A bipartisan group of members of Congress have taken a stand in support of the ongoing nuclear talks between the US, Iran and five other nations.
Some have made public statements, while others have signed pro-diplomacy letters. Should we add anyone to the list? Email us at foreignpolicy_at_fcnl.org.
See PDF here.
District of Columbia
Rep. Wasserman Schultz
Rep. Van Hollen
Rep. Lujan Grisham
Northern Mariana Islands
Rep. Duncan Jr.
Rep. Bernice Johnson
[...]at this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail. We note that the Intelligence Community's December 10, 2013 assessment states that "new sanctions would undermine the prospects of a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran."
Sens. Tim Johnson (SD), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Carl Levin (MI), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Barbara Boxer (CA), John Rockefeller (WV), Thomas Carper (DE), Patrick Leahy (VT), Ron Wyden (OR), Tom Harkin (IA)
The comprehensive sanctions put in place by Congress and the Obama Administration helped lay the groundwork for this interim agreement, which essentially freezes Iran’s nuclear weapons program in place in exchange for limited sanctions relief—relief that could and should immediately be withdrawn if Iran fails to live up to its end of the bargain.
I am deeply disappointed by the negative reactions we have been hearing from some of my colleagues to the preliminary agreement. No one should underestimate the enormity of this breakthrough, which provides for daily inspections at Iranian nuclear facilities.
The Administration has left every option on the table should this agreement falter, but we should work as hard as possible across party lines to support a diplomatic solution.
It’s critical that we continue to make progress in addressing Iran’s nuclear program.[...]The next six months will be critical, and if real progress is not made Congress stands prepared to act.
I think for now it’s appropriate to wait.
Now is not the time for a vote on the Iran sanctions bill.
I don’t believe that passing new sanctions or threatening new sanctions at this point is productive. We ought to let the negotiating process get underway.
Let’s go forward with the negotiation with our eyes wide open, but with inspectors on the ground we’ll be able to tell whether they’re in fact doing what they say they’re going to do.
The bottom line: If this body passes S. 1881, diplomatic negotiations will collapse, and there will be no final agreement.
I support the agreement reached today between the P5+1 countries and Iran, which I believe is a significant step toward solving one of the most difficult security challenges facing the world today...By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time.
While significant progress has been made, it is clear more time is needed to reach a final agreement. I strongly support an extension of these talks because a diplomatic agreement is far better than any alternative.
I've not signed onto the new sanctions bill here. I believe that if diplomacy can work, we ought to allow it to work.
I really support the ongoing negotiations with Iran. I think diplomacy is the best way to deal with this. I think we’ve set back their ability to get a nuclear weapon already.
4/2/2014: Remarks at Constituent Breakfast
This diplomatic breakthrough is exactly what it proclaims to be: a first step. Iran has been given an opportunity to show that it has negotiated with the international community in good faith and that further differences can be worked out through peaceful, diplomatic channels. While it helps allay fears of nuclear proliferation and paves the way for a more peaceful, stable Middle East; every commitment made by Iran must be upheld and independently verified.
The U.S. intelligence community has made clear that 'new sanctions would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.' I remain firmly committed to ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon and to exhausting every option before resorting to military force," Heinrich said in a statement. "The interim agreement made on Nov. 24, 2013 is such an option.
The agreement reached today is a positive first step to limit Iran's nuclear program. The United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, and the European Union have all worked to negotiate strict oversight, enforcement mechanisms, and daily inspections that are critical to overseeing this agreement.
The President and Secretary Kerry have made a strong case for a pause in Congressional action on new Iran sanctions, so I am inclined to support their request and hold off on Committee action for now.
While I am disappointed the P5+1 missed today’s deadline to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, I believe the extension announced today is better than the alternatives: an inadequate agreement that fails to sufficiently curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or a complete collapse of negotiations. The Joint Plan of Action has proved to be a successful interim measure, and I believe some extension is appropriate to allow time and space for further negotiations. Moving forward, I expect to see demonstrable progress toward a robust deal that blocks all potential pathways to a bomb and lays out a comprehensive inspections and verification regime, with no ambiguity on the consequences should Iran cheat.
This deal could bring us closer to a world less threatened by weapons of mass destruction. We should now press forward to do even more in pursuit of peace.
“I see very little upside and a huge downside” to new sanctions legislation.
I strongly support diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive agreement that addresses all outstanding issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.
Constituent Letter, 7/3/2014
I support the interim deal with Iran. It is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran's nuclear weapon ambition.
For us to impose additional sanctions under these circumstances (or threaten to impose additional sanctions) could be an “I told you so” moment for these hard-liners, providing the very excuse they’re looking for to kill the negotiations and, with them, what is probably the best chance we have of resolving this incredibly dangerous situation without resorting to military action.
...we’ve got to give peace a chance here and we’ve got to support this process.
I have always said that being a superpower means more than super military might; it means super diplomacy and super restraint...When a possibility for peace presents itself, no matter how distant or unlikely, we have an obligation to pursue it.
At this time I do not support additional sanctions legislation because I share the views of many foreign policy experts that it could undermine the ongoing negotiations and weaken our multinational coalition, ultimately making less likely our goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Constituent Letter, 1/10/2014
While I am disappointed that there was not a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached today in Vienna, the decision to extend the negotiations is a far better outcome than a bad deal or no deal at all. President Obama has consistently said the United States would not accept an agreement that did not place sufficient constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. The US negotiating team and our partners in the P5+1 made significant progress over the last year, but significant gaps remain on key issues. It is worth taking the time to continue these negotiations in the interest of achieving a better deal.
What we would risk doing here in implementing a new round of sanctions is not just screwing up the negotiation, but sending a message to the Iranian people — who are frankly way more pro-American than people might think — that we aren’t really serious about ultimately doing the deal they want...The hard-liners are isolated right now in Iran, and we are, frankly, going to empower them if we show up with the table in the middle of these short-term negotiations with a new round of sanctions that even though they may take place in the future.
I believe the Administration should be given time to negotiate a strong, verifiable comprehensive agreement.
The secretary of State has said that [sanctions] will hurt him in the negotiations, and I believe the secretary of State.
It is a choice between a pause or imminent war. I choose a verifiable pause.
I think while they’re negotiating, and if we can see that they’re negotiating in good faith, I don’t think it’s a good idea to pass sanctions...
...I think that any negotiation has to be a give and take and you have to allow the negotiators to reach a position and then evaluate if it is effective.
We all have to acknowledge that it’s an important first step.
I think we should, on Iranian sanctions, let the dust settle. I think we should all feel good that an agreement was reached to move further. Now, I don’t know if there’s going to be a final agreement. I certainly hope so, but I don’t know...But before we start talking about additional sanctions, let’s just let the dust settle for a little while.
The initial interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is an encouraging first step, and I urge my colleagues not to put it at risk by passing new sanctions right now...To me, this is a very clear-cut case, and I frankly do not understand why more of us Senators are not saying so.
Introducing additional sanctions at this point could jeopardize the important progress that this agreement makes.
Clearly the sanctions have brought Iran to the table, but if increased sanctions end up driving them from the table, helping the hard-liners in Iran, that would be negative.
We’ve got to mistrust but verify whatever the arrangement is. And then secondly, I think diplomatic efforts ought to have a chance to play out. I’ll be the first one in line to put additional sanctions in place if the Iranians back away or they become mischievous as they have been, but right now, I think the administration’s call for some room to negotiate is the right place to be.
Interim deal...is a promising first step towards achieving our goals in the region.
I am concerned that imposing additional sanctions while the United States is in the midst of negotiations risks undermining our negotiators and reducing both Iran's willingness and its ability to strike a long-term agreement.
Constituent Letter, 1/17/2014
It is only an opening step, as two sides begin to emerge from decades of enmity. Ultimately the Iranian nuclear weapons program must be fully shut down, and blind trust on our part would not be wise. With proper follow-up, however, this could mark an historic turning point toward a more peaceful world. I commend Secretary Kerry and the President.
...I have come to the conclusion that enacting additional sanctions now would risk jeopardizing the progress that has already been made. While I remain skeptical that this Iranian regime will ultimately make the tough choices necessary to reach a longer-term deal, I believe the United States must take this opportunity to avert a more serious confrontation.
Constituent Letter, 9/29/2014
"As Members of Congress who share your unequivocal commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, we urge you to pursue the potential opportunity presented by Iran's recent presidential election by reinvigorating U.S. efforts to secure a negotiated nuclear agreement".
See full list of signers.
"[...]we believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance [with Iran]. A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided".
See full list of signers.
...we were told about the agreement, and I think it's an important step forward... This is the first step toward a broader comprehensive deal that is going to be negotiated over the next 6 months. So, I think, I am in favor of peace, I want them to not have the nuclear capacity, and I think this is an important step forward.
We agree that we should try [the deal] because the outcome of failure is probably one we don't want to see.
...one item should not be on the [House] agenda: an attempt to undermine the diplomatic breakthrough with Iran, the most encouraging development with that country in 34 years.
I absolutely support the president's diplomatic approach including targeted sanctions rather than military action.
Town Hall, 6/3/2014
This tentative agreement with Iran, reached in Geneva, is a positive step towards halting Iran's nuclear program. This interim agreement allows the international community to continue to work to ensure that no further progress is made toward Iran's nuclear capability and that Iran reverses some past actions that have enhanced this capability. After years of tension between our two countries, this appears to be a step in the right direction and I am hopeful and even cautiously optimistic that Iran will fully comply with the requirements of this interim agreement.
There’s only one safe and sensible way to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon—diplomacy. The temporary agreement reached last year has yielded real benefits for the US and the broader world. The choice is whether we continue to build on this success or return to mutually destructive confrontation. Denying our negotiators the time they need to secure an agreement would simply result in Iran unfreezing its nuclear program. While some advocate for additional sanctions, these measures would counterproductively embolden hardliners in Iran’s government and put us back on a path to war. Americans oppose the use of military force against Iran by a margin of 70 to 22, and for good reason: War with Iran would be disastrous for US interests and carry unacceptable costs in terms of lives and treasure. Americans know that we must give diplomacy a full opportunity to succeed so we can direct our limited resources towards urgently-needed rebuilding here at home.
The obstinate objections to the Interim Agreement were proven to be unjustified. The International Atomic Energy Agency has determined that Iran has taken verifiable actions to halt the progress of its nuclear program and roll back key aspects. Let’s give peace a chance.
Those here who would interfere or limit these negotiations are really offering the American people only on alternative: it is called war. We have been there and done that before. Military action in Iraq cost us very dearly; it did not make us safer. Let's not repeat this deadly mistake. While difficult and uncertain, diplomacy is already eliminating chemical weapons from Syria. It represents our best hope to prevent nuclear weapons in Iran and assure the safety of our family and others around the world.
With continued careful monitoring and more tough negotiating, this extension offers an opportunity to advance our security objectives by finalizing a solid alternative to war. Congress must not impede the progress.
New sanctions stand to kill any hope for diplomacy.
We have a chance to set a new course, a new path instead of the collision course. We have an off-ramp, an off-ramp of peace, diplomacy and international cooperation and we must take it. This is our best opportunity in 30 years to advance the interests of the United State vis-à-vis Iran. It is our best chance to make sure that the Middle East is free and as safe as possible of nuclear weapons.
If negotiators need more time to reach a comprehensive agreement, we should support them, not make it harder for them to do their jobs by passing more sanctions. It is in America’s best interest to continue on the path of diplomacy.
Yes, this [deal] is a very significant step. It's filled with risk but I think it's always important to try diplomatic solutions as best you can.
I support the talks and negotiations currently taking place with Iran.
Congratulations to President Obama, Secretary Kerry and everyone involved in the successful Iranian nuclear negotiations. Diplomacy, not invasion - that's what real leadership is about.
News of a four month extension in negotiations with Iran means the prospect for an Iran without nuclear ambitions is still very possible. It also means peaceful and normalized relations are well within the scope of possibility. I am encouraged to see all parties involved continue the momentum towards that goal, and encourage them to take the time, space and steps needed to succeed where others have failed.
Diplomacy with Iran has already made the world a safer place. This new, although tenuous, dialogue with Iran offers real possibilities for change. We have a responsibility to seize the moment, and not let some fearful naysayers here or anywhere else stop these talks that are vital to America’s national interests and, indeed, to world peace.
Today’s agreement to keep negotiating an end to Iran's nuclear weapons program will permit the Administration to continue its two-track approach to dismantling Iran's nuclear weapons capability and ensuring robust and aggressive verification of any agreement.
[FCNL Note: Israeli and U.S. intelligence has verified that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapons program]
Today’s agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, albeit short-term, is potential progress. This development represents an opportunity for Iran as it seeks to rejoin the global community.
On tonight’s announcement from President Obama on the deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program, we must note the significance, but also recognize that there are challenges ahead. This is indeed a triumph for diplomacy, and I’m pleased that President Obama reasserted Congress’ role in these negotiations. It is my hope that this deal is a step towards a more peaceful and secure world.
Last year’s first-step deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program was a diplomatic victory that directly reduces Iran’s ability to achieve breakout capacity. This extension will continue to restrict Iran’s nuclear capability while creating the diplomatic space and time for a long-term deal that supports U.S. national security interests and a more peaceful and secure world.
I support the President's efforts to negotiate an agreement...
I applaud President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, along with our international partners, for negotiating a significant step towards peacefully achieving a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. With on-going sanctions in place, improved verification, and real accountability demanded from the Iran regime, this initial deal is a triumph for engagement and tough diplomacy. Getting to a comprehensive agreement will be difficult, but this deal allows Iran to demonstrate to the world that they reject the pursuit of nuclear weapons.
I welcome the news that American, Iranian, and P5+1 negotiators will extend their talks until June 30, 2015 with the hope of organizing a framework as early as March. U.S.- Iranian relations have markedly improved since negotiations began one year ago; it is imperative we maintain that positive momentum.
Many in Congress will see this as the end of the road, the signal to toughen up already crippling sanctions. That would be the wrong move, a slap in the face to a year’s worth of hard fought and honest negotiations by U.S. diplomats. Worse still, it could prompt Iran to drive its nuclear program back under ground, bringing us right back to the perilous situation we were faced with one year ago.
Reinvigorated diplomatic engagement remains the best option to achieve two goals that are critical for U.S. interests in the Middle East: preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and preventing a military strike against the country that could escalate to a wider war.
The interim framework agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran is a critical first step toward a comprehensive deal to address Iran's nuclear program. I am encouraged by this progress after a decade of impasse. The agreement addresses the most pressing areas of immediate concern and will verifiably freeze Iran's nuclear program, diminish its capabilities, increase transparency, and allow daily access and increased monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is reasonable that in exchange for this modest breakthrough to limit and curb Iran's program there will be modest and reversible sanctions relief. This historic understanding is a diplomatic breakthrough that enhances the value of multilateral cooperation, and directly advances the security interests of the United States and our allies. That is why it deserves support that will allow forward movement in the near term as work continues toward a more comprehensive deal.
Iran is further away from developing a nuclear weapon than it was last Friday. This is only a first step towards ending the conflict, but it is an historic moment that lays the groundwork for a comprehensive and durable resolution.
The constant clamor in Congress for ever tougher sanctions against Iran has at times obscured the fact that economic sanctions are but one tool among many elements of statecraft necessary to enhance our security and advance our interests. President Obama's overtures to the Iranian people in 2009 set the stage for this weekend's milestone agreement.
It is critical that Congress take no action that undermines the Administration’s diplomatic efforts during this extension which was provided for under the Joint Plan of Action. I continue to be hopeful that an agreement can be reached which will avert the threat of a militarized Iranian nuclear program.
Nadler also sided with the president on the question of increased Iranian sanctions, saying Obama was right that a bill to ratchet up sanctions now, while the administration is in the midst of a six-month negotiating period, "doesn't make sense."
"I think the president is exactly right," said Nadler.
There are no guarantees that diplomacy will succeed, but I believe that we owe the citizens and soldiers of our country, as well as those of our regional partners like Israel, a responsible chance for it to work. It is a far better option than simply placing more sanctions on Iran, driving them away from the negotiating table and making plans for a costly and destabilizing military strike.
...Secretary Kerry and our international negotiating partners have set the stage for a permanent deal in the months ahead.
Last night's agreement is an essential step toward meeting our ultimate objective: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, their team, and our allies are to be commended for their successful efforts to hash out a deal that advances national, regional, and global security....This announcement marks a necessary bridge to further negotiations on a lasting, long-term, and comprehensive agreement. Through diplomacy, engagement, and unity among our allies, we must continue acting to end Iran's nuclear weapons program once and for all.
A new round of sanctions at this point could have the opposite effect, fracturing the international coalition that has been so critical to the sanctions’ success and thus unraveling the existing sanctions regime. This would actually weaken our negotiating leverage, and would give Iran the pretext to blame America if negotiations fail. Why would we give up our hand before we’ve had a chance to play it?
The P5+1 agreement does represent an opportunity – for negotiations toward a broader deal that decisively prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and, if that is achieved, for a new era of relations between Iran and the West.
Congress must also adhere to its commitments under the JPOA by holding off on passing any new sanctions. That is why it is such a crucial victory for diplomacy that the deal-breaking sanctions bill in the Senate remains stalled.
This growing support for a diplomatic solution in Congress was further evidenced by over 100 members of Congress signing the bipartisan “Give Diplomacy a Chance” letter earlier this year, endorsing the JPOA and negotiations toward a final deal.
"...he was not bothered by the fact that Iran can continue to enrich low level uranium as world powers work toward a comprehensive deal. "You're talking (about) a situation where most of the sanctions are still in place," he said adding that the agreement allows nuclear inspectors better access than they had before."
Yesterday’s deal is an important step toward preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability, and a major win for U.S. national security.
...if Iran’s new President can make good on his stated intention, the next six months could mark a turning point in our relations with Iran of historic significance
While I had hoped that we would have been able to reach a final deal, I support the extension of the interim deal that maintains a freeze on Iran’s nuclear program and makes progress towards a final deal. The President has made it abundantly clear through his words as well as his actions, that under his leadership the United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. I firmly support that goal, which is why I support the extension of negotiations.
This deal is a..."positive step in the right direction. The deal also puts in place an improved inspection, monitoring, and verification regime. This preliminary step should serve as a bridge to a long-term deal. This interim agreement gives us the chance to make significant progress towards the goal we and our allies seek: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
This is a very important first step toward the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
I commend President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Under Secretary Sherman and their team for the tremendous amount of work they put into these negotiations. This agreement provides a framework to stop the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran while we work to negotiate a broad, comprehensive deal to permanently dismantle their nuclear weapons capability.
People have well-warranted suspicions of Iran, but the question is do we want to talk and see if diplomacy works, when we have a guarantee that we're not giving them permission for a nuclear break-out?
So as a first step where we have these enforceable, intrusive inspections as a guarantee that there is no breakout, I think that is a worthwhile effort.
I welcome the opportunity for diplomacy, it is always preferable to sending our sons and daughters into harm's way. Let it never be forgotten that military action has its costs, certainly on the American taxpayer, but most importantly on the lives and families of the brave men and women we send into the battlefield. For that reason I am hopeful for peace, however President Rouhani's past actions and statements require a skeptical eye.
...I think that diplomacy is the big thing we need to do” [with Iran].
This article was originally published on November 25th, 2013.