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AIPAC Conference: Officials on Iran

On March 2, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned attendees of the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference that Iran “vows to annihilate Israel.” If Tehran develops nuclear weapons, “it would have the means to achieve that goal,” he said in Washington, D.C. Netanyahu acknowledged that Washington and Jerusalem “disagree on the best way to prevent Iran from developing those weapons.” Netanyahu has criticized how diplomacy is being conducted between Iran and the world’s six major powers on the nuclear issue.

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power also delivered remarks, emphasizing the strong relationship between Israel and the United States. Rice, however, also expressed support for the ongoing nuclear negotiations. The speeches came one day before Netanyahu’s address to Congress, in which he argued that the deal being negotiated between Iran and the world’s six major powers is inadequate and “paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” The following are excerpts from the three speeches.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

First, let me clarify what is not the purpose of that speech. My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both.

I deeply appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel, security cooperation, intelligence sharing, support at the U.N., and much more, some things that I, as prime minister of Israel, cannot even divulge to you because it remains in the realm of the confidences that are kept between an American president and an Israeli prime minister. I am deeply grateful for this support, and so should you be.

My speech is also not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate. An important reason why our alliance has grown stronger decade after decade is that it has been championed by both parties and so it must remain.

Both Democratic and Republican presidents have worked together with friends from both sides of the aisle in Congress to strengthen Israel and our alliance between our two countries, and working together, they have provided Israel with generous military assistance and missile defense spending. We've seen how important that is just last summer.

Working together, they've made Israel the first free trade partner of America 30 years ago and its first official strategic partner last year. They've backed Israel in defending itself at war and in our efforts to achieve a durable peace with our neighbors. Working together has made Israel stronger; working together has made our alliance stronger. And that's why the last thing that anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want is for Israel to become a partisan issue. And I regret that some people have misperceived my visit here this week as doing that. Israel has always been a bipartisan issue.

Israel should always remain a bipartisan issue. Ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of my address to Congress tomorrow is to speak up about a potential deal with Iran that could threaten the survival of Israel. Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Look at that graph. Look at that map. And you see on the wall, it shows Iran training, arming, dispatching terrorists on five continents. Iran envelopes the entire world with its tentacles of terror. This is what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons. Imagine what Iran would do with nuclear weapons.

And this same Iran vows to annihilate Israel. If it develops nuclear weapons, it would have the means to achieve that goal. We must not let that happen.

And as prime minister of Israel, I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there's still time to avert them. For 2000 years, my people, the Jewish people, were stateless, defenseless, voiceless. We were utterly powerless against our enemies who swore to destroy us. We suffered relentless persecution and horrific attacks. We could never speak on our own behalf, and we could not defend ourselves.

Well, no more, no more.

The days when the Jewish people are passive in the face of threats to annihilate us, those days are over. Today in our sovereign state of Israel, we defend ourselves. And being able to defend ourselves, we ally with others, most importantly, the United States of America, to defend our common civilization against common threats.

In our part of the world and increasingly, in every part of the world, no one makes alliances with the weak. You seek out those who have strength, those who have resolve, those who have the determination to fight for themselves. That's how alliances are formed.

So we defend ourselves and in so doing, create the basis of a broader alliance.

And today, we are no longer silent; today, we have a voice. And tomorrow, as prime minister of the one and only Jewish state, I plan to use that voice.

I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel, that's devouring country after country in the Middle East, that's exporting terror throughout the world and that is developing, as we speak, the capacity to make nuclear weapons, lots of them.

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel and the United States agree that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, but we disagree on the best way to prevent Iran from developing those weapons. Now disagreements among allies are only natural from time to time, even among the closest of allies. Because they're important differences between America and Israel. The United States of America is a large country, one of the largest. Israel is a small country, one of the smallest. America lives in one of the world's safest neighborhoods. Israel lives in the world's most dangerous neighborhood. America is the strongest power in the world. Israel is strong, but it's much more vulnerable. American leaders worry about the security of their country. Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country.
Click here for the full transcript, or watch the speech here

National Security Advisor Susan Rice

Israel’s security—our mutual security—is also at the heart of one of President Obama’s most important foreign policy objectives: ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.  As President Obama has repeated many times: we are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  As he said in Jerusalem: “Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained.”  And he added, “America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”
President Obama said it.  He meant it.  And those are his orders to us all. 
That is still the way we see the danger of a nuclear Iran today.  Given Iran’s support for terrorism, the risk of a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the danger to the entire global non-proliferation regime, an Iran with a nuclear weapon would not just be a threat to Israel – it’s an unacceptable threat to the United States of America.
We understand the unique concerns of our Israeli friends and partners.  In Jerusalem, President Obama made plain: “when I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction.  It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat.  But this is not simply a challenge for Israel; it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States.”
I want to be very clear: a bad deal is worse than no deal.  And, if that is the choice, there will be no deal.
Negotiations continue.  And, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  As of today, significant gaps remain between the international community and Iran.  I’m not going to get into details about ongoing negotiations – nor should sensitive details of an ongoing negotiation be discussed in public.  But, I do want to make five key points about our approach to the negotiation.
First, with the Joint Plan of Action, we have already succeeded in halting Iran’s nuclear program and rolling it back in key areas.  Let’s recall what has been achieved over the last year.  Iran is doing away with its existing stockpile of its most highly enriched uranium.  Iran has capped its stockpile of low enriched uranium.  Iran has not constructed additional enrichment facilities.  Iran has not installed or operated new centrifuges, including its next-generation models.  Iran has stopped construction at its potential plutonium reactor at Arak.  In short, Iran is further away from a nuclear weapon than it was a year ago—and that makes the world safer, including Israel.
Moreover, we’re not taking anything on trust.  What matters are Iran’s actions, not its words.  That’s why, as part of the Joint Plan of Action, we’ve insisted upon—and achieved—unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear program.  Before the Joint Plan, inspections happened only every few weeks, sometimes every few months.  Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency has daily access at Iran’s key nuclear sites at Natanz and Fordow, verifying that Iran is meeting its commitments.  If I can paraphrase, President Reagan, with a twist, our approach is “distrust and verify.”
Second, we’ve kept the pressure on Iran.  I know this firsthand because, when I was U.N. ambassador, President Obama personally directed me to make sure that the Security Council’s sanctions had bite—and they do.  Today, even with limited sanctions relief, Iran’s economy remains isolated from the international finance system and cut off from the vast majority of its foreign currency reserves.  Iran’s oil exports have dropped almost 60 percent since 2012.  The rial has depreciated by more than 50 percent.  And, Iran’s overall GDP has shrunk by almost 10 percent.  All told, sanctions have deprived Iran of more than $200 billion in lost oil revenues. 
But sanctions are a tool, not an end in themselves.  The question now, after the pressure that we and our partners have brought to bear, is whether we can verify that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon.  The question now is whether we can achieve a comprehensive deal.  A good deal. 
This is my third point—a good deal is one that would verifiably cut off every pathway for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.  Every single one. 
Any deal must prevent Iran from developing weapons-grade plutonium at Arak, or anywhere else.
Any deal must prevent Iran from enriching uranium at its nuclear facility at Fordow—a site we uncovered buried deep underground and revealed to the world in 2009.
Any deal must increase the time it takes Iran to reach breakout capacity—the time it would take to produce a single bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium.  Today, experts suggest Iran’s breakout window is just two to three months.  We seek to extend that to at least one year. 
Any deal must ensure frequent and intrusive inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites—including the uranium mills that produce the material fed into Iran’s enrichment and conversion facilities—to create a multi-layered transparency regime that provides the international community with the confidence it demands.  That’s the best way to prevent Iran from pursuing a covert path to a nuclear weapon—to stop Iran from working toward a bomb in secret.
Any deal must address the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.  And, going forward, we will not accept a deal that fails to provide the access we need to ensure that Iran’s program is peaceful.  
And, any deal must last more than a decade—with additional provisions ensuring greater transparency into Iran’s program for an even longer period of time. 
That’s what we’re working toward—a good, long-term, comprehensive deal that verifiably prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 
This brings me to my fourth point —we cannot let a totally unachievable ideal stand in the way of a good deal.  I know that some of you will be urging Congress to insist that Iran forego its domestic enrichment capacity entirely.  But, as desirable as that would be, it is neither realistic nor achievable.  Even our closest international partners in the P5+1 do not support denying Iran the ability ever to pursue peaceful nuclear energy.  If that is our goal, our partners will abandon us, undermining the sanctions we have imposed so effectively together.  Simply put, that is not a viable negotiating position.  Nor is it even attainable.  The plain fact is, no one can make Iran unlearn the scientific and nuclear expertise it already possesses. 
We must also understand what will happen if these negotiations collapse. I know that some argue we should just impose sanctions and walk away.  But let’s remember that sanctions have never stopped Iran from advancing its program.  So here’s what’s likely to happen without a deal.  Iran will install and operate advanced centrifuges.  Iran will seek to fuel its reactor in Arak.  Iran will rebuild its uranium stockpile.  And, we'll lose the unprecedented inspections and transparency we have today.  
Congress has played a hugely important role in helping to build our sanctions on Iran, but they shouldn’t play the spoiler now.  Additional sanctions or restrictive legislation enacted during the negotiation would blow up the talks, divide the international community, and cause the United States to be blamed for the failure to reach a deal—putting us in a much weaker position and endangering the sanctions regime itself.  Meanwhile, the Iranians are well aware that if they walk away from a deal, Congress will pass new sanctions immediately—and President Obama will support them.
So, if Iran refuses to resolve this matter diplomatically—and is clearly to blame for that failure—its isolation will only increase.  The costs will continue to grow. 
Finally, I know that some question a deal of any duration.  But, it has always been clear that the pursuit of an agreement of indefinite duration would result in no agreement at all.  The question is, what is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?  A deal that extends for a decade or more would accomplish this goal better than any other course of action – longer, by far, than military strikes, which would only set back Iran’s program for a fraction of the time.  And, at the end of any deal, Iran would still be required to offer comprehensive access to its nuclear facilities and to provide the international community the assurance that it was not pursuing nuclear weapons.  And, if it failed to do so, we would have the ability to make our own decisions about how to move forward, just as we do today.  There’s simply no alternative that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon better—or longer—than the type of deal we seek. 
We can always bring consequences to bear for the sake of our shared security—harsh consequences.  But, precisely because this is such a serious issue, we must weigh the different options before us and choose the best one.  Sound bites won’t stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  Strong diplomacy – backed by pressure – can.  And, if diplomacy fails, let’s make it clear to the world that it is Iran’s responsibility.
One final word on Iran: even if we succeed in neutralizing the nuclear threat from Iran, we will still face other threats—Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, its gross violations of human rights, its efforts to destabilize neighboring states, its support for Assad and Hamas and Hezbollah, its intolerable threats against Israel.  Our sanctions against Iran on these issues will remain in place.  We will continue to counter Iran and the full range of threats it poses.  Tehran must understand—the United States will never, ever waver in the defense of our security or the security of our allies and partners, including Israel. 
Click here for the full transcript
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power
Our commitments to our partnership with Israel are bedrock commitments – rooted in shared, fundamental values, cemented through decades of bipartisan reinforcement. This partnership should never be politicized, and it cannot and will not be tarnished or broken. [Applause] Now, debating the most effective policy, both within our respective democracies and among partners, is more than useful, it is a necessary part of arriving at informed decisions; politicizing that process is not. The stakes are too high for that. [Applause]
On policy, the negotiations that we and our partners have entered into with Iran – negotiations aimed centrally at denying Iran a nuclear weapon – have generated reasonable debate. My colleague and dear friend, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, will speak in depth about Iran later tonight. But I am struck that when I read about alleged policy differences on the Iran nuclear negotiations, I rarely see mention of the foundational strategic agreement between the United States and Israel – an agreement that undergirds our entire engagement with Iran. The United States of America will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Period. [ Applause]
Now, let me put President Obama’s commitment to denying Iran a nuclear weapon in context. The Obama administration has invested more than $20 billion dollars in foreign military financing for Israel – far more than for any other country, and more than at any previous time in the history of the U.S.-Israel relationship. [Applause] And – and the President not only committed to denying Iran a nuclear weapon before negotiations with Iran began, he has reiterated the same commitment during negotiations, and he will keep his commitment whether negotiations collapse or produce a diplomatic solution that meets our bottom lines.
Maybe the President has made this point so often that it isn’t heard in the same way anymore, but we have to keep repeating it – talks, no talks, agreement, no agreement – the United States will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our national security and that of our closest allies. [Applause] We believe diplomacy is the preferred route to secure our shared aim; but if diplomacy should fail, we know the stakes of a nuclear-armed Iran as well as everyone here. We will not let it happen.
There will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. Never. [Applause]
Click here for the full transcript

UN Report: Human Rights Concerns in Iran

Iran failed to address key human rights issues in 2014, according to a new report from the U.N. Office of the Secretary General to the U.N. Human Rights Council. At least 500 people were executed between January and November 2014, many of whom were not given a fair trial. The report also highlighted Iran’s treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, citing the destruction of a Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz by the Revolutionary Guards. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the report for having “double standards.” The following are excerpts from the full report.

Death penalty
The Secretary-General continues to express his alarm at the increasing number of death sentences handed down and executions carried out in the Islamic Republic of Iran. United Nations human rights mechanisms have repeatedly and consistently expressed their great concern at this persistent trend, and have urged the Government to end executions. A total of 41 of the 291 recommendations made to the Islamic Republic of Iran during its second cycle of universal periodic review concerned the death penalty (A/HRC/28/12).
On 28 October 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly expressed serious concern at the large number of executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and called upon the authorities to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty. At least 500 people are believed to have been executed from January to November of 2014, with some sources suggesting a considerably higher number.
Situation of women
The Secretary-General welcomes the gains made in higher education and health for women, as well as the efforts to integrate women in the socioeconomic sphere. Some of the positive steps taken include the establishment of a foundation for entrepreneurial development of women and cooperatives to alleviate poverty and female groups that assist female heads of households and provide self-employment loans and grants to women (see A/C.3/69/9, annex). In their comments on the present report, the Iranian authorities pointed out that measures to promote the political and socioeconomic status of women had been taken. They included the appointment of women affairs advisers to all ministries and governmental organizations, the establishment of a women and children’s rights protection centre in the judiciary, the appointment of female advisers to family courts, legislative reforms that promote the status of women and the creation of special funds in the Ministry of Justice for female victims of violence.
Despite the above-mentioned achievements, women only account for 16 per cent of the labour force (A/69/356, para. 64). According to the Global Gender Gap Index for 2014 of the World Economic Forum, the Islamic Republic of Iran ranked no. 137 out of 142 countries. Furthermore, men earn 4.8 times more than women (A/69/356, para. 67). With regard to women in ministerial positions, the Index ranked the Islamic Republic of Iran no. 105 out of 142 countries, and there are few women in managerial or decision-making roles (A/69/356, para. 69) – despite the emphasis that article 3 of the Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities in the Islamic Republic of Iran places on the right of women to equal wages, privileges and work conditions. The draft comprehensive population and family excellence plan, reportedly currently being considered by parliament, would further restrict the participation of women in the labour force. Preference for employment opportunities would be given, in order, to men with children, men without children, then lastly to women with children. Furthermore, teaching positions in higher education and research institutions would be reserved for qualified married applicants (A/69/356, para. 70).
Freedom of expression
The continued crackdown on media professionals, the pervasive restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression, including the closure of newspapers and magazines, and the ongoing monitoring, filtering and blocking of websites that carry political news and analysis raise great concern. Individuals who have expressed their views on social media or appeared in videos have been targeted and prosecuted. Some 5 million websites are currently blocked, and the Government is reportedly planning to implement “smart filtering”, which would further restrict content on the Internet (A/69/356, para. 22). The creation of a “national Internet”, announced in 2006, would further restrict users’ access to the global Internet. On 21 September, the Prosecutor General urged the Minister for Communication and Information Technology to immediately block messaging services such as Viber, Tango and WhatsApp, which, he claimed, were being used to disseminate derogatory remarks about the Supreme Leader. According to a report on the website of the news agency Khabaronline (www.khabaronline.ir), on 12 September the Head of the State cyber-police force warned that private messages on Viber and WhatsApp could be monitored and that persons circulating “insulting comments” about the Supreme Leader and other officials would be “dealt with” accordingly.
Freedom of assembly
On 31 October 2014, in his statement to the Human Rights Council, Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani reported on the proactive role played by more than 17,000 civil society groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the promotion and protection of human rights. He also stated that more than 230 political parties, 400 trade unions and specialized associations, as well as 60 religiously affiliated societies, were active in the country.

Treatment of religious and ethnic minorities
The Secretary-General remains concerned at reports about the situation of religious and ethnic minorities, which continue to endure abuses and discrimination. The President and other high-profile officials have publicly pledged to ensure equality, to uphold freedom of belief and religion, to extend protection to all religious groups and to amend legislation that discriminates against minority groups. In their comments on the present report, the Iranian authorities pointed out that the Constitution provides equal rights to all and that no person is prosecuted on the basis of their affiliation to a particular religious or ethnic minority group.
Reports of incitement targeting the Baha’i faith and its adherents, and the destruction of sites of religious and cultural value, such as cemeteries, are of serious concern. In a press statement issued on 4 September 2014, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief urged the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take urgent action to stop the destruction of a Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz by Revolutionary Guards. He stressed that attacks on Baha’i cemeteries were in violation of the freedom of religion or belief, because they were an essential part of how people exercise and manifest their right to freedom of religion or belief and their significance goes beyond their physical presence. In their comments on the present report, the Iranian authorities pointed out that burial in the cemetery had been banned since 1981 and that a substitute cemetery had been designated for Baha’is in Shiraz. They added that the destruction of the cemetery was based on public health reasons, not to denigrate the Baha’i faith.
Click here for the full report
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Poll: Majority of Americans Back Nuke Deal

Americans broadly support direct negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program, according to a new poll by CNN and ORC International. But they are split across party lines regarding the open letter to Iran’s leaders signed by 47 Republican senators. The letter warned that a nuclear deal signed during President Barack Obama’s tenure could be revoked by the next president or modified by a future Congress. The following are key results from the survey.

•68 percent of Americans support direct negotiations, including 77 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of independents
•29 percent oppose direct negotiations
• 49 percent say the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran’s leaders went too far, including 67 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents
•39 percent say the GOP letter was an appropriate response to the way negotiations were going, including 52 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents
• 18 percent think the GOP letter helped U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons while 32 percent think the letter hurt those efforts
• 44 percent say the letter had no impact on negotiations
The poll, conducted March 13-15, included phone interviews with 1,009 Americans.
Click here for more information.

The majority of Americans favor a potential nuclear deal with Iran, according to a new survey by Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull in the Program for Public Consultation and the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. More than 60 percent of respondents support a deal that would limit Iran’s enrichment capacity and impose inspections in exchange for lifting some sanctions. The poll was conducted Feb. 19-25, 2015, with a sample of 710 adults.The following are excerpted key findings from the poll.

"In this survey a representative sample of Americans were presented the two primary options that have dominated this debate:
· For the US to continue to pursue an agreement that would accept some enrichment by Iran, but with substantial limits that would preclude Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and intrusive inspections to ensure those limits are met, in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
· For the US to not accept any Iranian enrichment. Instead, the US would continue trying to get other nations to impose new economic sanctions in an effort to persuade Iran to cease enrichment completely.
While majorities found arguments for both options at least somewhat convincing, when asked to make their final recommendation, a clear majority of 61% recommended making a deal with Iran that would include a limited enrichment capacity for Iran. This included 61% of Republicans, 66% of Democrats and 54% of independents. The alternative of increasing sanctions in an effort to get Iran to stop all uranium enrichment was endorsed by 36%."
"Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents all made this same judgment. Republicans chose continuing negotiations by 61 to 35%, while Democrats favored it by 66 to 32%. A relatively more modest majority of Independents favored a deal by 54 to 42%.
This response was essentially the same as when PPC took respondents through the exact same process and found 61% favored a deal and 35% favored pursuing sanctions. Partisan variations were not significantly different. In the current survey, among the 9% of the sample who identified themselves as very sympathetic to the Tea Party, a plurality of 46% favored pursuing a deal with 41% opposed. Those somewhat sympathetic to the Tea Party were no different from the sample as a whole.
Among those who watch Fox News daily (13% of sample) views were divided, rising to 55% in favor of a deal for those who watch it 2-3 times a week. There was no significant effect for watching MSNBC.
The strongest effect was among those who watch a Christian news network at least 2-3 times a week or more. Among this group only 26% favored a deal while 58% favored pursuing sanctions.
Respondents were also asked what they thought the effect of making a deal would have on the fight against the Islamic State. A majority of 63% said it would make no difference, but more (23%) said it would help, than said it would hurt (13%). Partisan differences were insignificant.
Click here for the full report
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Senators Seek Congressional Review of Any Nuclear Deal with Iran

On February 27, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced a bill that would require the president to submit the text of an Iran nuclear deal to Congress for review. The act would also prohibit the Obama administration from suspending congressional sanctions on the Islamic Republic for 60 days.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said that the bipartisan legislation a “creates a responsible review process that will allow Congress the opportunity to approve or disapprove the agreement before the administration could attempt to remove these sanctions.”
But the administration has threatened to veto any new legislation on Iran while negotiations are underway. "The president has been clear that now is not the time for Congress to pass additional legislation on Iran," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told ABC News. "If this bill is sent to the president, he will veto it." Corker said the White House reaction was “disappointing.”
The following are excerpts from a press release on “The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015” with a link to the full text.
“There are few national security priorities for our country more important than preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and any agreement that seeks to do this must include Congress having a say on the front end. Allowing Congress to play its critical and historic role of reviewing international agreements will help, not hinder, these negotiations by ensuring any comprehensive agreement is verifiable and will stand the test of time,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It is important that we preserve the integrity of the congressional sanctions, so this bipartisan legislation creates a responsible review process that will allow Congress the opportunity to approve or disapprove the agreement before the administration could attempt to remove these sanctions.” 
“If a nuclear deal is reached, Congress will have an opportunity to review the agreement and more importantly, ensure its compliance after it goes into effect.  This legislation establishes that vital review and oversight process," said Menendez.
“The stakes of these negotiations with Iran are so important to our own national security that Congress should review and vote on any agreement before it becomes binding,” said Graham.  “It would be a blessing if the Obama Administration were to strike a good deal which controls the Iranian nuclear ambitions.  A bad deal however, will be a nightmare for the region, Israel, and own our long-term national security interests.”
“I am a strong supporter of President Obama's effort to find a diplomatic path to guarantee that Iran does not have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon,” said Kaine, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “The interim deal reached by the P5+1 has been good for the United States – and the world – because it has rolled back the Iranian program and given us unprecedented inspection rights to make sure Iran is meeting its obligations. The content of any final deal is of great significance to the national security of the United States, our allies, and to international peace and stability. Iran is fully aware that its ultimate goal – elimination of statutory sanctions created by Congress – will require Congressional approval. 
But long before Congress considers that repeal, a deal with Iran will involve up-front relief from a sanctions regime that was approved by Congress and implemented by the Administration. I believe Congress should weigh in on the content of the deal given the centrality of the congressional sanctions to the entire negotiation and the significant security interests involved.  This legislation sets up a clear and constructive process for Congressional review of statutory sanctions relief under a standard that is appropriately deferential to the executive branch negotiating the deal. I wish the P5+1 negotiators well in this final phase of negotiation and hope to work with my colleagues to provide support for a  diplomatic deal that effectively ends Iran's nuclear ambitions.”
The legislation also is cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D- Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Angus King (I-Maine).
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 contains the following key provisions:
  • Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.
  • No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions for 60 Days: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for 60 days. During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of approval, or no action, within the 60-day period would allow the President to move forward with congressional sanctions relief. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (overriding a presidential veto) within the 60-day period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.
  • Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to assess Iran’s compliance with the agreement every 90 days. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement.
Click herefor the full text of the bill.

Gallup: Iranians Hopeful for Nuclear Deal

Iranians are more optimistic that the ongoing nuclear talks will produce an agreement than they were in May 2013, according to a new Gallup poll. Around 70 percent of Iranians are at least "somewhat hopeful" a deal will be reached, compared to 58 percent in 2013. More than 1,000 Iranian adults were surveyed. The following are key findings from the poll.

As the Iranian negotiators meet next week with their international counterparts for another round of talks ahead of the June 2015 deadline for a final deal, residents of Iran remain cautiously optimistic about the eventual outcome and solidly support their country's national nuclear program. The Iranian leadership under President Hassan Rouhani has promised to improve average Iranians' economic lot. Achieving a nuclear deal with the Western powers will not be a panacea for Iran's economic woes, but the country is under pressure to try to strike a balance between attaining an international agreement on the one hand and maintaining Iranians' national pride in pursuing the nuclear program and securing economic prosperity on the other.

Although Iranians were only asked about the talks between the EU and Iran, there are also bilateral talks between the U.S. and Iran and talks between what is known as the P5+1 group: the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., France and Germany. Because of the overlap of these conversations, Iranians might have been thinking of any combination of these groups when answering the question about "current talks."

Iranians' support for developing the country's nuclear program has continued to increase. Seventy-five percent of Iranians believe Iran should continue to develop its nuclear power capabilities, up from 68% in the previous survey.

Iranians, however, remain divided on the ultimate intention of the country's nuclear program. More than half of Iranians (56%) approve of Iran developing its own nuclear capabilities for non-military use. Support for developing such capabilities for military use is somewhat lower, with 42% of Iranians approving. Iranians' approval on each of these issues has not changed much since Gallup started asking these questions in 2011.

Click here for the full report

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