Lawmakers want bigger say in Iran deal

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are upping the pressure on the White House to work with Congress before agreeing to any final deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program. 

Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) are collecting signatures on a letter to President Obama pointing out that any permanent agreement to lift sanctions on Iran must be approved by Congress. 

"As these hugely consequential national security decisions are made, greater cooperation between Congress and the Executive Branch is essential, given that any permanent sanctions relief demands congressional approval," the two write in the letter released Tuesday.  

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It is unclear if a final deal can be reached in the latest round of negotiations in Vienna between the United States, Iran and the other P5+1 countries. An interim deal was hashed out last year that lifted some minimal U.S. sanctions in exchange for Iran taking steps aimed at limiting its nuclear program. 

The administration has said it is committed to lifting nuclear-related sanctions as part of the deal, but the congressmen point out that most U.S. sanctions are intertwined with Iran’s other actions. Those include its ballistic missile program, its nonconventional weapons program and its support for international terrorism. 

"Iran's permanent and verifiable termination of all of these activities — not just some — is a prerequisite for permanently lifting most congressionally-mandated sanctions," the draft letter reads. 

The congressmen said this detail is often overlooked and will require "extensive engagement" and approval from Congress.

"With the July 20 negotiating deadline on the near horizon, we hope that your Administration will now engage in substantive consultations with Congress on the scope of acceptable sanctions relief," the letter says. 

Secretary of State John Kerry has previously said the administration would be required to secure legislative relief for sanctions, the letter points out. 

"We strongly agree with the Secretary’s assessment, and believe the final agreement must verifiably ensure that Iran is denied an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability," according to the letter.