Congress pushes for oversight on Iran nuclear deal

The Obama administration has arrived at a framework nuclear deal with Iran, but Congress wants to ensure it prevents the Islamic Republic from getting the bomb.

Congress, led by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), is moving ahead with a bill that ensures Congress has mandatory review of the agreement achieved between the P5+1 powers and Iran regarding its nuclear program. Corker is reportedly a few votes short of a majority that will guarantee that President Barack Obama cannot veto the bill, as he has vowed to do, and is working hard to secure that majority.

Iran nuclear negotiations

The US and Iranian teams during on of the negotiation sessions. (REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool)

Congressional scrutiny and approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran is essential and will help ensure the deal isn’t a bad one, Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday.

Corker said Congress has a responsibility to scour the details of a final plan, including any classified annexes, ask the Obama administration hard questions regarding the deal, and then vote on it.

“It’s very important that Congress is in the middle of this, understanding, teasing out, asking those important questions,” Corker said.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Corker sought to counter Obama’s assertion that partisan politics in Washington could derail the landmark agreement to curb Iran’s bomb-capable nuclear technology.

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Congressional oversight “doesn’t mean there won’t be a deal,” Corker said. “We just set in place a process to insure that if there’s a deal, it’s a deal that will stand the test of time, that will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to meet April 14 to consider Corker’s legislation to ensure that Congress debates and signs off on any pact. The bill requires the president to transmit, within five days of reaching a final deal, the text of the full agreement along with materials related to its implementation.

With key elements still to be finalized, the framework agreement sealed by US-led world powers describes a program for restricting Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons while lifting the economic sanctions and giving Tehran quick access to assets and markets now blocked.

Defending and Condemning the Deal

In defending the framework and a potential final pact, US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz cited what he called “unprecedented access and transparency” into Iran’s nuclear activities that will allow the US and its partner negotiators to know almost instantly should Iran try to evade the oversight. This is a long-term arrangement, he stressed, with requirements lasting a quarter century or longer.

“We’ll have eyes on the entire supply chain of uranium,” Moniz said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” ”Going back to mines, the mills, we’ll have continuous surveillance of centrifuge production.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

PM Netanyahu. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the framework as deeply flawed and a threat to Israel’s very existence. He is urging negotiators to improve the agreement or scuttle it.

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“Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb,” said Netanyahu. “It would pave it. It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war. The alternative is standing firm and increasing the pressure on Iran until a better deal is achieved.”

Other Republicans have echoed Netanyahu’s concerns. Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday the proposed deal is a bad one — but it was the best one Obama could get because the Iranians don’t fear or respect him. Graham said he favors waiting until a new president, Democratic or Republican, takes office in January 2017 and then trying again. In the meantime, economic and financial sanctions would stay in place.

“Is there a better deal to be had? I think so,” Graham said on “Face The Nation.”

But a senior Senate Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, warned that bashing the proposed deal could backfire on Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister and other critics of the framework agreement have offered no viable alternatives, she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Feinstein said imposing more and stiffer economic sanctions would only drive Iran’s nuclear program deeper underground and make it more difficult to monitor.

“I wish he would contain himself,” Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said of Netanyahu.

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However, with Israel’s existence at stake, Netanyahu is working relentlessly to ensure Israel’s safety. “Iran said that ‘the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable,’ Netanyahu said. “Well, I want to make clear to all. The survival of Israel is non-negotiable. Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period.”

By: AP and World Israel Staff