FAQs on the Visa Waiver Restrictions (May 12, 2016)


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The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (H.R. 158) prohibits citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program from visiting the United States under the program if they are dual nationals of or have recently traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. It was signed into law on December 18, 2015, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of FY2016.

The original version of the bill restricted visa-free travel to the U.S. for any citizen of a VWP country who, since March 2011, has traveled to Iraq and Syria – the primary states where ISIS operates – or any other country that the Department of Homeland Security designates as having a significant Foreign Terrorist Organization presence. The legislation was amended to add countries that are designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism to the restricted countries list (Iran, Sudan, Syria), and to expand the restrictions to include not just persons who traveled to these countries but also to prohibit citizens of VWP countries who are also dual nationals of these countries from participating in the program.

These restrictions have provoked an outcry from the Iranian-American community, as well as Arab-American and civil-liberties groups, who say the restrictions on dual nationals and certain travelers are discriminatory and could be imposed against American dual nationals.

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate – the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016 (H.R. 4380/S. 2449) – to repeal the restrictions on dual nationals. NIAC Action and other groups have urged for passage of the legislation and additionally called for the Obama administration to utilize its waiver authority to ensure dual nationals and certain travelers to Iran are not restricted from the VWP.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can the visa waiver reform impact Iranian Americans?

The direct targets of the law include citizens of European Union or other VWP countries who also hold Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian dual nationality or who have visited these countries in the past five years. They are now required to apply for a visa in order to travel to the United States.

The law may potentially impact Americans who are dual nationals or have traveled to the “restricted” countries because the VWP operates on the basis of reciprocity. EU countries, for example, accept American travelers without a visa because we accepted EU travelers without a visa. However, because we now bar certain citizens from the VWP, the EU can respond by applying the same restrictions against Americans seeking to visit EU countries. As the bill targets dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria, it is possible that reciprocal measures would target dual nationals from those same countries living in the United States, including Iranian Americans.

The European Union already has laws in place to expedite reciprocal restrictions in the event that a third country imposes such restrictions on European nationals. In April 2016, the European Commission is set to consider a reciprocity mechanism that would suspend VWP travel to the European Union for all Americans for 12 months. It is unclear if such a suspension will be implemented, as the European Council and European Parliament would have up to 6 months to object before the suspension would go into effect. This reciprocity mechanism was initially triggered because a handful of EU states are not eligible for the VWP, in addition to other complaints. However, the recent restrictions on certain EU dual nationals and travelers further exacerbates existing divides between the EU and the United States over the VWP. Even if the EU chooses to forego full suspension of the VWP this year, such a course would not rule out the possibility of narrower reciprocation against certain categories of American travelers.

Why is NIAC saying Iranian Americans are being treated as second class if we are not currently being impacted by HR158?

It is true that Iranian Americans are not the direct targets of this law, but the law has opened up the Iranian-American community to reciprocation by VWP countries. At this time, it is not certain that the 38 VWP countries – including Europe – will choose to reciprocate. NIAC encouraged all 38 to abstain from reciprocating so that Iranian Americans are not treated as second-class citizens. Hopefully, this effort had an impact and reciprocation does not come to pass.

Even if it does not, the Iranian-American community has a vested interest in ensuring that Iranians outside the United States are not subject to discrimination from the US. Many Iranian Americans have family members in Europe and elsewhere who have been unable to visit their family in the U.S. due to the new visa restrictions. Further, if we permit discrimination against our community on the basis of national origin to stand, it could be easier for lawmakers to target the Iranian-American community directly in the future.

It doesn’t look like the EU is planning to reciprocate – aren’t they just addressing a separate issue regarding the exclusion of certain EU countries from the VWP?
The EU likely views the exclusion of EU states from the VWP as a greater problem than the restrictions on dual nationals, but the two issues are now intertwined. The EU has threatened to suspend the VWP for all American citizens for a year if visa requirements are not lifted for all EU citizens – including nationals of the five countries excluded from the VWP and dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. The EU could choose to suspend the entire VWP, though many view this as unlikely. Even if they choose to abstain from suspending the VWP in July, nothing precludes the EU from targeting American dual nationals directly, and this could be a more politically-viable step for the EU to take.

I am an American citizen or green card holder who is planning to visit Iran. Does this affect my ability to return to the United States?

No. The law does not bar U.S. citizens or green card holders from re-entering the United States after travel to Iran. It solely affects travel between the 38 countries participating in the VWP and the United States. Iran is not eligible for the VWP.

Will the restrictions affect Iranian citizens in possession of or seeking U.S. visas, or Americans seeking to travel to Iran?

The restrictions do not affect Iranian citizens in possession of or seeking a U.S. visa. Iran is not eligible for the VWP, so Iranian citizens who are not dual nationals of countries eligible for the VWP are not affected by this law.

The visa waiver reforms do not prohibit Americans from traveling to Iran. However, future reciprocal actions among European nations and other countries eligible for the VWP could bar Americans who have traveled to Iran or other restricted countries from traveling to those countries without a visa.

Do these changes impact Canadians?

No. Canada is not part of the VWP impacted by these new restrictions. Visa-free travel between Canada and the U.S. is permitted under a separate arrangement unaffected by the legislation.

Could the law impact the Iran nuclear deal?

The administration has offered a waiver for individuals who have traveled to Iran for permissible business under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), side-stepping concerns that the new law represented a backdoor sanction that would violate the JCPOA’s requirement that the U.S. and other parties “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.” Though Congress provided the administration with an open-ended waiver for the restrictions to protect law enforcement and national security interests, certain Republican lawmakers have expressed opposition to the administration’s use of the waiver, including to exempt JCPOA business.

Iran had protested the visa restrictions and signaled that it would file a complaint. Secretary Kerry, in a letter to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, indicated that the administration will implement the visa restrictions in a manner “so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran,” citing the waiver and other authorities available.

Will the administration offer waivers for dual nationals?

Currently, the administration has only offered to waive the restrictions for certain categories of individuals on a case-by-case basis. These include individuals who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, sub-national governments or a humanitarian NGO on official duty, or as a journalist for reporting purposes. Additionally, individuals who have traveled to Iraq or Iran for legitimate business-related purposes – the latter facilitated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – are also eligible for a waiver. The waiver process is facilitated through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is an electronic program that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S under the Visa Waiver Program and was updated to reflect the new restrictions in February.

Right now, no waivers have been extended to dual nationals, and the existing waivers do not appear to have been extended to dual nationals from VWP countries that would otherwise be eligible for the waiver categories listed above. For example, a dual national UK-Iranian who traveled to Iran as a journalist and holds dual nationality might not be eligible to receive a waiver. While the administration has stated that it “will continue to explore whether and how the waivers can be used for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan” – and some administration officials have even indicated that the dual national restrictions do not make us safer – the administration has not signaled that there will be any new waivers in the immediate future.

Are we making a difference?

Yes! NIAC Action staff and grassroots leaders have met with leading Senators and Representatives to make certain they are aware of the problems with the new restrictions. We have worked with a coalition of civil rights, Arab-American, and Iranian-American organizations to mobilize pressure to repeal the discriminatory restrictions. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to repeal the restrictions affecting dual nationals, and the administration has at least considered using its waiver authority for Iranian dual nationals.

NIAC Action grassroots teams and the entire Iranian-American community have been incredibly engaged in this effort, totaling more than 100,000 actions to date, which has given us a fighting chance to repeal the discriminatory restrictions.

How can this be resolved?

There are two main paths to overturn the visa restrictions:

Legislative repeal: Bipartisan legislation – the Equal Protection in Travel Act (H.R. 4380/S. 2449) – has been introduced in both the House and Senate to repeal the restrictions on dual nationals.

Executive action: The White House has waiver authority that can be utilized to waive restrictions on dual nationals and certain travelers to Iran. A House letter organized by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and signed by 25 other Representatives encouraged waivers for dual nationals and travelers to Iran, and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) led a Senate letter signed by 12 of his colleagues urging waivers for dual nationals. The administration has utilized the waiver for business, humanitarian, governmental, and journalist travel to “restricted” countries, but has not provided waivers for family, academic, or tourist travel. 


Elections 2016: Where do the Presidential candidates stand on Iran?

In President Obama’s final year in office, after seven years of engagement with Iran that took place in fits and starts, the United States and Iran secured a multilateral agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions. The sustainability of this historic agreement, as well as the scope of this new engagement between the two countries and the direction that the U.S. and Iran now take in relation to one another, will soon be in the hands of a new President.

We have analyzed the positions of the remaining candidates for the White House on three key issues – the nuclear agreement, sanctions, and U.S.-Iran relations more broadly – to help you determine how each candidate would lead the country into the unknown future of U.S.-Iran relations. 


ClintonHillary Clinton (Democrat)

Secretary Clinton supports the Iran nuclear agreement:

“With vigorous enforcement, unyielding verification, and swift consequences for any violations, this agreement can make the United States, Israel, and our Arab partners safer.” – Clinton statement after Iran deal announced, July 14, 2015

“As President, my approach will be to distrust and verify. I will vigorously enforce the nuclear deal as part of a comprehensive strategy that confronts all of Iran’s negative actions in the region and stand side-by-side with our ally Israel and our Arab partners.” – Clinton statement on Implementation Day, January 16, 2016

Clinton offered public support for the negotiations and eventual agreement at key moments in the political debate. Clinton weighed in with Congress against new sanctions legislation in early 2014, aiding the Obama Administration’s effort to block an attempt to undermine the nuclear talks. Clinton notably urged Democratic lawmakers to support the JCPOA when many in Congress were deciding whether they would vote to support or reject the final deal.

Clinton’s support for the agreement has come with caveats. She has stated that the United States should be willing to launch military strikes against Iran if the regime attempted to contravene the agreement and build a nuclear weapon. She said “I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Secretary Clinton describes Iran as a long-term strategic challenge to the United States:

“We need to be clear-eyed about what we can expect from Iran. This isn’t the start of some larger diplomatic opening. And we shouldn’t expect that this deal will lead to a broader change in their behavior.” – Clinton speech at Brookings Institute, September 9, 2015 

Clinton’s campaign has criticized Bernie Sanders for saying the U.S. should pursue normalized relations with Iran:

“I do not think we should promise or even look toward normalizing relations because we have a lot of other business to get done with Iran. Yes, they have to stop being the main state sponsor of terrorism. Yes, they have to stop trying to destabilize the Middle East, causing even more chaos.” – Clinton at Sixth Democratic Debate, February 11, 2016

“If we were to normalize relations right now, we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behavior. ” – Clinton at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

Clinton has also criticized Sanders for urging that Iran be included in a broad coalition to defeat ISIS, arguing that this will alienate Sunni allies that she says will be necessary to defeat ISIS:

“I think it would be a grave mistake to ask for any more Iranian troops inside Syria. That is like asking the arsonist to come and pour more gas on the fire.” Clinton at Third Democratic Debate, December 19, 2015

Clinton has advocated that the United States should seek to reassure U.S. allies in the region namely Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian Gulf monarchies – that the nuclear agreement will not change the nature of the U.S.-Iran relationship. Clinton has argued that the U.S. must confront Iran in order to convince Sunni Arab states to confront ISIS:

“The United States should also work with our Arab partners to get them more invested in the fight against ISIS. At the moment, they’re focused in other areas because of their concerns in the region, especially the threat from Iran. …We cannot view Iran and ISIS as separate challenges. Regional politics are too interwoven. Raising the confidence of our Arab partners and raising the costs to Iran for bad behavior will contribute to a more effective fight against ISIS.” – Clinton at Council on Foreign Relations, November 18, 2015

Clinton has also emphasized a five-point plan focused on building regional alliances to counter “Iran’s bad behavior in the region.” This will include continued military aid to Israel in particular, as well the Persian Gulf monarchies.

Clinton has highlighted her role in building international support for multilateral sanctions against Iran as Secretary of State and says they played a key role in the nuclear negotiations:

“As Secretary of State, I logged tens of thousands of miles and twisted a lot of arms to build a global coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. That unprecedented pressure delivered a blow to Iran’s economy and gave us leverage at the negotiating table, starting in Oman in 2012.” – Clinton statement, July 15, 2015

Clinton maintains that sanctions should continue to play a major role in the United States’ Iran strategy even as nuclear sanctions are lifted:

“Sanctions for terrorism, and other non-nuclear sanctions, must remain a key part of our strategy and must be vigorously enforced.” – Clinton statement, July 15, 2015

She emphasized this point by publicly calling for new ballistic missile sanctions to be imposed on the day the nuclear deal was implemented–action which the Obama Administration took.

Clinton has also suggested a willingness to work with Congress on additional sanctions legislation:

“I’ll hold the line against Iranian noncompliance. That means penalties even for small violations; keeping our allies on board, but being willing to snap back sanctions into place, unilaterally, if we have to; working with Congress to close any gaps in the sanctions. Right now members of Congress are offering proposals to that effect and I think the current administration should work with them to see whether there are additional steps that could be taken.” – Clinton speech at Brookings Institute, September 9, 2015

TrumpDonald Trump (Republican)

Trump routinely attacks the nuclear accord as a disaster and one of the worst deals he has ever seen. He’s commented that the deal is a “free $150 billion” for Iran and lamented that “we don’t get anything.” Trump also attended a “Stop Iran Deal Rally” on Capitol Hill, along with Donald Trump, during Congressional deliberations on the accord:

“The agreement was terrible. It was incompetent. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the worst contracts of any kind I’ve ever seen.” – Trump at Second Republican Debate, September 16, 2015

He has also indicated his belief that Iran will eventually get a nuclear weapon and that it will lead to regional proliferation:

“I think other people will arm with nuclear weapons, yes, based on this deal. Because if you look at it, Iran will end up being nuclear. Even if it’s not within the next fairly short period of time.” – Trump Meet the Press interview, August 16, 2015

Despite his rhetoric on the deal, Trump is one of two Republican candidates (the other being Kasich) who have not said they would nullify the deal on day one, instead vowing to “police the contract”:

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘We’re going to rip up the deal.’ It’s very tough to do when you say, ‘Rip up a deal.” – Trump Meet the Press interview, August 16, 2015

“But I’m really good at looking at a contract and finding things within a contract that even if they’re bad. I would police that contract (the Iran accord) so tough that they don’t have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.” – Trump Meet the Press interview, August 16, 2015

Trump has not offered a substantive vision for U.S.-Iran relations beyond asserting that he will bring about better outcomes for U.S. interests. Trump’s attacks on the Iran deal and the administration’s negotiating tactics often depict a zero-sum game in which Iran is defeating the administration:

“The Persians are great negotiators. They are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear. We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us. They are making an amazing deal.” – Trump CNN interview, July 9, 2015

Trump asserts that he would reverse this dynamic by being a stronger negotiator than the current Administration. He previously pledged that Americans detained in Iran would be freed on the first day of his presidency, and later took partial credit for the prisoner swap–attributing it in part to his rhetoric on the campaign trail:

“So I’ve been hitting them (Iran) hard and I think I might have had something to do with it,” (referring to the U.S.-Iran deal to swap prisoners). …

“First of all, it should have taken place three or four weeks ago, whenever the hell they started. Did you ever see an agreement (referring to the prisoner swap) take so long as this agreement? How long has this thing been going on? Years and years.” – Trump South Carolina rally, January 16, 2016

Trump called for the U.S. to increase sanctions on Iran in the midst of nuclear negotiations:

“The Persians are great negotiators. They are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear. We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us. They are making an amazing deal.”.” – Trump CNN interview, July 9, 2015

However, one of Trump’s chief criticisms of the nuclear agreement is that non-U.S. companies are making deals with Iran:

“All of these countries are going to do business with Iran. They’re going to make lots of money and lots of other things with Iran. And we’re going to do and we’re going to get nothing.” – Trump at Stop the Iran Nuclear Deal rally, September 9, 2015

“Iran is buying 114 planes from Airbus. Where is Boeing? Why couldn’t we make it so Boeing could sell planes to them?” – Trump at Des Moines rally, December 11, 2015

“Iran is going to buy 114 jetliners with a small part of the $150 billion we are giving them…but they won’t buy from U.S., rather Airbus!” – Trump statement on Twitter, January 17, 2016

Jill Stein (Green Party)


Dr. Jill Stein has voiced her support for the Iran nuclear deal and believes that the entire world should be free of nuclear weapons:

“US foreign policy needs to be a foreign policy based on international law, human rights, and diplomacy. So, what has happened here in the negotiations around Iran is a good example of diplomacy, but it needs to be massively expanded.” – Dr. Stein to Tasnim News Agency, August 4, 2015

Jill Stein is a signatory of a statement, “Women Support the Iran Nuclear Deal.”

While supporting the agreement, she has said that the “issue of the nuclear threat was concocted” by the U.S. and  tweeted, “The Iranian nuclear deal addressed a threat that does not exist according to all security agencies.”

Dr. Stein has called for improving relations with Iran, while expressing hope for democratic reform within Iran. She has been highly critical of U.S.-led regime change efforts, placing blame on the 1953 U.S.-supported coup of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh for the current state of U.S.-Iran tensions:

“Why did we develop conflict with the Iranians in the first place?” she asked. “It’s a glaring example of the disaster of regime change, sixty years later.” – Jill Stein to the American Herald Tribune on February 29, 2016.

Stein has said the nuclear agreement can be the beginning of resolving that conflicts, saying “There’s an enormous potential for engagement and peace.” – Dr. Stein to the American Herald Tribune on February 29, 2016

In a 2012 Stein criticized sanctions on Iran:

“That approach has been extremely unhelpful and we are not using diplomacy. If there are real threats to U.S. security then sanctions are warranted but I don’t see that Iran is threatening U.S. security right now. The issue of Iran is that it has the potential to build nuclear weapons, it does not have nuclear weapons right now. There are already illegal nuclear weapons in the region in Israel and Pakistan. We need a comprehensive and evenhanded policy. There are drastic violations of human rights right now amongst both our friends and our enemies. Creating a nuclear free Middle East is the only way we are going to stop the development of nuclear weapons.”-Dr. Stein in an interview with Taylor Peck in 2012

She has endorsed sanctions against Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, tweeting, “We need to impose sanctions against countries that fund terrorism, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar & Turkey.”

Gary Johnson (Libertarian)

Former Governor Gary Johnson has expressed mixed views on the Iran deal. In May he stated that he opposed the JCPOA:

“No, we should not have signed the Iran deal. We should not have unfrozen those assets.” – Johnson statement at the Libertarian National Convention, May 2016

In a later interview, he stated that he was a skeptic of the deal but harbored mixed feelings on it, while also acknowledging that at one point he had been very much in favor of the deal:

“So, I guess I’m a skeptic and at the same time, we do have plenty of monitoring capability, and we’ll just see what happens. So, I’m originally very much in favor, I’ve come to find out they fund terrorism, ok so now I’m a skeptic. It’s been signed, it’s been agreed to, so I’m skeptical. Let’s see what happens going forward.”

[Jay Rakow:] “Would you describe that more as being opposed?”

[Gary Johnson:] “I guess it’s really mixed feelings.” –Johnson statement on phone interview with ProCon.org June 24, 2016

As part of Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” series in September 2012, Johnson said he wanted to stop U.S. military interventions. He added:

“I believe that bombing Iran would produce 100 million more enemies that otherwise would not have existed.” – Johnson statement on Reddit in September 2012

In the same interview he also stated that he would “not close any windows of diplomacy [with Iran].”

Johnson has questioned the efficacy of sanctions against Iran:

“Crippling’ sanctions only cripples the Iranian people. That does NOT make us safer.” – Johnson’s twitter account on October 22, 2012

Johnson has also called for the trade embargo on Iran to be lifted but has criticized the unfreezing of Iranian assets as part of the JCPOA. He says the U.S. should have “opened up trade with Iran without unfreezing assets.” – Johnson, Libertarian Convention Floor 2016

Bernie Sanders (Democrat)

Senator Sanders supports the Iran nuclear agreement:

“I voted to support the Iran nuclear deal today because it is my firm belief that the test of a great nation is not how many wars we can engage in, but how we can use our strength and our capabilities to resolve international conflicts in a peaceful way. Does the agreement achieve everything I would like? No, it does not. But it is far better than the path advocated by Dick Cheney and the neo-cons who took us into Iraq in 2003. If Iran moves toward a nuclear weapon, all available options remain on the table. I think it is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed.” – Sanders statement, September 10, 2015

“While the agreement is not perfect, it is far better than the path we were on – with Iran developing nuclear weapons and the potential for military intervention by the U.S. and Israel growing greater by the day. If Iran does not live up to the agreement, sanctions can be reestablished and all other options remain on the table.” – Sanders policy position on campaign website

Sanders largely supports the agreement on the basis that it will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon “without going to war.” Sanders also emphasized the importance of how the deal opened up a dialogue between the two countries. “It doesn’t do us any good to not talk with our adversaries.”

Senator Sanders has urged that the United States should move towards eventually normalizing relations with Iran:

“I think what we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran. Understanding that Iran’s behavior in so many ways is something that we disagree with; their support terrorism, the anti-American rhetoric that we’re hearing from of their leadership is something that is not acceptable. On the other hand, the fact that we’ve managed to reach an agreement, something that I’ve very strongly supported that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and we did that without going to war. And that I believe we’re seeing a fall in our relationships with Iran is a very positive step. So if your question is, do I want to see that relationship become more positive in the future? Yes.” Sanders at Fourth Democratic Debate, January 17, 2016

Sanders was criticized by Secretary Clinton for his normalization comments, which Sanders said echoed the criticism leveled by Clinton against then-Senator Obama in 2007 regarding his endorsement of direct negotiations with Iran. Sanders said that the process of normalization would include resolving issues of terrorism, human rights and anti-Americanism, comparing the situation to that of Cuba:

“They are a sponsor of terrorism around the world and we have to address that. But you know, a number of years ago, people were saying normal relationship with Cuba, what a bad and silly idea. They’re Communists, they are our enemy. Well guess what? Change has come.” – Sanders at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

Sanders has frequently spoken out against U.S.-led intervention and regime-change efforts, including highlighting the 1953 coup in Iran:

“This has gone on 50 or 60 years where the United States has been involved in overthrowing governments. Mossadegh back in 1953. Nobody knows who Mossadegh was, democratically-elected prime minister of Iran. He was overthrown by British and American interests because he threatened oil interests of the British. And as a result of that, the shah of Iran came in, terrible dictator. The result of that, you had the Iranian Revolution coming in, and that is where we are today. Unintended consequences.” – Sanders at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

Sanders has said that Iran should be part of a broad coalition of Muslim states to defeat ISIS:

“Here’s something that I believe we have to do as we put together an international coalition, and that is we have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan — all of these nations, they’re going to have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are going to have to take on ISIS.” – Sanders at Second Democratic Debate, November 14, 2015

He has also urged that Iran must be included in a political solution to resolving the civil war in Syria, and has countered criticism from the Clinton campaign on this point:

“But I think in terms of our priorities in the region, our first priority must be the destruction of ISIS. Our second priority must be getting rid of Assad, through some political settlement, working with Iran, working with Russia.” – Sanders at Fourth Democratic Debate

“In terms of Iran and in terms of Saudi Arabia, of course they hate each other. That’s no great secret. But John Kerry, who is I think doing a very good job, has tried to at least get these people in the room together because both of them are being threatened by ISIS.” – Sanders at Fifth Democratic Debate, February 4, 2016

Sanders supported sanctions on Iran but eventually opposed attempts to pass new sanctions legislation in the midst of the Iran nuclear talks that the Obama Administration said would have ended those negotiations:

“Clearly the sanctions have brought Iran to the table. But if increased sanctions end up driving them from the table, helping the hard liners in Iran that would be negative.  How much more of the sanctions we can do is a question I just don’t know all the answers to right now.” – Sanders interview, December 6, 2013

Sanders has not offered public comments on whether he would support or oppose new sanctions since the the deal has been implemented, though he has stated that sanctions will be reimposed if Iran violates the nuclear deal. He has not cosponsored any legislative attempt to add new sanctions following the nuclear agreement.

Ted Cruz (Republican)

Senator Cruz strongly opposes the nuclear agreement. He says that the deal’s ability to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is “fanciful at best” and that unfreezing Iranian assets is “plain foolish” and “profoundly dangerous.” He has sworn to terminate it on his first day in office:

“You’d better believe it. If I am elected president, on the very first day in office I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” – Cruz at Second Republican Debate, September 16, 2015

Senator Cruz opposed the nuclear negotiations and signed the Tom Cotton letter from 47 Republican Senators to Iran’s Supreme Leader. In debate over the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which gave Congress a period to review and potentially reject the accord, Cruz sought to amend the legislation so that Congress would have to approve any agreement before it could move forward. The effort was viewed as a poison pill and blocked.

In the lead-up to the Congressional vote on the deal, Cruz helped lead a “Stop the Iran Nuclear Deal Rally” on Capitol Hill, along with Donald Trump. Cruz urged that, instead of voting on the nuclear agreement as mandated by law, Congress should declare that the Obama Administration had violated the terms of Congressional review and take potential legal action against the Obama Administration:

“Today I sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner a letter that lays out the legal authority they possess as leaders in both Houses of Congress to actually stop this deal. If we believe what we say about this deal…then we should act like it. No show votes that are destined to lose; instead, the leadership should exercise their legal authority to actually prevent more than $100 billion from going to the Ayatollah Khamenei.” – Cruz statement on campaign website

Senator Cruz supports a more aggressive approach towards Iran and has criticized the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach. He stated that U.S. sailors were detained in Iran “because of the weakness of Barack Obama” and that Iran was emboldened because the U.S. had “followed the path of appeasement.”

According to Cruz, the Iran nuclear agreement and other engagement with Tehran  “…reflects a pattern we’ve seen in the Obama Administration of negotiating with terrorists and making deals and trades that endanger US security.”  

Senator Cruz has instead advocated a hard line approach to US-Iran relations. He has joked that the United States should assassinate Iran’s Supreme Leader. He has also suggested that, under the Iran nuclear deal, the next President will likely need to take military action to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Cruz led Congressional efforts to block Iran’s nominated UN-ambassador to take his seat in New York because he allegedly played a role in the Iran hostage crisis.

Senator Cruz strongly opposes sanctions relief under the nuclear agreement, seeing the lifting of sanctions as paving the way for Iran to enhance its nuclear program, and supports the implementation of new sanctions on Iran.

Cruz has said that Senator Mitch McConnell should “absolutely” introduce a new Iran sanctions bill to the Senate floor and Cruz himself has filed a bill to “re-impose and strengthen sanctions that were lifted during the negotiations” as well as “set new conditions for lifting those sanctions again.”

Additionally, Senator Cruz has proposed that Congress should threaten civil and even criminal prosecution against the CEOs of banks implementing the Iran Deal once President Obama leaves office.

Marco Rubio (Republican)

Senator Rubio strongly opposed the nuclear agreement and has pledged to nullify the agreement upon taking office:

“When I am president of the United States, on my first day in office, we are canceling the deal with Iran”  – Rubio at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

In the lead up to the agreement, Rubio supported sanctions legislation to nullify the negotiations. He also signed the Cotton Letter – a signed letter by 47 senators sent to the Iranian government in an attempt to undermine nuclear talks. Rubio has described the Iran deal “as a one sided concession to the ayatollah” and stated that “there is nothing good about this deal.”

During the political battle over the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which gave Congress a period to review the accord before it was implemented, Rubio sought to amend the bill by requiring Iran to recognize Israel and for Iran to unconditionally release all imprisoned Americans, among other proposals. The efforts were viewed as poison pills and blocked.

Senator Rubio believes that the United States and Iran are fundamentally opposed:

“Iran’s problem with America is not a grievance, certainly not just a grievance. It goes deeper than that. It’s ideological. It’s their belief that they want to be the dominant power in the region and they want to export their revolution to other territories.” – Rubio at Council of Foreign Relations, May 13, 2015

Senator Rubio promotes an aggressive approach to Iran and asserts that America’s reputation has been weakened as a result of the nuclear agreement:

“And around the world, America’s reputation is in decline. Our allies don’t trust us, our adversaries don’t fear us, and Iran captures our sailors and parades them before the world on video.” – Rubio at Ninth Republican Debate, February 13, 2016

“The deal has greatly harmed relations between the United States and its traditional allies in the Middle East, Israel first and foremost” – Rubio op-ed in National Review, January 5, 2016

Rubio promotes a foreign policy that would deter and confront Iran through U.S. coordination with Sunni Arab states:

But the answer is, in terms of confronting the threat of the spread of regional influence by Iran, Yemen has become just the latest flashpoint, again, a place where a joint pan Arab Sunni force that would stand up to both extremism and Iran’s ambitions could confront these challenges with U.S. logistical and air support. – Rubio at Council of Foreign Relations, May 13, 2015

Senator Rubio has criticized the Iranian government for their human rights abuses and expressed need for sanctions against those acts. At the same time, Rubio has worked to block the Iran nuclear agreement that Iranian human rights defenders urged Congress to support.

Senator Rubio has pledged to reimpose the sanctions lifted under the nuclear agreement on the first day of his presidency:

“The American sanctions on Iran are in our laws…those are still in place. What the President is using is a national security waiver. He is in essence saying ‘I’m using the waiver to prevent these sanctions from still being imposed.’ The next President could just lift that with the stroke of a pen. Lift that waiver and immediately reimpose sanctions.” – Rubio Fox News Interview, July 24, 2016

Rubio has sponsored several pieces of sanctions legislation, including legislation that the Obama Administration warned would have violated the terms of the nuclear negotiations. He has pledged to pass additional sanctions as President:

“I will work with Congress to impose tougher sanctions on Iran for its support for terrorism and human rights abuses” – Rubio position statement on campaign website

He has criticized the current administration for allowing the sanction relief and argues instead that the U.S. should have increased the sanctions and forced the international community to abide by the sanctions:

“They can do business with Iran, or they can do business with America, and I am very confident they’re going to choose America before they choose the Iranian economy” – Rubio at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

John Kasich (Republican)

Governor Kasich has noted his opposition to the accord and indicated that it is bad for U.S. interests:

“It’s a bad deal. Period. End of story.” – Kasich Face the Nation interview, January 17, 2016

However, Kasich along with Trump is one of only two Republican candidates who has vowed not to tear up the deal upon entering office:

“You know what that is? That’s inexperience. That’s just playing to a crowd,” (Referring to candidates vowing to tear up the deal)” – Kasich Meet the Press interview, July 26, 2015

Instead, Kasich has indicated he would enforce the deal and seek to re-impose multilateral sanctions if Iran violates the deal or if Iran escalates its support for designated terrorist groups. Kasich has also indicated that he would consider military action against Iran if they break the agreement and pursue a nuclear weapon. However, based on his statements, Kasich could favor sticking with the deal at the outset of his administration if Iran is in compliance.

“Secondly, nobody’s trusting Iran. They violate the deal, we put on the sanctions, and we have the high moral ground to talk to our allies in Europe to get them to go with us.” – Kasich at Second Republican Debate, September 16, 2015

I think we ought to hold Iran totally accountable for what they do, if they break any part of this deal, if they fund the radicals like Hamas and Hezbollah. In that kind of case, we’ve got to slap the sanctions back on. We would then have the high moral ground to talk to our allies and get them to go along with us. But in addition to that, if we get to the point where we think that Iran may be developing a nuclear [bomb]…well then I think military action would be warranted. But let’s wait until we get there and let’s stay calm because that’s one of the most important things we need to do when it comes to foreign affairs.” – Kasich Fox News interview, September 13, 2015

Outside of the nuclear deal, Kasich has spoken little about Iran except a bit on its role in the Syria conflict. He appears to be wary of Iran’s regional role and influence, which could indicate a preference to confront Iran more aggressively outside of the nuclear issue.

“I don’t understand this thing about Assad. He has to go. Assad is aligned with Iran and Russia. The one thing we want to prevent is we want to prevent Iran being able to extend a Shia crescent all across the Middle East. Assad has got to go.” –  Kasich at Fifth Republican Debate, December 15, 2015

Governor Kasich appears wary of Iran’s reintegration in the global economy, and has suggested that sanctions be reimposed if Iran amplifies funding for designated terrorist groups, which is outside the scope of the deal:

“And I’ll tell you what I’m worried about — I’m worried about money. You read about all the companies now that are doing business — about to do business in Iran, and if we don’t get this settled now, with other countries in the world, about sanctions, then Iran could violate that agreement, and we’re the only ones putting the sanctions on.” – Kasich at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

However, Kasich appears to recognize that imposing unilateral sanctions at this stage could be counterproductive. Hence, Kasich appears to favor abiding by the deal if Iran is in compliance while laying the groundwork to snap sanctions back if Iran violates the deal, which is a position also favored by many Democrats:

“We can slap on sanctions alone, on day one, but it’s not gonna be anywhere near as effective. But the president needs to be laying the groundwork right now for the ability to slap those sanctions back on worldwide.”  – Kasich at Seventh Republican Debate, January 28, 2016

Memo: The JCPOA Reaches Implementation Day

On January 16, implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the multilateral nuclear accord with Iran – reached Implementation Day. The IAEA verified that Iran took a number of key concessions that significantly rolled back its nuclear capabilities. In return, the United States suspended nuclear-related sanctions while multilateral nuclear-related sanctions were lifted. Even after the relief of these sanctions, Iran remains one of the most sanctioned countries on earth.

If the parties move forward with implementation, the JCPOA will prevent two disasters: an Iranian nuclear weapon and a war with Iran. 

Before the relief of sanctions, the IAEA confirmed the completion of the following steps:

o   Iran dismantled approximately 13,000 installed centrifuges;

o   Iran reduced its uranium stockpile by 97%;

o   The core of the Arak reactor was dismantled and filled with concrete, rendering it inoperable;

o   Iran worked with the IAEA to institute a rigorous inspection regime; and

o   Iran cooperated with the IAEA investigation into prior, possible military dimensions to its nuclear program.

See our memo: Summary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

With implementation, Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon are cut off:

o   Iran is limited to enriching with 5,060 heavily-monitored first generation centrifuges at a single facility for a decade;

o   Iran’s enrichment level is capped at 3.67%, far below weapons grade;

o   Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile remains at or below 300 kg for fifteen years, a fraction of the amount needed for a single nuclear weapon with further enrichment;

o   Iran will redesign the Arak facility so that it will not have a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon;

o   Iran foregoes reprocessing and ships out all spent fuel from Arak and future reactors;

o   The agreement imposes the strongest inspection regime ever negotiated – If Iran attempts to cheat, they will be detected;

o   Iran’s entire nuclear fuel cycle will be closely monitored, with inspectors now gaining access to Iran’s uranium mines and mills, centrifuge production facilities and any suspicious sites; and

o   Via the Additional Protocol, inspectors can access any site they need to when they need to (within 24 days or less), including any suspicious military facility.

If Iran were to abandon the agreement over the next ten years, it would take them at least a full year to produce sufficient weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon. Without a deal, this time could drop to a few weeks and approach an undetectable breakout.

See our memo: Congress Should Support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

In return, the U.S. has lifted nuclear-related sanctions imposed to get a deal:

o   The lifting of key nuclear-related sanctions will reduce the plight of the Iranian people, who have suffered under broad sanctions far more than the regime;

o   The Iranian people, including human rights defenders, are strongly in favor of the accord and believe it is necessary to relieve Iran’s harsh security environment;

o   The Iranian government has indicated that it intends to direct funds released under the deal into improving the domestic economy;

o   For the near future, the U.S. will maintain both the trade embargo on Iran, with few exceptions, as well as sanctions targeting Iran for ties to terrorist groups and human rights violations; and

o   Even after the imminent relief of nuclear-related sanctions, Iran will remain one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth.

See our memos: Iran Sanctions After the JCPOA and Five Key Sanctions Questions on the Iran Deal

The JCPOA is a win-win for the United States. The U.S. blocks Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and lifts sanctions that punish the Iranian people and have stood in the way of domestic moderation. Now that the JCPOA is in hand, Congress must avoid moving the goalposts from halting an Iranian nuclear weapon to halting sanctions relief. The JCPOA deserves the full support of Congress and should be defended from any future threats.

FAQ on Visa Waiver Changes Passed in Omnibus Bill (January 6, 2016)


This post is out of date. See our latest FAQ.

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law a massive government-spending bill known as the omnibus appropriations act. The legislation included provisions reforming the visa waiver program, which is the program that enables citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States without a visa. Despite numerous objections, Congress included discriminatory provisions from a bill that passed the House of Representatives (H.R. 158) to bar dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan as well as foreigners who have traveled to those countries since March 2011 from eligibility in the visa waiver program. These measures are now being implemented.

The changes do not directly target Americans, but – because the visa waiver program operates on reciprocity – the visa waiver program countries are likely to respond with reciprocal measures that could render Iranian Americans ineligible for the visa waiver program, effectively creating a second tier of American citizens traveling abroad.

Below are answers to key questions on the discriminatory visa waiver reforms that are included in the omnibus:

How can the visa waiver reform impact Iranian Americans?

Iranian Americans are likely to be directly impacted because the visa waiver program operates on the system of reciprocity. France, for example, has accepted American travelers without a visa because we accepted French travelers without a visa. However, because we barred certain French citizens from the visa waiver program, France can now respond by applying the same restrictions to Americans. As the bill targets dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan, it is likely that reciprocal measures would target dual nationals from those same countries living in the United States, including Iranian Americans.

The European Union already has laws in place to expedite reciprocal restrictions in the event that a third country imposes such restrictions on European nationals. 

The direct targets of the changes include Iranian dual nationals from eligible countries, as well as non-Iranian nationals from those countries who have visited Iran in the past five years. They would be forced to apply for a visa in order to travel to the United States.

I am an American citizen or green card holder who is planning to visit Iran. Will this affect my ability to return to the United States?

No. The discriminatory provisions in the omnibus will not bar U.S. citizens or green card holders from re-entering the United States after travel to Iran. They would solely affect travel between the U.S. and the 38 countries participating in the visa waiver program. Iran is not eligible for the visa waiver program.

Will the discriminatory provisions in the omnibus affect Iranian citizens in possession of or seeking U.S. visas, or Americans seeking to travel to Iran?

The discriminatory provisions in the omnibus will not affect Iranian citizens in possession of or seeking a U.S. visa. Iran is not eligible for the visa waiver program, so Iranian citizens who are not dual nationals of countries eligible for the visa waiver program would not be affected by this bill.

The visa waiver reforms will not prohibit Americans from traveling to Iran. However, reciprocal actions among European nations and other countries eligible for the visa waiver program could bar Americans who have traveled to Iran from traveling to those countries without a visa.

However, it is possible that further restrictions will be enacted by Congress that specifically target Iranians travelling to the United States, or Iranian Americans who have travelled to Iran.

Do these changes impact Canadians?

No. Canada is not part of the visa waiver program impacted by these new restrictions. Visa-free travel between Canada and the U.S. is permitted under a separate arrangement unaffected by the legislation.

Could the provisions impact the nuclear deal?

Under paragraph 29, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) obligates the United States and other parties to the agreement to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.” By barring individuals who have traveled to Iran since 2011 from eligibility in the visa waiver program, many business executives who travel to Iran to explore permissible trade under the JCPOA could be barred from eligibility in the visa waiver program.

While the intent of why Iran was included among countries that would render one ineligible for the visa waiver program is unclear, this could be interpreted as interference with the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran as permitted under the JCPOA. Iran has protested the visa waiver restrictions and has signaled that it will file a complaint. Amb. Stephen Mull, lead coordinator for overseeing implementation of the JCPOA at the State Department, indicated that very senior officials in the European Union had told both he and Secretary of State John Kerry that the provisions could have a very negative impact on JCPOA implementation. A recent letter from Secretary Kerry to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif indicated that the administration will implement the visa restrictions in a manner “so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran,”citing a waiver and other authorities available.

Are we making a difference?

Yes! NIAC Action staff and grassroots leaders have ensured that leading Senators and Representatives are aware of the problems in the bill. This issue was raised at the highest level of budget negotiations, but House Republicans reportedly refused to budge. Fortunately, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that the provisions were counterproductive and rushed through, and that Congress will take a new look in 2016. Action in the House of Representatives is forthcoming, as well.

NIAC Action grassroots teams and the entire Iranian-American community have been incredibly engaged in this effort, totaling more than 81,000 actions to date, which has given us a fighting chance to repeal the bill.

How do we stop this?

Here’s our plan:

1) We are in communications with the White House and have worked with allies to formally call on the President to waive the visa restrictions on Iranian Americans and travelers to Iran.

2) We are talking to the most senior officials in the EU Foreign Ministry and will formally urge that the EU avoid reciprocal steps that would punish dual nationals and adopt alternative proposals we are developing.

3) We are engaged in serious discussions with Members of Congress to take legislative action to reverse these provisions. New legislative initiatives in the House and Senate will be rolling out in the weeks to come.


Memo: Congress Sets Its Sights on the Iran Deal

On Thursday, January 7, 2015, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to markup H.R. 3662, the ‘Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act’. NIAC Action is seriously concerned that the proposed bill would force the United States to breach its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) and, as such, would kill the nuclear agreement and risk isolating the United States while allowing for Iran to renege on its own nuclear concessions.
Major problems with the bill include:

  • H.R. 3662 would effectively bar the President from lifting sanctions on Iran’s banks in ways that would contradict U.S. obligations under the JCPOA. It would do so by mandating the President to certify that Iran’s banks had never provided financial services to designated Iranian entities, which is factually impossible considering that almost all of Iran’s major banks have been and are currently designated for doing such.
  • H.R. 3662 would force the President to retain the current designations on Iran’s banks in ways that are potentially unlawful. This would open up the United States to lawsuit and, in doing so, undermine the integrity of U.S. sanctions programs.
  • H.R. 3662 would target the President’s current licensing authorities in order to limit future modifications to the U.S. trade embargo with Iran. This would reverse a prerogative enjoyed by successive presidents for decades. It would pose a serious threat to any future opportunities to leverage this licensing authority to advance U.S. interests—including humanitarian and human rights interests, as well as to support the people of Iran.

Under H.R. 3662, the President would be barred from lifting certain sanctions outlined in Annex II of the JCPOA – including sanctions on Iranian banks – until the President provided certification as to certain items regarding the activities of designated Iranian persons and entities. For instance, the President would be unable to rescind the sanctions designations of most of Iran’s banks unless he certified that a designated Iranian bank had not knowingly facilitated transactions for or provided financial services to (1) the IRGC or any of its agents or affiliates; (2) a Foreign Terrorist Organization or any person designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist; or (3) any person whose property is blocked pursuant to Executive Order 13382 or other related sanctions authorities.
Under this standard, however, the President would never be able to lift sanctions on designated Iranian banks for a simple reason: all of the Iranian banks whose designations will be rescinded as part of the JCPOA were alleged to have facilitated transactions on behalf of Iranian entities designated under EO 13382. Because the President is required to certify that the Iranian banks have never facilitated such transactions, H.R. 3662 – knowingly or not — sets up an impossible standard for the President to meet. As such, H.R. 3662 would force the United States into non-compliance with its JCPOA obligations regardless of whether Iran adheres to its own commitments under the nuclear agreement.
Moreover, even if H.R. 3662 is amended to reflect only whether Iranian banks are currently involved in such listed activities, the proposed legislation could render the designations of Iran’s banks unlawful. Because all of the Iranian banks whose designations will be rescinded upon implementation of the nuclear agreement were designated under the authority EO 13382 – which deals with WMD proliferation – the rescission of Iranian banks’ designations are dependent on the U.S. no longer having concern that such banks are providing financial support for Iran’s WMD programs (i.e., its nuclear program).
However, H.R. 3662 would make the rescission of Iranian banks’ WMD designations dependent on those banks not providing financial services to the IRGC or any of its agents or affiliates (which currently includes the National Iranian Oil Company) or to U.S.-designated FTOs or SDGTs. While the U.S. possesses other sanctions authorities to target such activities, H.R. 3662 would render irrelevant the legal criteria underlying Iranian banks’ WMD designations in ways that might not altogether be permissible under U.S. law. In doing so, H.R. 3662 would complicate the President’s task of lifting the sanctions designations under the JCPOA. At the same time, it could expose the U.S. government to lawsuits to nonetheless lift these sanctions but without Iranian nuclear concessions.

NIAC Action urges legislators to oppose H.R. 3662 as one further attempt to kill the nuclear agreement by those who have long been hostile to any diplomatic resolution between the U.S. and Iran. If adopted, H.R. 3662 would force the U.S. into non-compliance with its JCPOA obligations and create serious consequences for U.S. interests.

NIAC Action Applauds House Lawmakers Who Voted for Peace

Washington, DC – NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi released the following statement following the conclusion of the House of Representatives’ votes on the Iran nuclear agreement:
“We applaud each lawmaker in the House who voted in support of the nuclear agreement with Iran and voted against related measures to undermine or block the deal’s implementation. This has been a victory for the principle that diplomacy is the best tool of American leadership. This has been a defeat for those who only want to solve the world’s problems through tough talk and military action. Congress’ review is effectively finished, the deal has prevailed, it’s time to implement it and put to rest a Congressional process that has become a political charade. 
“In the end, opponents of the agreement lost because their arguments were simply not credible. The big money campaign against the deal produced a lot of attack ads but failed to deliver a single viable alternative. The House ultimately took three purely symbolic votes and lawmakers who voted against the deal did so in a vacuum of real-world accountability.
“Even symbolic votes have consequences. We are concerned that some in Congress appear hellbent on proceeding with a political circus and holding further protest votes against the deal instead of actually governing. Those calling for strong leadership should not at the same time be actively working to undermine U.S. foreign policy and weakening America’s ability to lead. For those of us who don’t want another war and oppose the spread of nuclear weapons, we can only be grateful that the negotiations with Iran were led by American diplomats rather than its politicians.”


Thirty-Seven Senators Support Iran Deal, Four to Go

Washington, DC – NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement after Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) , Mark Warner (D-VA), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) announced they will vote for the Iran nuclear agreement:
“We commend Senators Booker, Warner, and Heitkamp for supporting the Iran agreement. We also applaud the work of our grassroots volunteer teams in Virginia and New Jersey for their tireless efforts to help make this happen.
“The work for the agreement’s supporters is not done. There are now 37 Senators supporting the deal. While that is enough to sustain the President’s veto, 41 votes are necessary to block a disapproval resolution outright. Four of the remaining eight undecided Senators will need to come out in support in order to seal the deal next week.
“The test is whether Senate Democrats will hold firm in blocking a resolution of disapproval from moving forward. Passage of a resolution of disapproval, even if vetoed, would be damaging to U.S. interests and leadership. Senate Democrats should not merely depend on the President to bail them out from such a harmful action through his veto. They must demand that opponents of the deal be held to the same 60 vote standard on the Iran vote as on any other consequential Senate vote.
“Nearly the entire Republican presidential field has pledged to nullify the agreement if they take the White House. The opposition is now hoping to set the stage for further efforts to undermine and eventually unravel the deal. Blocking the passage of a disapproval resolution with 41 votes will help close off that opening.”

Statement: Mikulski Protects Iran Deal But Veto Battle Should Be Avoided

Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: (202) 386-6408
Email: jamal@niacaction.org

NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement after Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced that she will support the Iran nuclear deal:

“Senator Barbara Mikulski’s support is a major milestone that ensures the Iran agreement can move forward despite the millions of dollars and misinformation pumped out by opponents in an effort to kill the deal. With 34 votes secured, there are enough votes to protect the agreement through a presidential veto so that the U.S. will not be forced to renege on its commitments.
“The work for the agreement’s supporters is not done. Nearly the entire Republican presidential field has pledged to nullify the agreement if they take the White House. The opposition is now hoping to set the stage for further efforts to undermine and eventually unravel the deal, and passage of a disapproval resolution could provide that opening. 

“Forty-one votes are needed to prevent Congress from passing a disapproval resolution. Everyone who wants this deal to work should seek to ensure that 7 of the 11 undecided Senators support the deal so that the President does not need to use his veto to protect the agreement.

“Senator Mikulski’s significant Iranian-American constituency thanks her for her decision and hopes that her colleague Senator Cardin follows suit. NIAC and the Iranian-American community have worked for over a decade urging negotiation instead of war and endless isolation. All of those who said that you can’t negotiate with Iran, that war was inevitable, that the nuclear issue can never be resolved, and that Congress would surely reject any accord have been proven wrong. Those who have believed that peace is possible and who have worked to achieve that dream have been proven right.”


Congress Should Support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

View as PDF

The Deal Cuts Off Iran’s Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon

  • The time it would take Iran to enrich sufficient uranium for a single nuclear device is increased from 2-3 months to a full year for a decade.
  • Iran reduces its installed centrifuges by two-thirds for a decade.
  • Iran’s enrichment level is capped at 3.67%, far below weapons grade.
  • Iran’s uranium stockpile is cut by 97% to 300 kg for fifteen years, a fraction of the amount needed for a single nuclear weapon with further enrichment.
  • The core of the Arak reactor is destroyed and Iran redesigns the facility so that it will not produce weapons grade plutonium.
  • Iran foregoes reprocessing and ships out all spent fuel from Arak and future reactors.

The Agreement Imposes the Strongest Inspection Regime Ever Negotiated

  • The agreement is fully verifiable. If Iran tries to break out, it will be detected.
  • Iran’s entire nuclear fuel cycle will be closely monitored, including via a dedicated procurement channel and IAEA inspections of enrichment facilities, the Arak reactor, uranium mines and mills, and centrifuge production facilities.
  • Iran will implement and eventually ratify the IAEA Additional Protocol, ensuring that inspectors can access any suspicious site – including military sites – when they need to.
  • If Iran objects to IAEA access to a suspicious site, Iran has 24 days to permit access or have the matter referred to the UN Security Council, which can snap back sanctions.
  • 24 days is not sufficient to hide evidence of a covert enrichment facility, where traces of nuclear material could be detected months or years thereafter.
  • “Anytime, anywhere” access – as demanded by some critics – is neither necessary nor achievable.

Key Provisions of the Deal Last for Decades, and Some Forever

  • The ratification of the IAEA Additional Protocol will lock in intrusive inspections indefinitely, including at suspicious sites. This measure will last forever.
  • Iran’s commitments not to ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons, to forego reprocessing, and to ship out spent fuel at the Arak reactor or any future reactors do not end.
  • The IAEA will have continuous monitoring of Iran’s uranium mines and mills for 25 years, and at centrifuge production facilities for 20 years.
  • Many limitations on enrichment – including the cap on enrichment threshold and on the size of Iran’s uranium stockpile – last for 15 years.

The Deal Could Facilitate New Diplomatic Opportunities

  • This deal depends on verification, not trust, to ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. But it does open many opportunities to advance U.S. interests and security beyond the nuclear issue if further diplomacy is pursued.
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader, Foreign Minister and head of the Supreme National Security Council have all indicated that if the nuclear agreement is successful, Iran is willing to negotiate on other matters, including regional security issues.
  • Such openness could extend to areas of potential strategic convergence, like Afghanistan and Iraq, and divergence, such as Syria and Yemen. 
  • A successful resolution of the nuclear issue will empower Iran’s political moderates in addition to the Iranian people, who can press their leadership for both internal and external moderation.

The Alternatives are Grim

  • Without a deal, Iran’s breakout timeline could shrink from 2-3 months to less than a month, approaching an undetectable threshold.
  • Without a deal, the Arak reactor could come online in about a year without alterations and produce sufficient plutonium, if separated, for multiple nuclear weapons each year thereafter.
  • Rejecting a deal would unravel international enforcement of the sanctions regime. Constraints on and inspections of Iran’s nuclear program would diminish, or disappear altogether if Iran pulls out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
  • Military strikes cannot destroy Iran’s nuclear know-how, could only set Iran’s nuclear program back by a year or two, and would likely incentivize Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear deterrent.

Members of Congress Welcome the Iran Deal

Dozens of Members of Congress have issued statements welcoming the announcement of a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran:

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)

“The historic agreement reached today proves the power of engagement over isolation — we can choose peace over war. The world is safer thanks to the patient diplomacy and determination of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and our P5+1 negotiating partners. In the coming weeks, the focus will be on the U.S. Congress to see if Republicans take this deal away from the world. We will stop those who want to push us closer to war.” >> Full statement

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA):

Today President Obama announced  an historic agreement with Iran negotiated by Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, and the other P5+1 nations.  Over the next few months, I look forward to reviewing the details of the proposed agreement with my congressional colleagues.

The United States is under no illusion about the threat that a nuclear Iran poses to the global community.  Continuing to operate in the dark, however, is unsustainable.  An agreement that makes the process of demilitarization and nuclear disarmament more transparent, in the long-term, can lead to greater national security for all members of the world community. >> Full Statement

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD):

“Two years ago, the United States and the other P5+1 nations began negotiating with the Republic of Iran with the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I applaud President Obama and his team for their effort to achieve this vital objective at the negotiating table. In the days ahead, I will carefully review and scrutinize this more than 80-page agreement to determine whether it meets that goal. In doing so, I intend to confer with people with competing views and perspectives. I will then exercise my best judgment as to whether the agreement achieves its goal and serves the best interests of the United States and our friends and allies. If we can achieve the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through peaceful means, it would be a very welcome result.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA):

“I congratulate President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for completing the P5+1 negotiations and achieving a final proposed agreement to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Over the next several weeks, I look forward to reviewing the details of the agreement and becoming further informed through classified briefings, experts in the field, and considering the views and analyses of concerned stakeholders. I will carefully weigh all of this information and form my own judgments on whether the agreement adequately addresses the security interests of the United States and our allies, including, Israel in blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. I will compare the agreement against the realistic alternatives available to us if the agreement is rejected. I expect to take full advantage of the 60-day review period before deciding how to vote on this important matter.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT):

“I commend President Obama and Secretaries Kerry and Moniz on their leadership in reaching a comprehensive agreement. As I begin to review the agreement, my priority is ensuring that this deal can verifiably prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As with any nuclear arms deal, we must evaluate this proposal not based on trust and faith, but on cold, hard analysis of what best advances the national security interests of the United States and what best enhances global stability.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT):

“The agreement announced this morning is the result of two years of negotiations over profoundly important issues of national security. Under no circumstances should anyone rush to judgment. Those who do show their lack of bona fides. Over the coming days, I will review the full agreement, solicit input from experts and my constituents, and will support or reject the deal based on the best security interests of the United States, Israel, and our allies. I will now focus in particular on the strength of the proposed verification regime, the mechanisms for accountability if Iran cheats, and the scenarios should Congress reject this deal.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV):

“With the announcement today of an agreement with Iran, I stand strong in the belief that no deal is better than a bad deal and a nuclear-armed Iran is simply unacceptable. As I join my colleagues in closely examining the details of the agreement, I want to commend the Obama Administration for their diplomatic efforts and tireless work through the negotiations.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA):

“The proposed agreement with Iran is historic, with the power to shape not only the Middle East but the entire world. As a dad of two little girls, I want us to take a path that will make it less likely that Iran ever develops a nuclear weapon and that protects America and its allies abroad. With that in mind, my sincere hope is that all members of Congress will take a deep breath, review the details of this accord, and make a fully informed judgment. I intend to use the next sixty days to carefully review this agreement to make sure it puts us on a path toward a safer and more peaceful world.” >> Full Statement

Del. Eleanor Homes-Norton (D-DC)

During the question period, I asked Secretary Clinton about the anticipated opposition to the nuclear deal and how it should be handled.  I told her I thought the deal would be difficult to attack head-on considering its air-tight qualities, such as continuous international monitoring of Iraq’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency, daily access to all facilities, including military facilities, among others.  I added that arguments about Iran cheating appear to be met with mandatory international inspections and monitoring through Iran.  Instead, I said, opponents are likely to switch the basis for their disagreement. >> Full Statement

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL):

“I commend the efforts of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz and their team in securing a diplomatic agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. To be sure, it is not in the interest of the United States or its allies for Iran to ever develop a nuclear weapon. I agree with President Obama that no deal is better than a bad deal and it is through that prism that I will thoroughly review and evaluate this agreement.  We cannot sign any agreement with Iran based on trust, nor should sanctions be loosed unless Iran meets its obligations and such compliance can be verified. We must remain ever vigilant in our insistence that Iran never reaches nuclear capability.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA):

“Congress must ensure that this deal provides sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, including the right measure of sanctions and international inspections to keep Iran in line with the terms of the agreement. While this agreement is an important step toward a more peaceful world we must remain watchful to ensure that Iran continues to act in good faith without deviation.  We should only advance an agreement with Iran that is in our best national interest, and protects the security of the American people – both at home and abroad.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA):

“An agreement to halt nuclear proliferation cannot be built on trust but on verifiable, enforceable requirements. The hard work of President Obama, Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Ernest Moniz has brought us a step closer to an historic opportunity to prevent Iran’s nuclear weapons development. The unity of the international community has made the economic and trade sanctions work in pressuring Iran to negotiate a deal.  >> Full Statement

Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA):

“Today’s historic announcement is a culmination of years of hard work by many people. While initial reports indicate that the agreement is what we sought, in that it prioritizes peace and safety over aggression and isolation, I plan to read the agreement in its entirety, confer with experts and meet with the Administration about how it achieves our goals.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO):

“I am encouraged by the deal reached today with Iran and our international partners.  I will carefully read and review the terms of the agreement over the next 60 days, but I believe this agreement aligns with the initial framework reached several months ago.  We must make sure Iran holds up its end of the bargain at every step of the way through strict verification requirements, but this is a positive step toward reducing the nuclear threat that exists in the Middle East and gives peaceful diplomacy a chance to succeed.” >> Full Statement

Rep. John Larson (D-CT)

“I commend President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and Secretary Moniz for taking this tremendous step towards addressing one of the biggest international security threats – a nuclear-armed Iran. This is a historic moment, and I look forward to reviewing these details and discussing them with my constituents. To that end, I will be hosting a forum on Sunday, July 19th at the West Hartford Town Hall.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT):

“Secretary of State Kerry, Energy Secretary Moniz, President Obama and all the P5+1 negotiators should be applauded for their tireless dedication that got us to where we are today. In a region where armed conflict is all too common it is critical that we use our strength as an international leader to promote our interests, the security of our allies and prevent a nuclear Iran. We must not allow the proliferation of nuclear weapons, particularly in a region embroiled in turmoil.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI):

“The accord announced in Vienna today marks a watershed moment in our pursuit to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.  I will review the final deal to ensure that it effectively prevents Iran from acquiring the material it would need to develop a nuclear bomb, has sufficient limits on Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, and that the inspection and transparency regime for holding Iran accountable is robust and will protect the interests of the United States and its allies, especially Israel.  If this is a good deal, it is the first step in a long road to blocking Iran’s access to a nuclear weapon, and we must remain vigilant to ensure Iranian compliance.  Our guiding principle must continue to be distrust but verify.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-MA):

“I have always hoped for a negotiated resolution to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The general outlines of the deal, made public this morning, appear reasonable and encouraging. However, I will carefully review the details and discuss the scientific aspects of the agreement with qualified scientists. I have never expected a perfect agreement because that is an impossible standard. For me, the most important question is, if this deal is not acceptable, then what does the United States do next? Some argue for continued sanctions but it’s clear to me that Russia and China won’t go along with that. Moreover, I fear Europe would not support the U.S. in continued sanctions so we would be left with unilateral sanctions and historically these have been ineffectual. Nor do I think a military option is prudent or feasible at this time. Congress has 60 days to review this agreement and I will carefully consider all aspects of it before making a final decision.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI):

“I would like to thank President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the countless U.S. officials who have been dedicated to this crucial task over the past two years. While Congress has a great deal of work ahead regarding the review of this agreement, we must not fail to recognize the historic achievement made today. I congratulate all those involved for their valiant efforts to stabilize the Gulf region and pave the path for peace and prosperity for the United States, for Israel, and for the world.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX):

“Negotiations have already made our families safer.   While demanding thorough scrutiny, this agreement appears to mark genuine progress for all who believe that peace will make us more secure than war with Iran.  The bomb-Iran naysayers for whom the only good deal is a dead deal will unceasingly raise obstacles, but ultimately reason will prevail and the President’s leadership will be sustained.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA):

“This is an historic accomplishment for President Obama, Secretary Kerry, the American negotiators, and the diplomatic process to prevent Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I commend our diplomats for skillfully averting a global showdown and blocking Iran’s efforts to obtain the bomb.”

“We cannot allow a nuclear Iran and this deal will serve as a lasting deterrent to keep the United States out of another devastating war in the Middle East.  Now I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure this deal goes forward unhindered.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT):

“It is essential to America’s national security and to stability in the Middle East that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.  The United States and our allies have two options to achieve this vital objective – a diplomatic agreement, or military action.  Preventing a nuclear Iran through a verifiable and enforceable diplomatic solution is far preferable to yet another war in the region.  No one should doubt that Iran is a bad actor. It will not change its behavior overnight.  But it is far superior for America and our allies to challenge the belligerent foreign policy and human rights record of a non-nuclear Iran than one in possession of nuclear weapons.  I am optimistic, based on early reports, that the agreement announced this morning by President Obama includes aggressive and intrusive inspections.  And that, should Iran cheat, it will again be slapped with the same tough economic sanctions that brought it to the table in the first place.  I will be reviewing the agreement to confirm these reports and to ensure that it embraces the essential, clear-eyed approach to Iran of ‘distrust and verify’.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX):

“After years of negotiating, the President announced an historic agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program. I believe America and its international partners are taking an important first step in the right direction. In doing so, we are expanding the reach of our nation’s diplomatic powers and hopefully, eliminating the spread of nuclear arms. I applaud President Obama’s commitment to diplomacy and peace-building strategies and commend Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Ernest Moniz for their skilled leadership during the negotiations.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX):

“I commend Secretaries Kerry and Moniz for their tireless efforts negotiating this agreement and for their and President Obama’s steadfast commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This agreement has the potential to position the United States and our allies toward a future of peace and security. Initial readings of the deal’s text indicate it contains stringent accountability measures that protect against the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. Congress will now have a say in how the United States proceeds, and I hope that my colleagues will take time to thoroughly and thoughtfully evaluate the details of the agreement our negotiators achieved.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO):

“We will carefully scrutinize the terms of this agreement. The stakes are high, and the details of this deal matter. A good deal could bring greater stability to the Middle East, more security throughout the world, and help avoid escalation in the region. Congress has an important responsibility in this process, and playing politics right now is the last thing we need.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

“Americans prefer a diplomatic solution that ensures Iran cannot develop or obtain a nuclear weapon. If early reports are correct, it appears the agreement the U.S. and other U.N. Security Council nations have finally reached with Iran is the kind of durable and verifiable agreement that is far preferable to further escalation and possible military action.”

“I have not seen the details, and look forward to being briefed on its terms. Congress must now review the agreement to ensure that it will cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, and that the sharp limits it imposes on Iran’s nuclear program can be verified by international inspectors. This is one of the most significant national security issues Congress will face in a generation; it should not be subject to the kinds of partisan attacks and political ad wars we have seen in recent months. Congress should give this agreement the careful consideration and serious debate it deserves.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

“It would be ‘a catastrophe’ for us to walk away from the deal.” >> Full statement

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Il)

“The United States, working with our allies, has reached a historic agreement with Iran that, according to President Obama and Secretary Kerry, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I commend our negotiators for this critical effort. Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place.” >> Full statement

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

“After many years of painstaking negotiations, I am very encouraged by President Obama’s announcement this morning.  Diplomacy is far preferable to war, and if this agreement can achieve its goal and in so doing prevent the United States from being drawn into another open-ended and potentially catastrophic war in the Middle East, that will be a monumental achievement.

“It is unfortunate that some in Congress and elsewhere sought to derail this difficult and extraordinary diplomatic effort from the start, ignoring the fact that Iran’s nuclear program surged ahead despite U.S. sanctions, until these negotiations froze it in place.  The President has been unwavering in his insistence that the goal of this agreement is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and I applaud him for his vision and his resolve.  It is now up to Members of Congress to carry out their oversight responsibility with hearings and a full debate, before reaching our own conclusions.  We should keep our focus on the national security interests at stake for our country, and for our allies.  To truly serve our national interests and the people we represent, congressional leaders should want to do everything possible to make it work, not to do everything possible to undermine it, even before they have a chance to read it.” >> Full statement

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)

“Today’s historic nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran is a major step forward for American diplomacy. This deal is built on the framework reached in April and the product of months of principled negotiation. I commend the President as well as Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz for their courage, determination, and leadership in working with the P5 + 1 partners to make this deal a reality.

“Preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is essential to the security of the U.S., the Middle East, and countries around the world. With this agreement we have an opportunity to avert the unthinkable alternative of yet another war in the region and advance the broader goal of containing nuclear weapons globally. Along with my colleagues in Congress, I look forward to carefully reviewing the agreement and having a robust debate.” >> Full statement

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)

“Almost immediately, this agreement- which none of my colleagues has read- has been denounced for any number of reasons. To the harshest critic among us, let me say this. Cool your jets. Let’s read the document. Let’s meet with the Americans who’ve negotiated it and ask them the tough questions that need to be asked. And while we’re doing that, let’s ask ourselves, ‘What are the alternatives?’ At first blush, this agreement appears to track the framework laid out several months ago. If that’s true- and I hope it is- the most critical element of the deal for me is likely to be our ability, and the ability of the world, to verify strict Iranian compliance with the agreement. But for now, let’s hold our fire. Let’s do our homework and, then, engage over the next 60 days in a thoughtful, respectful debate that an opportunity like the one before us deserves. >> Full statement

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)

“The road leading up to tonight’s announcement has been long and arduous, but the P5+1 have returned a strong, verifiable nuclear deal with Iran. While I plan to thoroughly examine the final agreement, the terms announced today are in line with the positive framework agreed to back in April. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ensures that Iran can move forward with an exclusively peaceful nuclear program, subject to an unprecedented level of intrusive and permanent inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Our negotiators, led tenaciously by Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Sherman, have shown tremendous grace under pressure. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif also deserve enormous credit for their resolve and earnest pursuit of an agreement. The U.S. and Iran are burdened by a history of distrust, fraught with dissension and cynicism. Let us hope this nuclear deal proves to be the first stepping stone toward a more peaceful future for us both.” >> Full statement

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)

“I commend Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz and the entire U.S. diplomatic team for their tireless and committed work at these historic negotiations. I plan to carefully examine the language of the proposed agreement and look forward to hearing from our nation’s top current and retired national security leaders about how this agreement will improve regional and global security. We need to ensure that this agreement has the most invasive inspections possible, the most intensive enforcement provisions possible, including expedited ability to reinstate sanctions if Iran violates the agreement, and the most aggressive means to remove the technological capability for Iran to quickly make a nuclear weapon. Our continuing and ultimate goal must always be to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran from ever emerging.” >> Full statement

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“This agreement is an historic achievement. Three years ago, it was hard to imagine an Iran capable of coming to, and staying, at the negotiating table to make these concessions. Iran has consistently adhered to the Joint Plan of Action, and it appears the agreement aligns with April’s framework. We now have a path to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran that would unravel what little stability remains in the Middle East.” >> Full statement

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)

“This agreement demonstrates the power of American-led diplomacy and establishes a strict and robust monitoring and verification system.  If fully implemented, this deal will help control Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.”

“As President Obama points out, the accord is not built on trust, but on verification.  Any attempt by Iran to break the rules or covertly pursue nuclear weapons must be met with swift, forceful, and decisive action by the United States and the international community. It has taken nearly two years of persistent, rigorous negotiations to reach this point.  President Obama and his negotiating team – at every echelon, including our scientists and nuclear experts – deserve the nation’s thanks.” >> Full statement

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

“Whenever possible, I believe the U.S. should seek to advance our security goals through diplomacy rather than force. The President and his team, particularly Secretary Kerry, deserve tremendous credit for pursuing this diplomatic solution to one of our world’s most pressing security challenges. I now look forward to reviewing the details of the proposed deal in the weeks ahead to determine whether it truly meets our nation’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” >> Full statement

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)

“Rejecting this landmark agreement would be a flagrant rejection of the tremendous progress our diplomats and our allies have made to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, and the leadership our country has shown on the international stage.

In the coming weeks, both chambers of Congress are expected to vote on whether or not this agreement moves forward. I will be voting in support of this monumental diplomatic achievement and in support of peace. More than 30 renowned nuclear non-proliferation experts have concluded that the parameters of the deal are a “net plus for non-proliferation.” Additionally, US and Israeli security experts have long called for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear program.

We have an opportunity to choose peace. It is time for Congress to be on the right side of history.” >> Full statement

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

“As the President has said all along, ‘no deal is better than a bad deal.’ However, it is also true that a good deal is better than no deal. It is clear that pursuing these negotiations was the best way to address the dangers that a nuclear Iran poses to the United States and our allies, especially Israel. I am glad that we insisted on giving diplomacy a chance. The alternatives to diplomacy risked tying the United States into another lengthy and costly conflict in the Middle East.”

“This agreement will not solve every problem – and I stand with the President in his pledge to do even more to protect Israel’s security and combat ISIS. But this deal will prevent Iran from posing the most serious problem – a nuclear threat. Now that our negotiators have succeeded, I stand ready to make sure this agreement moves forward.” >> Full statement

Rep. Raúl D. Grijalva (D-AZ)

“The historic agreement struck today between the United States, our allies, and Iran is a triumph of international relations. President Obama, Secretary Kerry and our P5+1 partners have proven that there is a better paradigm for foreign engagement than the constant threat of military action: it’s called diplomacy.  This deal is the responsible way to avert nuclear ambitions, and to ensure that we all share a safer and more peaceful world.” >> Full statement

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

“Today’s announced deal with Iran, if fully implemented, will prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon while ensuring greater stability in the Middle East. I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and our P5+1 partners for their tireless work to obtain a deal that promotes global peace and security. In the coming weeks, the world’s attention will shift from Vienna to the halls of Congress. I hope my Republicans colleagues will put partisan politics aside and support this deal instead of pushing us one step closer to another war.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

“The historic nuclear agreement announced today is the product of years of tough, bold and clear-eyed leadership from President Obama.  I commend the President for his strength throughout the historic negotiations that have led to this point.  I join him in commending Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz for their leadership.

“A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States, unacceptable to Israel, and unacceptable to the world.  Aggressive restrictions and inspections offer the best long-term plan to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon.  Congress will closely review the details of this agreement.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

“I am pleased that the White House worked with Senators Cardin and Corker to ensure that Congress will have the opportunity it deserve to review this agreement. As Congress now turns to the business of examining this agreement with great scrutiny, I want to express my appreciation to the countless U.S. officials who have been working tirelessly on these negotiations.” >> Full Statement

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)

“Concluding an agreement will not only promote long-term security in the Middle East, but also remove the short-term specter of a destructive military confrontation. While I plan to meticulously examine the proposed deal and consult closely with administration officials and the intelligence community in in the coming days, we have every reason to believe that this deal will make the Middle East and the broader world safer.”

“The American people have been clear—they strongly prefer a negotiated agreement to the alternative of war and bloodshed.  Today’s announcement is an important step towards achieving peace.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CN)

“The best way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is through diplomacy, not war. At a time when the Middle East is awash in crippling violence, we have an opportunity to address one of the most dangerous threats to the United States and the region through a negotiation, and I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and their team for the agreement that was reached today. I know it was a long road.”

“Over the coming hours and days, I will carefully review the terms of the Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action ‎to ensure the agreement adequately protects the interests of United States and our allies. And as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I look forward to a congressional review process that is fair and deliberative.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

“I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the leaders of other major nations for producing a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling and could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East. I look forward to learning more about the complex details of this agreement to make sure that it is effective and strong.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

“Today’s announcement is a historic step for international cooperation and our shared goal of reducing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. I have always believed that constructive diplomacy is the best way to achieve a safer Middle East, and I congratulate our team of negotiators on reaching this agreement.”

“The next critical step is for Congress to review the agreement, and I will be carefully considering the details, as well as the alternatives. It is vital for Congress to hear from our experts, including those at New Mexico’s national labs, in order to understand how this deal will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I urge Congress to study the agreement thoughtfully – not with an eye to U.S. politics but on what will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon or the materials to develop one. We all agree that a nuclear-armed Iran is a serious threat that must be prevented. This is the greatest nuclear nonproliferation challenge of our time, and it is a challenge that we must meet.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM):
“Preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is absolutely critical to the safety and security of our allies in the Middle East.  We must stop the spread of nuclear weapons.  I commend President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz and our allies for their commitment to halting Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.  Congress must carefully consider the terms of this agreement, and I will take a close look at all of the details.  It is critical that it includes strong safeguards and transparency provisions that hold Iran accountable.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)

“I look forward to thoroughly reviewing the agreement announced today. We cannot let our desire for a deal allow us to accept a bad deal. And we cannot allow politics to stand in the way of a good deal. In the coming days, Congress will have the opportunity to scrutinize the deal presented today. It is my hope that Congress takes advantage of this time to honestly review the deal and determine whether it is in the best interest of the United States to move forward. This potential agreement comes on the heels of a long history of mistrust and cheating by Iran. Consolation with our allies and a strong inspections and verification regime will be vital to the success of this agreement.”

Again, I applaud the Obama Administration for the progress it has made thus far and look forward to reviewing this agreement in far greater detail.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

“Throughout negotiations, I’ve been adamant that the United States must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that hardnosed diplomacy is the preferred means of doing so. Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation, which I supported, that allows the House and Senate to consider this weighty agreement in all its detail.  It is critical that Congress take the time necessary to conduct this review. My support for this deal hinges on whether we can verify that Iran’s paths to obtaining a nuclear weapon are thoroughly blocked. I want to congratulate Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz and the rest of the negotiating team for their tremendous persistence in reaching this agreement, and I look forward to a thorough review with my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA)
“As the terms and consequences of this agreement become clear during the period of Congressional review, I would urge my colleagues to give the measure the serious thought it deserves.  If the agreement is flawed it should be rejected; at the same time, we must not compare the proposal to an ideal, but rather to any credible alternative. Will rejection of the deal lead to additional sanctions and an «Iran» willing to concede more, or to renewed enrichment and a path to war?  These are the stakes and our decision should be made with sober thought and a minimum of partisan demagoguery.” >> Full Statement (CQ subscription needed)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)

“I applaud the U.S. negotiating team for its hard work to find a diplomatic solution to peacefully limit Iran’s nuclear program.  A nation’s commitment to diplomacy is every bit as important as its commitment to military strength.  Now that the negotiations have concluded, Congress must give the deal a thorough and independent review to ensure it cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE):

“Under no circumstances should Iran be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. This agreement must demonstrate in a verifiable manner that it will stop and reverse Iran’s march toward the bomb. The deal will be met with much skepticism from Congress, and we should be circumspect about the limits of what we can achieve with—or without—an agreement. It is my job to scrutinize the details of any deal, debate the merits, and examine added options. There are two risks involved: the risk of an agreement, and the risk of no agreement.” >> Full Statement 

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM):
“I welcome the fact that this accord will prevent Iran from being able to build a nuclear weapon and threaten its neighbors and the world. This deal breaks each and every pathway to a weaponized nuclear device, including any potential covert effort. In the first eight years of this century, Iran’s nuclear program surged ahead rapidly, adding thousands of centrifuges, building complex nuclear facilities, and stockpiling enough highly enriched uranium to build a number of bombs. Today’s accord slashes that stockpile to a mere fraction of the material necessary to build a single device, unplugs thousands of centrifuges, and it opens those facilities to international inspection. We should welcome each of those developments as a major step toward regional and international security.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA):
“A nuclear-armed Iran represents a significant threat to the United States, to our allies in the Middle East, and to the world. Diplomacy represents our best hope of ending that threat, far better than the alternative of escalating tensions and war. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and Secretary Moniz deserve great credit for working with our allies to reach a negotiated solution to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran without resorting to military action. In the coming weeks, I look forward to reviewing the details of this agreement to determine whether they are tough, verifiable, and effective.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI):

“I’m proud that America led six countries toward an historic international agreement with Iran.  I will now take the time to carefully review this diplomatic agreement and make a judgement on it based on whether it is built on verification, achieves the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and serves America’s national security interests.” >> Full Statement

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY):
“This historic agreement is a victory for American diplomacy and international security. We now have a clear plan to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, which ensures a safer world and a more stable Middle East. As President Obama stated this morning, this agreement is not built on trust—it is built on verification. I commend President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, and our entire negotiating team for their hard work, and I thank our fellow P5+1 nation partners for their dedication in reaching this landmark deal.” >> Full Statement
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI):
“Over the past several months, I’ve engaged with the White House on the status of the negotiations and just this morning received an update on the specifics of the deal, which comes after years of tireless work by President Obama and his Administration. While Congress will spend the next several weeks using our authority to thoughtfully examine the agreement with great scrutiny, Iran will have to earn sanctions relief through consistent compliance. The pathway to implementing a deal to effectively prevent Iran from obtaining or developing a nuclear weapon is in sight.” >> Full Statement
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR):
Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in the effort to preclude Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon. It is essential for the surety of the United States and for our allies, that this agreement foreclose every possible path that Iran might have to a nuclear weapon. The devil is in the details. I will be deeply engaged in examining the details in preparation for the upcoming review by Congress.” >> Full Statement
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):
“The agreement announced today between the world’s major powers—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany—and Iran is historic. It offers a verifiable, diplomatic resolution to one of our most pressing national security challenges. This is a strong agreement that meets our national security needs and I believe will stand the test of time. I stand behind the U.S. negotiating team and will support this agreement in the Senate.” >> Full Statement
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL):
“I am encouraged by the President’s comments this morning. It is imperative that members of Congress and the general public not rush to judgement on an agreement that will have enormous consequences not only for the Iranian nuclear program, but for U.S. national security interests throughout the region.” >> Full Statement
Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN):
“I applaud the President, Secretary Kerry, and our international allies for reaching this agreement. While the announcement of the deal is indeed historic, and the Administration and our allies should be commended for their tireless work, the people, through their elected representatives in Congress, will have the final say. We cannot accept a bad deal, nor can we allow ideology to undermine a good one. Congress must act in good faith, make the hard choices, and do the job we were elected to do. Over the coming days and weeks, I look forward to reviewing the deal vigorously.” >> Full Statement
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA):
“I congratulate President Obama and Secretary Kerry on the painstaking effort required to reach a nuclear agreement between Iran and the international community. The framework under which the current deal was negotiated is the best available option to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
“We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Without this deal, Iran would be able to resume development of its nuclear program without international supervision and enrich enough uranium for a bomb in as little as three months. Furthermore, if America were to simply walk away from this deal, it’s likely that the strong multilateral sanctions regime would collapse. The military option is just as bad: it would only set Iran’s program back by a few years, destabilize an already volatile region, and possibly lead to a wider military confrontation.” >> Full Statement
Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI):
“I have consistently advocated for diplomatic solutions to our nation’s foreign policy objectives, and appreciate the Administration’s efforts to reach an agreement with Iran regarding their nuclear program.  In May, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which gives Congress 60 days for review of the agreement before it can be implemented.  I look forward to an open debate on the merits of this deal, and hope that in the end it will meet standards that will help improve the regional security in the Middle East.  The objectives of verification and dismantlement must be of the highest quality, which will in turn improve the national security of both the United States and our allies.” >> Full Statement
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY):
“The Obama Administration has shown tremendous leadership on the world stage in a challenging process that could have been derailed if the Administration was not firmly committed to a multiparty process.  This demonstration of strength and willingness to engage multilaterally enhances America’s leverage now and for future generations. While all options must remain on the table, the announced deal is a positive development that deserves the thoughtful consideration of Congress so that we can give diplomacy and peace the chance to prevail over conflict that could lead to war.” >> Full Statement
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA):
“Absent the implementation of an acceptable nuclear agreement with Iran, the Iranian nuclear program would once again be opaque and no longer restrained by strict limitations. The countries of the world that have a strict policy of preventing a nuclear Iran, including the U.S. and a number of our allies, would be left with a scenario that could demand immediate and decisive action. Our remaining options would be limited in both variety and efficacy. During General Michael Hayden’s testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa in November 2014 he affirmed that the euphemistically termed “kinetic” option would ‘guarantee that which we are trying to prevent, an Iran that will stop at nothing, in secret, to develop a nuclear weapon.’”
“The diplomacy conducted by Secretary Kerry and his negotiating team has offered the world a potential alternative to the “kinetic” option. As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will be carefully reviewing the text of the agreement to determine if it meets the high standard to which we should hold a nuclear agreement with Iran.” >> Full Statement

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN):
“This is a complex issue, and I’m glad that our negotiators have been able to reach an agreement. In the days to come, I will have to review the deal closely. Obviously, a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear program is preferable to military action. I hope that the deal will verifiably block Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI):

“The goal of negotiations between world powers and Iran has always been to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Secretary Kerry and his team should be commended for their hard work to achieve this goal. It is important to remember that an alternative to a diplomatic resolution is at best uncertain and at worst very dangerous.I am encouraged about today’s development and will examine this nuclear agreement with Iran closely, ultimately judging the agreement on if it makes the world a safer place. >> Full Statement

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV):

“Today’s historic accord is the result of years of hard work by President Barack Obama and his administration. The world community agrees that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable and a threat to our national security, the safety of Israel and the stability of the Middle East. Now it is incumbent on Congress to review this agreement with the thoughtful, level-headed process an agreement of this magnitude deserves.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)

“Since this process began nearly 20 months ago, I believed we must give diplomacy a chance. I salute President Obama and Secretary Kerry for their relentless pursuit of diplomacy with verification. I look forward to reading the details of today’s historic announcement and working with my colleagues to ensure that Iran and the international community meet all promises and commitments to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)

“The best way to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program is through a comprehensive, international agreement like this one.  We will get a chance to talk about the details in the days ahead, but I hope my colleagues in Congress don’t let partisan politics stand in the way of approving what could be a historic deal to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.” >> Full Statement

Rep. Luis V. Gutérrez (D-IL)

This is a matter of war and peace.  With the agreement, we are giving peace a chance.  War is almost never the right answer to any question, but it is always an option.  Skeptics and critics need to give this a chance to work because the consequences are so high and the prospects for a peaceful resolution of Iran’s nuclear ambitions are fragile.  If actions by Iran invalidate the agreement and necessitate a different, aggressive, military strategy, there is nothing that prevents that in the future.” >> Full Statement

Rep. David Price (D-NC)

“The JCPOA isn’t perfect, but it is remarkably strong in its surveillance and enforcement provisions.  This isn’t just my opinion:  it is the view of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, and Russia; the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Energy, and Treasury; members of the Iranian diaspora; prominent academics and regional experts; current and former diplomats; and many Israeli military and intelligence experts.  No other viable diplomatic alternatives exist.

“For the U.S. Congress to unilaterally reject the JCPOA would likely destroy the multilateral sanctions regime and leave Iran free to resume its nuclear program. Doing so would threaten not just our credibility on the international stage, but also our national security and that of our allies.  That is not a risk I am willing to take.”  >> Full Statement


NIAC Action Welcomes Historic Iran Nuclear Deal

Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jamal@niacaction.org

NIAC Action’s Executive Director, Jamal Abdi, sent the following statement to Congress urging support for the comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran:

The comprehensive nuclear deal that has been secured by the United States, Iran and UN powers is a historic achievement. Diplomacy has made the U.S. and our allies safer by cutting off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and averting a disastrous war. Additionally, a separate roadmap was announced between the IAEA and Iran to resolve outstanding questions regarding past possible military dimensions (PMD) by December 2015.
While we continue to review the agreement, our initial assessment is that the final deal is indeed in line with the April framework agreement struck in Lausanne, which exceeded expectations and received significant Congressional support:
  • Iran moves down to 5,060 first generation centrifuges for ten years. It currently has over 19,000 installed.
  • No accumulating enriched uranium through advanced centrifuges for 10 years. Afterwards, Iran will phase out its first generation centrifuges.
  • All enrichment will be at the Natanz facility for fifteen years.
  • Enrichment capped at 3.67% for fifteen years.
  • Fordow will be converted into a research facility, and no centrifuges will accumulate enriched uranium.
  • Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile will be reduced by roughly 97%, from 10,000 kg to 300 kg for a full fifteen years.
  • Iran will redesign and rebuild the Arak heavy water reactor so that it does not produce weapons grade plutonium, and Iran will ship spent fuel out of the country and forego reprocessing. This will shut down the plutonium route.
  • Iran implements the Additional Protocol and moves to ratify it, locking it (and intrusive inspections, including at suspicious sites) in place indefinitely.
  • Iran and the IAEA move to a speedy resolution of the investigation into prior, possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Iran permits intrusive monitoring throughout Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain for decades. 
Members of Congress who have backed U.S. negotiators and blocked efforts to undermine these negotiations deserve tremendous credit for preserving the political space necessary to strike a deal. However, there is still more work to do.
The forthcoming Congressional review period will be a minimum of sixty days and begins as soon as the agreement and its annexes, as well as a verification assessment and certifications, are submitted to Congress. The Congressional review, and potential vote on a deal, is a decision between peace and war. It will determine whether the U.S. peacefully achieves its goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, or burns important bridges with some of its closest allies and rejects the diplomatic option. 
It is imperative that Congress undertake a substantive review, factoring in the significant benefits of a deal and the likely costs of voting down an accord negotiated by the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and Iran. If an agreement fails due to Congressional action, Iran’s nuclear program would be unshackled, IAEA monitoring over the program would diminish, and international support for the sanctions regime would crumble. With diminished leverage and an advancing, unconstrained Iranian nuclear program, the U.S. and Iran would be on a path to war.
NIAC Action, the new 501c(4) organization to the National Iranian American Council, will be organizing across the country with other organizations supportive of a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis to ensure that Congress votes for peace in the weeks ahead. We look forward to providing Congress with tools it needs to make the right decision on this deal, and to ensure lawmakers hear from their constituents who are among the overwhelming numbers of Americans who support a deal and do not want a war. We will be in touch to help ensure that the U.S. and Iran make the most of this vital opportunity.