Iran parliament committee to review nuke deal

Under Iran's constitution, parliament has a right to reject any deal - even one negotiated by the foreign ministry

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The Iranian parliament set up a special committee on Tuesday to review a landmark agreement that would curb the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, the Associated Press reported.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who headed the Iranian delegation in months-long talks leading up to the historic deal, had presented the parliament with a copy of the agreement earlier on Tuesday.

The development came a day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed the deal, which reins in Iran’s nuclear program and authorized measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran.

Under Iran’s constitution, parliament has a right to reject any deal - even one negotiated by the foreign ministry - but it is unlikely that the lawmakers would act against it after the deal won an endorsement from the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Zarif first submitted the text to the house on Tuesday. Hours later, the official IRNA news agency reported the formation of a 15-member special committee of lawmakers to review the deal.

The committee is apparently a way to provide the lawmakers - especially hard-liners who had vehemently opposed to deal from the start, though they have mostly remained silent about it since last week - with an opportunity to discuss various points and air their opinions on it.

Zarif, in a speech in parliament that was broadcast on state radio, hailed the Security Council resolution as “unique” and said he expected it to be “the last resolution about Iran’s nuclear issue” - a reference to numerous past U.N. measures that imposed tough sanctions on Tehran.

It remained unclear whether the committee will formalize a statement at the end of its review, and whether lawmakers would vote on that - or on the deal in general.

The Security Council also approved a provision that would automatically reinstate the harsh measures if Tehran reneges on its promises given in Vienna.

Zarif, apparently trying to defuse concerns by hard-liners over snap-back sanctions, said such a move would exact a “heavy price” on the other side as well.

“If for any reason, Security Council sanctions are re-imposed, Iran will not be obliged to abide by its commitments” under the nuclear deal, Zarif said, adding that it is not in the interest of both sides to go back to the pre-deal situation.

Under the agreement, Iran’s nuclear program will be curbed for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many key penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.

Separately, President Barack Obama thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for China's role in securing the deal.

The White House says Obama and Xi spoke Monday, the same day the U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed the deal.

China is a permanent member of the Security Council and was part of the group of five Security Council members plus the EU that negotiated the deal with Iran.

One prominent Iranian official who has spoken against the deal is the head of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, who said last week that his force has “some concerns” about the draft.

Those points, he said on Saturday, “are clearly in contradiction and violation of important red lines of Iran, especially regarding arms capabilities.”

“They will never be acceptable to us,” Jafari was quoted as saying at the time, without elaborating.

The United States and its Western allies believe Tehran’s real goal is to build atomic weapons but Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy and medical isotopes.

Zarif said Tuesday that the U.N. resolution also opens the way for Iran to commercially trade its uranium. Under the deal, Iran has to dismantle two thirds of its already installed centrifuges for enriching uranium and get rid of 98 percent of its uranium stockpile.

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