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Why I Support the Iran Agreement

Sep 11, 2015
EC from DC

Like everything else in contemporary Washington, discussion of the Iran nuclear agreement has not been a noteworthy debate about policy, but rather a worthless exercise in Lilliputian politics.

When it became apparent that the House would vote on the agreement, I began to evaluate the available information and discuss the issue with many groups and individuals with undeniable strong feelings. After an extensive review of classified information and a discussion with President Barack Obama, I began to develop my own list of pluses and minuses. I even self-interrogated whether my decision making process was sufficient for the high stakes vote.

Ultimately, my decision was to support the agreement. I am as comfortable with this decision as any I have previously made.

The manner in which this agreement has been handled by the Legislative Branch has been unprecedented, unbecoming, and unsafe. Politics are tricky; the law of unintended consequences is often triggered when a legislative action is designed to negatively impact a specific President by imprisoning the Presidency as an institution.

As a lifelong supporter of Israel, you have my word that I will monitor the conduct of Iran as it relates to this agreement and will not hesitate to consider any and all options, including military action if there are violations. However, if Congress thumbs its nose at an agreement negotiated jointly by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), why would any world leader arbitrate with the leader of the free world in the future?

There is no evidence that any of the P5+1 participants would return to the negotiating table if the U.S. Congress aborts the agreement they found acceptable. In fact, British Ambassador Peter Westmacott responded to those who suggest a return to the negotiating table as ‘farfetched’. Germany’s Philipp Ackermann said that ‘the option of getting back to the negotiating table is close to zero’.

The House eventually held two votes on the deal, neither of which were the original intent of House Republicans when we began the week. After pulling their original plan on Wednesday, today we voted on a bill approving of the nuclear deal. I voted YES, but it was defeated, with 25 Democrats joining House Republicans in expressing opposition to the JCPOA (H.R. 3461). The House held a second vote on legislation (H.R. 3460) stating that the President could not unilaterally lift statutory sanctions. The measure was non-binding, and Senate Republicans have no plans to advance the bill. It passed the House without my support, 247-186.

This agreement has some flaws and is not perfect, but if we demand perfection, we are denying the essential qualities of negotiation and international engagement.


Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress