TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s parliament will need “at least” 60 days to review a proposed final deal with world powers over its contested nuclear program, a prominent lawmaker said Tuesday, giving legislators in the Islamic Republic about the same time as the U.S. Congress to examine the proposal.
But while hard-liners in Iran’s parliament could vote against the deal struck last week in Vienna, their numbers wouldn’t be enough to derail a proposal already backed by the country’s supreme leader. That’s even with an influential member of the country’s Revolutionary Guard expressing concerns over the deal.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who headed the Iranian negotiating team, formally submitted the deal Tuesday to parliament. Hours later, the official IRNA news agency reported lawmakers formed a 15-member special committee to review the deal.
Under Iran’s constitution, parliament has the right to reject any deal — even one negotiated by the Foreign Ministry. But committed hard-liners in the Iranian parliament hold only about 60 of the body’s 290 seats, the rest belonging to conservatives and a handful of pro-reform lawmakers.
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While hard-liners have drawn other lawmakers over to their side in previous votes, that appears unlikely in this case as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has endorsed the work of the nuclear deal negotiators. The lawmakers’ special committee may prove to be an olive branch to hard-liners — allowing them to vent their frustrations against world powers, especially the U.S., while parliament ultimately approves the deal.
Political analyst Saeed Leilaz said any hard-liner objections to the agreement likely deal with domestic politics alone, especially as a February parliamentary election looms ahead.
“The possible opposition by hard-liners only reflects their concerns about their political future since the deal gives leverage to President Hassan Rouhani,” Leilaz said. “The talks have gone ahead under direct supervision by the supreme leader. The parliament has no power to say no.”
It’s not clear whether Iranian lawmakers will discuss and vote on the deal in an open session. State-run radio has carried previous votes on contentious issues live.
Hossein Naghavi, the spokesman of influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, told The Associated Press that “the parliament needs at least 60 days to review the deal.”
“The formation of the special committee and the process of reviewing (the deal) requires this amount of time,” Naghavi said. However, he stressed “there is no official deadline” for finishing the review. That means the Iranian lawmakers could have their vote after the U.S. Congress. U.S. President Barack Obama already has pledged to veto any American bill rejecting the agreement.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which Rouhani heads, also is reviewing the deal.
Under the agreement, Iran pledged to curb its nuclear program for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.
The West long has feared Iran could use its nuclear program to build an atomic bomb. Iran maintains its program is for peaceful purposes, like medical research and power generation.
The U.N. Security Council voted to unanimously to accept the deal Monday. Zarif, in a speech to parliament Tuesday broadcast on state radio, hailed the Security Council resolution, though he warned that any effort to restore the sanctions would cost a “heavy price.”
“If for any reason, Security Council sanctions are re-imposed, Iran will not be obliged to abide by its commitments,” Zarif said.
Later Tuesday, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, also urged lawmakers to “pay attention to the outlines of the deal rather than its details,” IRNA reported.
But one prominent official has spoken out against the deal. The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Saturday that his force has “some concerns” about the draft.
Those points “are clearly in contradiction and violation of important red lines of Iran, especially regarding arms capabilities,” he was quoted as saying. “They will never be acceptable to us.” He did not elaborate.