Congressional Update on Iran Deal

by the Arms Control Association

The U.S. Congress failed to pass a resolution of disapproval that would block the Obama administration’s ability to implement its commitments under the July 14nuclear deal with Iran.

The sixty-day period for congressional review expired today, Sept, 17, and without the passage of resolution of disapproval, the Obama administration will be able to waive sanctions as required under the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)

A vote earlier today to end debate and move to vote on a resolution of disapproval failed to pass the 60 vote threshold, 56-42. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to move to vote on an amendment to prohibit the president’s authority to waive sanctions. It also failed to pass the 60 vote threshold, 53-45.The Senate attempted to end debate and move to vote on the resolution of disapproval Tuesday night. That vote failed 56-42, with two Senators absent. A similar measure failed last Thursday 58-42.

In the House

The House passed legislation last Friday by a vote of 247-186 to block the president’s ability to waive sanctions, which would prevent the Obama administration from implementing the deal. However, it has not yet been introduced in the Senate. Even if passed by the Senate, President Barack Obama would veto the legislation and Congress is extremely unlikely to have the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto.

Iran is the only other country involved in the talks to have an internal review process for the agreement. In addition to a review committee, Iran’s supreme leader has requested that its parliament, the Majles, vote on the agreement. Iranian lead negotiator and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took questions from the Majles about the deal on Sept. 13.

Washington’s negotiating partners, China, France, Germany, Russia, and theUnited Kingdom, do not have an internal review process.

What’s Next for Implementation

With the congressional review period over, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany,Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran move one step closer to adoption of the deal. Iran has yet to complete its internal review process of the agreement and provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the remaining clarifications and access required for the agency to complete its investigation into the past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

According to the text of the JCPOA, completion of the IAEA’s investigation is necessary to proceed to adoption of the deal. Iran’s deadline for completing the IAEA investigation is Oct. 15.

If Iran meets that deadline, adoption day should follow on Oct. 18, which, per the JCPOA, is 90 days after the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2231, endorsing the deal. Once the deal is adopted, both sides will begin to take steps to implement their commitments under the deal.

On the Iranian side, that includes steps to limit its uranium-enrichment program, institute greater transparency measures, and destroy the core of the Arak reactor. On the P5+1 side, specifically for the United States and the European Union, it includes moving forward on preparations to waive or lift sanctions.

Once the IAEA certifies that Iran has met its key steps under the deal, implementation day will occur and the sanctions will be waived or lifted. Estimates on how long it will take Iran to complete these key steps vary from 2-6 months.

This update reprinted courtesy of the Arms Control Association. Photo of Mitch McConnell courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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