Rand Report Examines Congress’s Role in Implementing a Nuclear Deal with Iran

February 13, 2015, Washington D.C. – Rand Corporation recently released a comprehensive non-partisan report entitled, “The Days After a Deal with Iran: Congress’s Role in Implementing a Nuclear Agreement,” as part of a series of Rand perspectives that explore what the “Days After a Deal” between the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran, might look like for a variety of actors and issues around the Middle East. The report, authored by Senior International Policy Analyst, Larry Hanauer, considers a range of possible roles Congress could play in the implementation of a final agreement with Iran.

According to Hanauer, the president has extensive authority under the law to provide sanctions relief to Iran as part of a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Nevertheless, Congress can take a range of steps to facilitate, hinder, or even block the executive branch’s efforts to relieve economic sanctions. The report outlines Congress’s options for shaping the implementation of a nuclear agreement with Iran, and assesses the likelihood and impacts of each.

It highlights a range of congressional actions that could affect the implementation of a nuclear deal anywhere from a full facilitation of a deal to total blockage. The report predicts that Congress will most likely take a middle-of-the-road approach – either by taking no action at all, or by imposing snap-back penalty sanctions that go into effect only if Iran fails to keep its commitments to the deal. 

Some reasons why Congress may take no action at all include: partisan gridlock, the inability of Congress to secure a veto-proof majority, or the political motivations of Congress to keep a controversial national security issue alive through the 2016 presidential election. In this case, the president would be able to use his presidential waiver authority to provide sufficient sanctions relief to Iran unimpeded by Congress.

Alternatively, Congress could pass new legislation that reinstates suspended sanctions on Iran, or pass additional sanctions if, and only if, Iran fails to comply with the agreement. Such legislation may be the only action that the administration would support because Iran would only be penalized for cheating on an agreement. Furthermore, the report points out that the looming threat of punitive sanctions could encourage Iran to pull through with its end of the deal.

The report also considers possible outcomes if Congress were to pass veto proof legislation that would derail a nuclear deal.  Any such legislation, it concludes, would likely ensure that Iran resumes high-level enrichment and could endanger international cooperation against Iran’s nuclear program.

The report does not predict what the actual final agreement would look like but bases its analysis on principles derived from the elements for a comprehensive solution found in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA)

PAAIA supports efforts to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the decade-long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program. We recognize the importance of ensuring that Iranian Americans are well-informed and aware of the positions held by their elected officials and others related to this matter. 

For the latest updates on the negotiations, please see our Nuclear Negotiations Resource Center.

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