Europe Pushes Nuclear Pact on Capitol Hill

Europe Pushes Nuclear Pact on Capitol HillEurope Pushes Nuclear Pact on Capitol Hill

As the Obama administration steps up its campaign to sell the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill, it is welcoming the assistance of Europe's top ambassadors to Washington.

US administration officials flooding Congress to sell the pact are now working in tandem with ambassadors from the three European nations — Britain, France and Germany — that also signed off on the July 14 agreement, Politico reported.

The diplomatic trio, whose countries are known together as the "E3", echoes administration talking points and parries specific concerns from skeptical members of Congress. They also push a signature message: that the Iran deal is an international agreement, not just the handiwork of a Democratic president scorned by the Republican Party.

"We think it's important that people who will vote on the bill understand that it's not just about this administration and the Iranian government. The other governments who are part of the deal, what we call the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), also have views on it and also think it's the right way to go," said British Ambassador Peter Westmacott.

Also canvassing Congress is the European Union's ambassador to Washington, David O'Sullivan.

***Partisan Impulse

European officials hope that by reminding members of Congress about support for the deal from British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, they can defuse any partisan impulse to oppose President Barack Obama's signature foreign policy achievement.

"Especially when it comes to addressing Republican members of Congress, it is good to add in the E3 perspective because it might not be regarded as biased, or as much like a partisan issue," said Markus Knauf, a spokesman for the German Embassy in Washington.

To that end, Berlin's ambassador, Peter Wittig, recently hosted several Republican House members for a dinner at his residence.

Westmacott, Wittig and France's ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud, met together last week with Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for what Araud later tweeted was a "courteous exchange of views."

Westmacott estimated that he has met or spoken with at least two dozen members of the House and Senate about the deal this month. "It's been quite a big part of my life."

Under a measure passed by Congress in March, the House and Senate can vote to approve or disapprove the nuclear agreement, which imposes temporary limits on Iran's nuclear program in return for an end to sanctions on Tehran. If Congress votes to oppose the deal and continue US sanctions, Obama is sure to veto the measure. A two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate is required to override a White House veto.

The Europeans' talking points parallel those of Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, particularly the argument that there is no realistic alternative to the nuclear deal other than a dangerous confrontation with Iran.