program, yet another dimension of the potential threat posed by Iran,” the letter continues. “Iran’s role in fomenting instability in the region — not to mention Iran’s horrendous repression at home — demonstrates the risks of negotiating with a partner we cannot trust.”
The lawmakers promise that only if “convinced” that a final deal’s terms “foreclose any pathway to a bomb” will Congress “consider permanent sanctions relief.”
Blinken warned Congress to “avoid any actions” that could make people blame the U.S. if talks fail, including “any attempts” to undermine President Obama.
“The United States, not Iran, could be isolated and the sanctions regime collapse,” he said.