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Veteran Diplomats, Analysts: Administration Will Have to Listen to Congress on Iran

The Washington Post late last week carried calls from a bipartisan group of veteran diplomats and analysts – Eric Edelman, Dennis Ross, and Ray Takeyh, respectively a former undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration, a special assistant to President Obama, and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations – calling on the White House to work with Congress in order to “develop a bipartisan consensus about parameters of an acceptable agreement” between the P5+1 global powers and Iran, worrying that unaddressed concerns on the Hill will undermine the formation of a durable comprehensive deal regarding the Iranian nuclear program:

Arms control has often been a bone of contention between the White House and Congress. Presidents and their diplomats prefer to reach agreements in secret and then shield the accord from congressional scrutiny, much less consent. It is all too tempting for the Obama administration to follow this script as it negotiates with Iran. But that would be a mistake. Notwithstanding partisan difficulties, seeking congressional endorsement is essential lest any agreement rest on a shaky foundation and be difficult to implement.

From a policy perspective the issue is straightforward: New congressional action is needed to undo past congressional sanctions, and the alternative – under which President Obama would unilaterally suspend enforcement of those sanctions – could be undone by a future president who ordered enforcement of the restrictions.

Edelman, Ross, and Takeyh bluntly declared that “the White House [will have] to take into account Congress’s perspective and heed its warnings… [because] the failure to do so could mean that any agreement negotiated by Obama will not survive his presidency.”

The reasoning also formed the basis for a March article in Congressional Quarterly (CQ) assessing that “groups on opposite sides of the Iran debate” were calling for the administration to go to Congress, and which cited the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) declaring that “[i]t is critical that Congress work with the Administration to ensure necessary authorizations are in place to enable nuclear-related sanctions to be lifted.”

NIAC has been accused by sitting members of Congress of peddling Iranian propaganda.

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