US Congress Could Blow Historic Opportunity

US Congress Could Blow Historic Opportunity  US Congress Could Blow Historic Opportunity

Kelsey Davenport, director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, says the United States has an "historic opportunity" to resolve the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, noting that any congressional action on sanctions at this time, however, threatens the significant progress made over the past year by the US, its allies and Iran toward a comprehensive nuclear deal.  

"Moving forward on new sanctions legislation against Iran threatens to derail negotiations, push Iran away from the negotiating table, and erode international support for the sanctions regime currently in place," she said in a recent article posted on the website of the Arms Control Association.  

She went on to say that any new nuclear-related sanctions legislation on Iran at this time would violate the terms of the first-phase deal that the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom) committed to in the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action.  

***Moving Goalposts

"Efforts by the US Congress to move the goalposts for the final phase negotiations beyond the parameters already established by the P5+1 would undermine prospects for a final phase agreement," she said, adding, "Rather than sabotaging the progress made to date and undermining the prospects for a more far-reaching final phase deal, Congress should allow the P5+1 negotiators the time and support necessary to negotiate an effective diplomatic solution."  

Several members of the US Congress are drafting new sanctions legislation. "If approved, these sanctions would directly violate the United States commitment to refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions under the November 24, 2013 interim agreement."

If Washington passes sanctions now, the United States would be blamed for any breakdown of the talks, and other countries may resume trade with Iran, she said, adding that it would dramatically reduce US leverage and the prospects for a diplomatic solution.

Elsewhere, Davenport said some members of Congress mistakenly believe that additional economic pressure at this time will push Iran to make further concessions at the negotiating table.

"This reasoning is illogical and incorrect for several reasons. From a negotiating perspective, moving forward on any sanctions bill will give the (critics) in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the United States is not following through on its commitments in the Joint Plan of Action and will not negotiate a comprehensive agreement in good faith. This could narrow the space that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has to negotiate a final deal even further."  

In conclusion, she said contrary to the claims of proponents, legislation that imposes new sanctions on Iran would undermine, not enhance, the diplomatic effort to secure a comprehensive nuclear deal to ensure that Iran's nuclear program will remain peaceful, emphasizing that new sanctions on Iran are clearly unnecessary at this time because the existing sanctions regime provides more than sufficient leverage on Iran to keep it at the negotiating table.  

Iran denies the claim that the pressure of sanctions has compelled it to sit at the negotiating table, saying it has engaged in talks with the major powers to help resolve an "unnecessary" dispute over its nuclear program to pave the way for improving its foreign relations.