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Congress Sent Another Letter Barging Into Obama’s Nuclear Negotiations With Iran

Two weeks after 47 senators sent a letter warning Iran that any nuclear deal could be revoked “with the stroke of a pen,” 367 representatives delivered another message.

by Kayla Ruble
Mar 23 2015, 3:55pm

Photo by Brian Snyder/AP

Two weeks after 47 US senators sent a letter to Iran warning that any nuclear deal could be revoked "with the stroke of a pen" after President Barack Obama leaves office, 367 House of Representatives members from both parties delivered another message — this time addressed to Obama himself — regarding the ongoing negotiations.

The March 20 letter, made public Monday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, highlights the "grave and urgent issues" that have come up regarding the continued talks with Iran that are nearing their deadline this week. The representatives stressed that finding a solution to the "nuclear crisis" with Iran is of great importance to the country's security.

"Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation," the letter states. "In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief."

One of the major concerns addressed in the letter is whether the negotiations between Tehran and the Obama administration were obstructing or enabling Iran's ability to obtain nuclear weapons. The letter also raises concern over the size of the country's uranium enrichment program in its current state, and problems international inspectors have faced. 

Related: 'I'm embarrassed for them': Obama hits back at Republican senators' letter to Iran over nuclear deal.

"We are prepared to evaluate any agreement to determine its long-term impact on the United States and our allies," the letter reads. "We remain hopeful that a diplomatic solution preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon may yet be reached, and we want to work with you to assure such a result."

Beyond direct concerns over the uranium enrichment program, the letter addressed what it called Iran's "horrendous human rights record" and the country's "destabilizing" role in the region.

The letter was drafted one day after the Foreign Affairs Committee pressed the State Department and Department of Treasury about their concerns. The signatories included Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Republican Ed Royce from California and ranking member Democratic Representative Eliot Engel of New York. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also signed off on it.

Previously, on March 9, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton posted "Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran" on his official website. Co-signed by all but three of Cotton's fellow senators, the message stressed that Congress would refuse to sign-off on a deal between the US and Iran, while also warning Iranian leaders that any agreement could be rescinded by a future president. Cotton's message said any deal reached through negotiations was "nothing more than an executive agreement."

Related: The UN might spend millions on Iran's drug program even though offenders are being executed

Obama said he was "embarrassed" for the senators who signed the letter, while Vice President Joe Biden released a statement saying the message "is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere." Iran's foreign minister said the letter indicated the US was "not trustworthy."

"This kind of communication is unprecedented and undiplomatic," Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said, according to Iranian media. "It is unfortunate that a group is opposed to reaching an agreement. We insist that a possible deal should be one where our people's rights are observed and we are certain that there are measures to achieve such a deal."

A coalition of negotiators from six countries, including the US, has until the end of March to reach an agreement that allows Iran to enrich uranium but keeps the country from developing nuclear weapons. If that happens, the international community could lift the sanctions that have crippled the country's economy.

Over the weekend, US Secretary of State John Kerry said "genuine progress" had been made in recent talks, but that gaps still remain. Another meeting is expected before the March 31 cutoff.

Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB

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