US Congress in No Position to Modify JCPOA

US Congress in No Position to Modify JCPOAUS Congress in No Position to Modify JCPOA

An Iranian legislator said his counterparts in the US Congress are not in a position to make any decision that could affect the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, rejecting US President Donald Trump's request from US lawmakers to fix the so-called "serious flaws" in the two-year accord.

"The US administration should be reminded that parliaments are no party to the pact. Congress cannot fix any flaws, make amendments or include Iran's missile program in the JCPOA," Hossein Naqavi Hosseini also told ICANA in a recent talk.

He was using an abbreviation for the deal's formal name, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was crafted over 21 months of painstaking negotiations to settle a lingering nuclear dispute between Iran and western powers. In an Oct. 13 speech in which Trump unveiled an aggressive new strategy against the Islamic Republic, the controversial president said he will not certify Iran's compliance with its JCPOA obligations under a US law, but stopped short of withdrawing outright. Trump's decertification move on Oct. 15 set the clock ticking on a 60-day period during which congress can choose to reimpose US sanctions lifted under the deal, or do nothing.

"Should they reinstate sanctions, it will be a blatant breach of JCPOA [by the US] and the remaining parties must give a response," Hosseini, spokesman of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said. The lawmaker said lack of a meaningful reaction would mean Americans have managed to renege on their promises and deny Iran JCPOA benefits without killing the accord.

"In that case, the Islamic Republic will take a firm decision, as sticking to the JCPOA would no longer benefit the nation."

Separately, another member of the Majlis panel said he believes the US Congress is not about to put the US in the de facto violation of the 2015 accord. Jalil Rahimi also told ICANA on Friday US lawmakers would not dare to reimpose anti-Iran sanctions at a time when Trump, an implacable foe of the pact, has backed away from repeated pledges to scupper the accord. "When the apparently irrational Trump could ill-afford to pay the price for dismantling the pact, the congress would certainly hesitate to do so," he said.

In recent weeks, many of Trump's foreign policy advisors, former US officials and international dignitaries have warned him against walking away from the deal, arguing it would deal a heavy below to US credibility and isolate Washington from the international community. Rahimi said he predicts that the congress will not act to restore sanctions, but it may advocate stricter enforcement of the remaining US sanctions and urge closer monitoring of Iran's compliance with the deal by the UN nuclear watchdog.

"The outcome won't be more than ratcheting up sanctions pressure and calling for further monitoring", he said.

Some US Senate Republicans plan to introduce legislation that would add new conditions to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which gave congress the power to quickly slap sanctions back on Tehran if the president says it is not in compliance. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told VOA on Thursday the legislation would automatically reimpose sanctions if Tehran develops intercontinental ballistic missiles, denies International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to military sites they want to visit or continues to be "the largest state sponsor of terrorism".

The proposal will also do away with the pact's so-called sunset provisions that would allow Iran to advance its uranium enrichment program after 2025. According to Graham, the amendment would "indefinitely" maintain restrictions on enrichment. It remains to be seen whether there is enough support in congress for the legislation, which would require at least 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate that hosts 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats.

Republicans, who are in the majority in both chambers of congress and have for years denounced the pact, are on board with the plan, but Democrats seem to have a conflicting view. Earlier this month, 180 congressional Democrats signed a letter to Trump, urging him to recertify Iran's compliance. Graham said if Democrats do not provide enough votes for the new legislation, they would seek to reimpose sanctions under the current INARA legislation.


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