Former top officials urge Congress to back Iran deal

Former top officials urge Congress to back Iran deal
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A bipartisan group of 60 former U.S. government officials are encouraging Congress to support the nuclear deal with Iran and warning that rejecting it could pose a greater risk to U.S. security.

“We acknowledge that the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] does not achieve all of the goals its current detractors have set for it. But it does meet all of the key objectives,” said the statement Monday signed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisors Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft. 

“No agreement between multiple parties can be a perfect agreement without risks. We believe without this agreement, the risks to the security of the U.S. and its friends would be far greater. We have also not heard any viable alternatives from those who oppose the implementation of the JCPOA,” it added. 

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The signatories, who also include former Democratic lawmakers and one Republican senator, warned Congress against rejecting the deal.

Congress has 60 days to review the deal — a period that began on Monday, according to the State Department. 

Congress could do nothing and allow the deal to be implemented or pass a resolution of approval or disapproval. Voting to disapprove would block the deal from going into effect if lawmakers have two-thirds support to override a threatened veto from President Obama.

“The consequences of rejection are grave: the unraveling of international sanctions; U.S. responsibility for the collapse of the agreement; and the possible development of an Iranian nuclear weapon under significantly reduced or no inspections,” the statement Monday warned.

“A rejection of the agreement could leave the U.S. with the only alternative of having to use military force unilaterally in the future."

Former lawmakers who signed the statement include Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle (S.D.), Gary Hart (Colo.), Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump's crush on foreign autocrats threatens democracy at home OPINION: Congress must press forward with its Russia investigation Democrats and Republicans share blame in rewriting the role of the Senate MORE (Mich.), George Mitchell (Maine), Donald Riegle (Mich.), Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (Colo.), Tim Wirth (Colo.), and former Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (Kansas). Former Democratic Reps. Lee H. Hamilton (Ind.) and Jim Slattery (Kansas) also signed the statement.

"We urge members of Congress to be closely involved in the oversight, monitoring and enforcement of this agreement. As Congress was so diligent and constructive in pressing forward the highly effective sanctions regime that helped get Iran to the table, it must now play a key role in the implementation of the agreement which they helped bring about," it said.

Top former defense, military and intelligence officials also signed the letter, including Michele Flournoy, former under secretary of Defense for policy, retired Adm. Eric Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, William Perry, former defense secretary, and Paul R. Pillar, National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia.

However, only one of five top Obama administration officials who signed a June 24 statement warning against a weak deal and outlining key goals also signed Monday's letter. That official is Robert Einhorn, a former Iran deal negotiator. 

The earlier statement was also signed by Gary Samore, coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction; Dennis Ross, special assistant to the president and senior National Security Council official; former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus; and retired Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

It had urged that: "Congressional review of any agreement should precede any formal action on the agreement in the United Nations."

On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved the deal despite opposition on Capitol Hill where lawmakers say Congress should weigh in first.