Proposed Senate bill would plug Iran
Sen. Corker’s bill seeks to set preconditions for final-status agreement, as well as reinforce 240-day deadline for talks
Corker’s bill, the Iran Nuclear Compliance Act of 2013, seeks to both keep pressure on Iran during continued negotiations, and prevent the interim agreement from being adopted as a final status agreement.
The bill, the details of which were released Saturday, would put pressure on the administration’s vague timetable for completing the negotiations. Although initially described as establishing a six-month interim period for continued negotiations, the Geneva talks did not conclude with a solid deadline for coming to a final agreement.
Instead, there is no clear start date for the six-month period, and that period can be extended for an additional six months pending the mutual consent of both parties. Corker’s bill would require an immediate return of all sanctions if an acceptable final deal isn’t reached within six months – or after confirmation of Iran’s noncompliance at any point in the talks.
Corker’s office noted that “the interim deal reached in Geneva with Iran weakens the leverage necessary for a strong final deal, legitimizes Iran’s enrichment activities, and provides Iran more time to further develop its nuclear weapons program.” It also called on Congress to “reject any guarantee of enrichment.”
The bill would provide the president 60 days to negotiate an interim deal and a further 180 days — as he has requested — to make an appropriate final deal. At the conclusion of the 240 days, all sanctions that had been lifted as part of the interim deal would be reinstated automatically. The current timeline is less clear, with reports that the six month-long interim period will not begin until at least January.
The bill also fulfills its original purpose, conceived weeks before US President Barack Obama announced an interim agreement with Iran last Saturday night. Corker originally sought out to impose conditions for the terms of any negotiated settlement with Iran – and this bill details eight such requirements.
The bill would require that a final agreement include the full suspension of all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities; full suspension of all heavy-water (plutonium-related) activities; a cessation of all construction of uranium enrichment and heavy-water facilities; full compliance with the IAEA’s monitoring and inspection activities; full access to certain military nuclear-related facilities; full suspension of ballistic missile and nuclear delivery activities; a full accounting of all nuclear weaponization activities; and full suspension of all nuclear weaponization activities.
Although when he floated it initially, Corker’s bill seemed to be a non-starter in the Democrat-controlled Senate, it now reflects growing critiques of the P5+1 interim deal.
The day after the deal was announced, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) voiced his displeasure with the agreement, complaining that through it, “Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions.”
“A fairer agreement would have coupled a reduction in sanctions with a proportionate reduction in Iranian nuclear capability,” he suggested.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has taken an increasingly combative tone toward the administration’s Iran policy. During a Wednesday interview with National Public Radio, the senator blasted White House press secretary Jay Carney’s description of the ongoing Senate push for additional sanctions as a “march to war.”
Menendez, who is likely to be one of the leaders pushing for such legislation when the Senate returns from Thanksgiving recess on December 9, complained that “what I don’t appreciate is when I hear remarks out of the White House spokesman that say … if we’re pursuing sanctions we’re marching the country off to war. I think that’s way over the top, I think that’s fear-mongering,” he said.
Menendez, like Schumer, has also criticized the interim agreement as insufficient, complaining that “we are going to roll back some of our sanctions, but they are rolling back nothing in their program, except for reducing the 20 percent enriched uranium to 3.5 or 5 [percent].”
The senator complained that the deal should have stopped the Iranian centrifuges and also that “the amount of enriched uranium that gets reduced doesn’t get reduced beyond the critical threshold level that is the jumping point in which you can get enough fuel enriched to create a nuclear bomb.”