The Iran Deal?

With a deal in place between Iran, the United States and five other nations over Iran’s nuclear program, the debate in Washington DC, will now shift to how Congress and U.S President Barack Obama handle the agreement on legislative grounds. In order to have domestic, judicially enforceable legal effect, the provisions of many treaties and executive agreements may require implementing legislation that provides U.S. bodies with the authority necessary to enforce and comply with an international agreement’s provisions.

The law approved by Congress in May and signed by President Obama is called The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. It spells out that Congress has 60 days to review any Iran deal it receives after July 10. 2015. The act reinforces the power of Congress to pass a law disapproving of the Iran pact by a simple majority vote of the House and Senate.

Resolution of disapproval would bar President Obama from waiving sanctions against Iran. But since this is legislation, President Obama can veto the resolution, forcing the House and the Senate to override the veto by a two-thirds majority in each chamber. However, the Obama administration has indicated that it will seek bipartisan support in Congress for the executive agreement.

When the U.S. President enters into an executive agreement, what sort of obligation is thereby imposed upon the United States? That international obligations of potentially serious consequences may be imposed is obvious and that such obligations may linger for long periods of time is equally obvious. But the question is more directly pointed to the domestic obligations imposed by such agreements; are treaties and executive agreements interchangeable insofar as domestic effect is concerned?

Executive agreements entered into pursuant to congressional authorization and probably through treaty obligations present little doctrinal problem; those arrangements which the President purports to bind the Nation with solely on the basis of his constitutional powers, however, do raise serious questions. –

The “Iran Deal” as negotiated by the Obama Administration and approved by the UN raises controversies on many levels” according to FedSoc International & National Security Law Practice Group Teleforum July 31, 2015 conference. One foundational question concerns whether a president’s constitutional Article II power extends to an executive agreement that incurs foreign obligations and implicates international law.

The congressional response in the Corker-Cardin review act demurred from challenging whether the nuclear deal was an end-run around treaty Senate ratification requirements by acknowledging the executive agreement classification. Now there are questions as to whether the final deal is sufficiently inconsistent with the anticipated agreement such that the Corker-Cardin bill is undermined.

Does UN approval prior to congressional review moot Corker-Cardin? Additionally, as yet unquantified side agreements may have a bearing on congressional posture. Also, some states have sanctioned Iran separately. Since an executive agreement does not carry the federal pre-emptive power as would a treaty, may states continue to act independent of Corker-Cardin, UN, or administration commitments?

Their argument isn’t that the president can’t make executive agreements. But, rather, that the president can’t make an executive agreement on an issue of this importance. Corker and Cardin are responsible for the ability of Congress to review the deal, thanks to the compromise Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act the Obama administration signed in May. The law, approved unanimously by the committee, gives Congress the right to pass a measure of approval, a measure of disapproval or do nothing after examining the agreement.

“If the U.S. Congress moves to unilaterally reject what was agreed to in Vienna, the result will be the United States of America walking away from every one of the restrictions that we have achieved and a great big green light for Iran to double the pace of its uranium enrichment, proceed full speed ahead with the heavy water reactor, install new and more efficient centrifuges, and do it all without the unprecedented inspections and transparency measures that we have secured,” Kerry said. “Everything that we’ve prevented will then start taking place.”


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