Foreign policy luminaries urge Congress to hold off on Iran bills

Foreign policy luminaries urge Congress to hold off on Iran bills
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More than 50 foreign policy luminaries, in a statement on Tuesday, applauded progress made on an nuclear deal with Iran and urged members of Congress to hold off on any legislative action that could affect reaching a final deal by June 30.  

"We welcome the announcement that the U.S. government and other major world powers have reached a framework accord to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," said the statement, published by the Iran Project.  

"In view of this hopeful progress, we call on the U.S. Congress to take no action that would impede further progress or undermine the American negotiators’ efforts to complete the final comprehensive agreement on time," the group said.  

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The statement is signed by former senior government officials, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright, former Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and retired Navy SEAL Adm. Eric Olson.  

The statement said, while "technical details are still to be fully resolved, important U.S. objectives have been achieved.” 

Those objectives include limiting uranium enrichment and plutonium production, reducing Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, "broad and sweeping inspections," and a two-thirds reduction in installed centrifuges, they wrote. 

The statement also acknowledged that "important, difficult, and ambiguous issues still remain,” including how Iran's current stockpile will be dealt with, how Iran will address concerns on the past military dimensions of its nuclear program, and how sanctions on Iran will be lifted. 

Still, they said, the framework represents "important progress toward our goal of blocking an Iranian nuclear weapon."

"Before members of Congress or its committees decide to act on this matter, we urge them to hold hearings so that the framework can be fully discussed and debated," they wrote.  

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on a bill on April 14, which would require the president to submit any final deal to Congress and allow Congress to review the deal for 60 days before the suspension or waiving of any congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran.

The bill is expected to pass the committee but will have to garner the support of at least 13 Democrats to achieve a veto-proof majority on the Senate floor. So far, 11 Democrats have expressed support for the legislation.

The White House has threatened to veto any Iran bills before June 30, and in recent days, has begun a push to urge members of Congress to hold off on any action before then. 

The statement said after a final agreement is reached, Congress will play a “central role,” since the removal of sanctions would require congressional action.  

Acting on legislation before the talks conclude would “most likely cause the negotiations to be broken off and rule out a final agreement,” they said.  

The repercussions “could be grave,” the statement said, including unraveling international cooperation on sanctions, and triggering the unfreezing of Iran’s nuclear program and a race for a nuclear bomb. 

“Such a situation could enhance the possibility of war,” they wrote.

Other signatories of the letter include Graham Allison, Amb. Michael Armacost, former National Security Advisers Samuel R. Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Amb. Nicholas Burns, Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney (Ret.), Joseph Cirincione, Chester A. Crocker, Amb. Ryan C. Crocker, Suzanne DiMaggio, Amb. James Dobbins, Robert Einhorn, Adm. William J. Fallon (Ret.), Michèle Flournoy, Leslie H. Gelb, Amb. William Harrop, Stephen B. Heintz, Carla A. Hills, James Hoge, former Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum (R-Kansas), Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney (Ret.), Amb. Daniel C. Kurtzer, former Sen. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home House Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (D-Mich.), Amb. Winston Lord, Amb. William Luers, Jessica T. Mathews, Amb. William G. Miller, Amb. Richard Murphy, Vali Nasr, Joseph Nye, George Perkovich, Amb. Thomas R. Pickering, Paul R. Pillar, Amb. Nicholas Platt, Joe R. Reeder, William A. Reinsch, Amb. J. Stapelton Roy, Barnett Rubin, Gary Samore, Rear Adm. Joe Sestak (Ret.), Gary Sick, former Rep. Jim Slattery (D-Kansas), Anne-Marie Slaughter, Adm. James Stavridis (Ret.), James Walsh, Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson (Ret.), former Sen. Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.), Amb. Frank G. Wisner, and Gen. Anthony C. Zinni (Ret.).