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Congressional Democrats Blast White House over Plans to Freeze Congress out of Iran Deal

Top Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday blasted the Obama administration for reportedly planning to circumvent Congress in securing a nuclear deal with Iran that would reduce sanctions on the Islamic republic, after controversy erupted in the wake of a New York Times column assessing that “President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on” a nuclear deal between the P5+1 global powers and Iran.

Foreign Policy Magazine conveyed blunt statements from Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Steve Israel (D-NY), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

“I disagree with the administration’s reported assertion that it does not need to come to Congress at this point during negotiations with Iran,” said New York’s Eliot Engel, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Democrat, in a statement on Tuesday.
“As negotiations continue on a deal to prevent a nuclear Iran, Congress cannot be circumvented,” New York’s Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Foreign Policy.

Analysts, lawmakers, and journalists had for months assumed that the administration would need the Hill’s cooperation in implementing any deal with Iran, if only because previously passed sanctions legislation would require new legislation to roll back. Recent weeks had nonetheless seen doubts emerge over whether the administration would be able to secure Congressional approval of a likely deal. A range of stories indicated that Western negotiators had caved to Tehran on a range of core issues, including on a long-standing international demand that Tehran dismantle its uranium-enriching centrifuges.

Bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress had declared that such dismantlement was a vital component of any acceptable deal. Meanwhile new reports emerged Tuesday indicating that the West’s posture has eroded further. The Los Angeles Times conveyed Iranian media reports boasting that the American position regarding enrichment has again eroded:

The Obama administration has sweetened its offer to Iran in ongoing nuclear negotiations, saying it might accept Tehran operating 4,000 centrifuges, up from the previous 1,300, according to a semiofficial Iranian news agency […] Mehr’s account quotes conservative Iranian lawmaker Javad Qoddoushi, a member of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, which was briefed last weekend by Abbas Araqchi, a deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator.

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