September 17 marked the end of the Congressional review period established by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. After four votes in the Senate and three votes in the House, the nuclear agreement between the United States, its negotiating partners, and Iran will move into the implementation phase. However, the dust remains unsettled.
Republicans want to continue the fight and are making outrageous claims that the Iran nuclear agreement will be void immediately at the start of the next presidency. They believe that because it is not a treaty, and because Congress did not expressly approve of the accord, it will not carry on to the next administration. This is not true and its absurdity was voiced by several Democratic Senators (S6782-S6785) after the final Senate vote on September 17.
The seven Senators who stood up to underscore the enduring value of the deal were Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
They emphasized that because Congress failed to pass a resolution of disapproval three times, per the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the agreement has now entered into force.
“The issue has been decided,” declared Senator Reid.
Furthermore, they highlighted that the history of international agreements offers evidence of other agreements that have endured beyond the length of one presidency. For example, Senator Feinstein noted that: “The United States has concluded other international agreements, such as the Helsinki Final Act and the Missile Technology Control Regime, that have endured. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1 and Iran is no different.”
Other Senators also mentioned the Vienna Document, a security agreement between OSCE countries, and the Proliferation Security Initiative as examples.
The Iran nuclear deal is a “sole-executive agreement” and not a treaty. However, just because it is not a treaty does not mean that it is null and void on January 20, 2016.
The only way that it could be terminated is if a future president issues another executive agreement reinstating sanctions and removing the United States from panels associated with the deal. Some GOP candidates, most notably Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have already stated that if elected, they would abrogate the accord on day one.
Any Democrat elected president would not repudiate the deal because all but one of the candidates support it. At least one Republican candidate, Governor Chris Christie, has even stated that he would instead call for a review of the agreement and decide on its value after assessing the situation at the time. Moreover, after taking office, whatever candidate is elected will quickly learn that governments are slow to organize and that issue priorities must be adapted.
Furthermore, as noted by Senator Durbin, nullifying the accord would seriously undermine American international credibility: “Who would negotiate with the United States if they believed such agreements would be abrogated with a new president?”
Senator Durbin also referenced the Shanghai Communique, the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons, the Algiers Accord, and numerous status of forces agreements to show how terrible of a break from congressional tradition these outlandish actions would be. None of these claims were made about any of these similar accords.
It is vital that the next president not repeal the Iran agreement. The best thing now would be for the United States to focus on long-term implementation of the accord in order to retain the benefits of the agreement and the leadership and credibility that the United States is renowned for worldwide.