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Publius / September 9, 2015

Iranian Parliament Has More Say Than Congress

Obama doesn’t meet obligations for congressional review.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and David B. Rivkin Jr., a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, assert in a recent Washington Post op-ed that Barack Obama has not met his obligation to present the Iran nuclear agreement to Congress because he has not included all the side deals. At least one such side deal, between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the Parchin Weapons Complex, is known to exist. Because of this failure to provide all the side deals, Pompeo and Rivkin argue the Iran deal cannot legally be implemented regardless of the looming vote in Congress.

> The act defines “agreement,” with exceptional precision, to include not only the agreement between Iran and six Western powers but also “any additional materials related thereto, including . . . side agreements, implementing materials, documents, and guidance, technical or other understandings, and any related agreements, whether entered into or implemented prior to the agreement or to be entered into or implemented in the future.” …

> However, because the president failed to submit the agreement in full, as the law requires, the 60-day clock has not started, and the president remains unable lawfully to waive or lift statutory Iran-related sanctions.

The full language of PL 114-17 can be found here.

This legalistic approach likely won’t have any impact on the rush to approve the Iran deal. First, the administration will argue that only side agreements to which the United States is party are covered by PL 114-17, not side deals between Iran and the IAEA. And more importantly, the administration has shown a blatant disregard for Congress and indeed the law for the last six years. Why would anyone expect them to change their spots now?

Moreover, Obama not only has the one-third minority necessary to sustain a veto of a resolution of disapproval, he now has the 41 Senate votes he needs to sustain a filibuster, which means he may not even have to issue a veto.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), one of the principal opponents of the deal but also the architect of the legislation that established such an upside-down review process, has expressed resignation that the deal will likely pass.

Pompeo and Rivkin will thus almost certainly be disappointed in their effort to cite the law in order to stop Obama from getting his deal across the finish line. But, as many have observed from the start, Obama’s short-sighted and nakedly self-serving decision to submit the deal as an executive agreement means it can be repealed the moment the next president takes office — which cannot come soon enough.

And, oh the irony — in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says that the Majlis (Iran’s parliamentary body) should debate and vote on the nuclear deal. “It is the representatives of the people who should decide,” he said. “I have no advice regarding the method of review, approval or rejection.” Notwithstanding the fact that every member of the Majlis has to be vetted and approved by the Guardian Council, which is in turn appointed by the supreme leader, before being allowed to run for office, only in Obama-world could the U.S. government ignore the will of two-thirds of the American people who oppose the deal, while Iran’s theocratic dictatorship allows its representatives to have their say. And it’s not quite a slam dunk that the Majlis will approve the deal, as its chairman, Ali Larijani, acknowledged in an interview on NPR this weekend. Still, it adds insult to self-inflicted injury to watch the administration trample the rights of Congress while the Iranian regime defers to the Majlis.

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