Obama administration officials brief committee on nuclear negotiations with Iran

Senior Obama administration officials briefed members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for the first time on Tuesday on the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Following the closed-door meeting, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the Obama administration must do a better job of communicating negotiation developments to Congress.

“Despite repeated requests, today’s briefing was the first time that all members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have been briefed in a closed session on the status of the nuclear negotiations with Iran,” Royce said. “With less than one month before the July 20 deadline to reach an agreement, the Obama administration must better inform and engage Congress on these critical negotiations, particularly as only Congress can provide any permanent sanctions relief, should an agreement be reached.”

Royce said it was “disappointing” that administration officials would not appear in an open hearing with the committee.

“It is clear that many members of the committee are concerned about the direction of these negotiations, asking tough questions of the U.S. negotiators,” Royce said. “Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability is the committee’s highest priority, as it has been for many years.”

Committee members reiterated that White House officials should consult Congress before providing any sanctions relief, Royce said. They noted the onus is on Iran to prove it has not engaged in a covert weapons program.

“Members of the committee also had grave concerns about the duration of the final step of the comprehensive solution,” Royce said. “Under the agreement, after a relatively short period (to be determined by the negotiations) of good behavior, Iran would be freed from sanctions and any intrusive inspections measures – being converted from ‘nuclear pariah to nuclear partner,’ as one witness recently testified in front of the committee.”

Royce said one witness referred to the final step as a “giant get out of jail free card for Iran.”