Members Inform President that Long-Term Sanctions Relief Requires Congressional Action
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, along with 342 other House Members, sent a letter to President Obama noting that Congress played a central role in enacting sanctions against Iran and informing him that any long-term sanctions relief for Iran would require Congressional action. While Iran’s nuclear program continues to pose a grave threat to the national security of the United States and our allies, the Obama Administration, Iran, and other world powers in November reached an “interim agreement” that eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for minimal nuclear concessions. The agreement set a July 20 deadline for reaching a “comprehensive solution” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The letter states: “When asked if your Administration would come to Congress to secure legislative relief of sanctions in a final agreement with Iran, in a recent Congressional hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry responded: ‘(w)ell, of course. We would be obligated to under the law.’ He added that ‘what we do will have to pass muster with Congress.’ We strongly agree with the Secretary’s assessment, and believe the final agreement must verifiably ensure that Iran is denied an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability.” The letter signed by the 344 Members is available HERE. The text of the letter sent to President Obama follows: Dear Mr. President: Iran’s nuclear program poses a grave threat to the national security of the United States and our allies. As the July 20th deadline for a “comprehensive solution” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon approaches, we urge greater consultation with Congress on a potential sanctions relief package that may be part of a final agreement. Our two branches of government have long been partners in working to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. However, as these hugely consequential national security decisions are made, greater cooperation between Congress and the Executive Branch is essential, given that any permanent sanctions relief demands congressional approval. When asked if your Administration would come to Congress to secure legislative relief of sanctions in a final agreement with Iran, in a recent Congressional hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry responded: “(w)ell, of course. We would be obligated to under the law.” He added that “what we do will have to pass muster with Congress.” We strongly agree with the Secretary’s assessment, and believe the final agreement must verifiably ensure that Iran is denied an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability. Your Administration has committed to comprehensively lifting “nuclear-related” sanctions as part of a final P5+1 agreement with Tehran. Yet the concept of an exclusively defined “nuclear-related” sanction on Iran does not exist in U.S. law. Almost all sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program are also related to Tehran’s advancing ballistic missile program, intensifying support for international terrorism, and other unconventional weapons programs. Similarly, many of these sanctions are aimed at preventing Iranian banks involved in proliferation, terrorism, money laundering and other activities from utilizing the U.S. and global financial systems to advance these destructive policies. Iran's permanent and verifiable termination of all of these activities - not just some - is a prerequisite for permanently lifting most congressionally-mandated sanctions. This often unnoted reality necessitates extensive engagement with Congress before offers of relief are made to Iran, and requires Congressional action if sanctions are to be permanently lifted. With the July 20 negotiating deadline on the near horizon, we hope that your Administration will now engage in substantive consultations with Congress on the scope of acceptable sanctions relief. It would be wise for Congress and the Executive Branch to work closely together to end the threat that Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability pose to U.S. national security. We look forward to working constructively with your Administration on a solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.
Chairman Royce Opening Statement
Washington, D.C. – This morning, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will convene a hearing to examine the future of international civilian nuclear cooperation. The hearing, entitled The Future of International Civilian Nuclear Cooperation, will begin at 9:45 a.m. Live webcast of the hearing, as well as witness testimony, will be available HERE. Below is Chairman Royce’s opening statement as prepared for delivery at the hearing: Today we assess the role of civilian nuclear cooperation agreements - known as “123 agreements” - especially their role in U.S. nonproliferation policy and in promoting our nuclear industry abroad. Of note, the Administration has recently submitted a proposed 123 agreement with Vietnam that is now under congressional review. Nuclear cooperation agreements have the dual goals of advancing U.S. nonproliferation policy and also enhancing opportunities for the U.S. nuclear industry in foreign markets. Both are of great importance, but there is an unavoidable tension between the two. Those who stress nonproliferation argue that 123 agreements are a valuable tool in preventing the spread of uranium enrichment or the production of plutonium, also known as “E-N-R” – technology which can be used to create a nuclear weapon. Others argue that unilateral efforts to bind other countries will not work because they can turn to other nuclear suppliers, such as France and Russia - which impose few or no restrictions– undermining the competitiveness of U.S. companies. Last December, the Obama Administration ended its three-year review of U.S. policy on this subject, which pitted the State Department’s argument for nonproliferation against the Department of Energy’s advocacy for U.S. industry. The final decision was to continue to push for a “no-E-N-R” commitment in nuclear cooperation agreements, but not to make that a requirement. For an Administration that has held out nonproliferation as a signature issue, this is a dramatic retreat from the so-called “Gold Standard” policy under which countries were pressed to forego acquiring these potentially dangerous technologies – begun under the previous Administration. The debate over these and other issues is reflected in the proposed 123 agreement with Vietnam. It has generated both praise and criticism, the latter focused on the absence of a binding restriction regarding ENR; its automatic renewal after 30 years, which would eliminate the congressional review that has been the norm; and Vietnam’s abysmal human rights record – which we examined yesterday. This discussion is not confined to Vietnam; but to those that follow as well. We are currently in negotiations to renew our 123 agreement with our ally South Korea, which have been slowed by significant differences over E-N-R. Our agreement with China expires next year, and its renewal is certain to generate significant controversy. And the U.S. may begin discussions with Saudi Arabia over the massive nuclear energy program it is planning. That one is guaranteed to bring these critical issues into focus. Of course, the Obama Administration has made the goal of limiting the spread of enrichment technology all the more difficult by its ongoing negotiations with Iran. In November, the Administration conceded that Iran will be allowed to retain a uranium enrichment capacity – a bomb making capacity - in any final deal. That is the effective melting of the “Gold Standard.” The Administration has conceded this dangerous technology to a state sponsor of terrorism that is under UN Security Council sanctions for egregious violations of its IAEA safeguards agreement. Although today’s topic may sound technical, it should be clear to all that it concerns fundamental U.S. interests, not only in the present but far into the future as well.
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued this statement after a Mexican court ordered that U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi must remain in the jail in which he has been held since his March arrest:
“While I am disappointed that Wednesday’s evidentiary hearing did not result in Sgt. Tahmooressi’s immediate release, I am hopeful that his case will be dealt with in a fair and timely manner. It must. My committee will continue to follow this case closely, and I will continue appealing to the Government of Mexico for Andrew’s immediate release so that he can begin treatment for his combat-related PTSD. As I said when I visited him in jail, Andrew is an American hero who served his country valiantly on the battlefields of Afghanistan, and needs to be home in the United States with his family.”
Note: Last month, Chairman Royce, along with Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman Matt Salmon (R-AZ), visited with Sgt. Tahmooressi in prison in order to check on his condition. A report on the visit is available HERE. Also last month, Chairman Royce personally contacted Mexico’s Foreign Secretary, Dr. Jose Antonio Meade Kuribeña, expressing his serious concern about Sgt. Tahmooressi’s arrest and detention and urging a quick resolution. Chairman Royce’s letter is available HERE.
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