With Extension, Congress Must Let Negotiators Finish the Job

November 24, 2014

J Street Director of Government Affairs Dylan Williams released the following statement today in response to the announcement that negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and the terms of the interim agreement governing the talks had been extended to July 2015:

World powers and Iran have made important progress in negotiations to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. Significant gaps remain between the parties, however, and further negotiations are necessary to secure a good deal.

As diplomacy proceeds, those of us who would regard a nuclear-armed Iran as a serious threat to US, Israeli and global security should work to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains frozen and subject to daily inspection.

That is why attempts by some in Congress to legislate new sanctions or other measures that would violate and vitiate the interim agreement at this critical moment are dangerous and irresponsible.

Hardliners in Iran would love nothing better than for the United States Congress to sabotage the ongoing talks. The benefits of a US-forced breakdown in negotiations to Iranian extremists would be immense. The unprecedented restrictions and inspections that have locked Iran’s nuclear program in a box could disintegrate. The multilateral sanctions regime would likely collapse, opening Iran for business to Russia, China and others. And a breakdown could lead eventually to a military confrontation, exposing American men and women in uniform in the region to even graver threat.

Congress has an appropriate role in this historic diplomatic effort, but it is not to play politics with national security. Rather than risk undercutting our diplomats at the negotiating table, Congress should continue to engage in close, frequent and frank consultation with them on their progress. America’s negotiators deserve credit for halting and rolling back Iran’s nuclear progress. Congress must back them up as they work to finish the job.