On Sunday, the Obama administration submitted the Iran nuclear agreement to Congress for what promises to be a raucous 60-day debate.
WASHINGTON — During the closed-door talks in Vienna on limiting Iran’s nuclear program, Secretary of State John Kerry argued that the U.N. Security Council should not vote on lifting sanctions on Iran until Congress had a chance to review the deal.
But he ran into a solid wall of opposition from Iran, Russia and even America’s closest European allies, which argued successfully that Security Council action should come first, according to Western officials.
On Sunday, as the Obama administration submitted the Iran nuclear agreement to Congress for what promises to be a raucous 60-day debate, Kerry and President Obama began grappling with the fallout of that decision, which has complicated their efforts to secure much-needed support within their own party.
At least two senior Democrats have joined the Republican leadership in complaining that the Security Council action, expected this week, would pre-empt the congressional debate. Their concern is it would signal the international community’s intention to dismantle the U.N. sanctions, if Iran meets the nuclear terms of the accord, before U.S. lawmakers have time to vote on it.
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Asked if she thought Democratic lawmakers would support the deal, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told the CBS news show “Face the Nation” that “the jury is out.”
Kerry expressed little sympathy Sunday for congressional demands that the Security Council delay its vote, insisting lawmakers will still have ample opportunity to carry out their review.
A provision inserted into the nuclear agreement at the behest of U.S. negotiators, he noted, stipulates that the deal will not take effect until 90 days after the Security Council formally endorses the accord — giving Congress time for action.
“It’s presumptuous of some people to suspect that France, Russia, China, Germany, Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do,” Kerry said on the ABC news show “This Week.”
“They have a right to have a vote” at the U.N., Kerry added, referring to his negotiating partners, which include the four other permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany. “But we prevailed on them to delay the implementation of that vote out of respect for our Congress so we wouldn’t be jamming them.”
The upcoming congressional review, which formally begins Monday, will focus on an array of contentious issues: the duration of the agreement, the strength of inspection provisions and the procedures for reimposing sanctions if the Iranians violate the agreement. Critics have also complained that the lifting of sanctions and the eventual ending of an arms embargo will empower Iran to act against U.S. interests around the world.
In response, the White House has stepped up its campaign to argue that a congressional rebuff would bring about the very outcome lawmakers want to avoid: the collapse of sanctions and an Iran on the threshold of having a nuclear weapon.