House Starts Its Review of Iran Deal

The US House of Representatives is set to kick off its review of a final nuclear deal with Iran this week following a month of parallel activity in the Senate.

The Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing July 9 with former George W. Bush administration arms control official Stephen Rademaker and other outside experts on the implications of a nuclear agreement. Negotiators in Vienna aim to have a final deal inked by the end of the week, since going past July 9 (Thursday) would give a disapproving Congress 60 days instead of 30 to bar President Barack Obama from lifting sanctions and potentially scuttle a deal.

Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., has raised serious misgivings about the deal that appears to be taking shape in Vienna.

“As we anticipate a congressional review of the Administration’s possible nuclear agreement with Iran, we’ll be looking to see how the Administration has done on Congress’ red lines,” Royce said in a statement. “This hearing will be the first in a series the Committee will hold should the Administration strike what might be one of the most significant agreements in decades. As I have said, no deal is far better than a bad deal.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., for his part isn’t ready to give up on the negotiations.

“The alternative is to not take the deal, which surely means there has to be some military action in bombing the nuclear sites and slapping more severe sanctions on them,” Engel told Al-Monitor last week. “You’ve got to pick the least bad of all bad choices.”

Meanwhile, Senate appropriators vote this week on their foreign aid spending bill. While a summary will be made public after a July 7 subcommittee markup, the full text of the bill isn’t expected to be published online until several days after the full committee takes it up on July 9.

Key issues include whether the Senate will follow the House’s lead in further easing restrictions on military aid to Egypt. The Senate bill may also seek to clarify congressional intent on assistance to the Palestinians amid a sharp disagreement between key House members and the State Department, as Al-Monitor first reported last week.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) continues to commandeer attention on Capitol Hill, Iran deal or no.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing July 7 on the Obama administration’s strategy for countering the terrorist group. And the panel will hear on July 9 from Obama’s pick to take over as the top military commander in charge of defeating IS and other threats, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford.

In addition, the full House is expected to easily approve legislation on July 7 beefing up military support for Jordan as it takes on IS. The bill, from the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East panel, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., so far has no Senate equivalent.

Finally, Ros-Lehtinen’s panel holds a hearing July 9 examining the outcomes from Obama’s much-maligned Camp David summit with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations.

“This hearing will examine the Camp David summit and recent developments in the relationship between the United States and the GCC and analyze how GCC countries are responding to the Iran nuclear talks and the expansion of Iran and [IS] in the region,” she said in a statement. “Members will have the opportunity to hear from experts on how to improve US policy in order to address GCC concerns and strengthen the security interests of the United States and our ally Israel, such as additional GCC defense cooperation and reevaluating our approach to Assad, [IS], and Iran.”

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