The Iranian government is urging the United States to go straight to the United Nations to finalize any agreement reached in the coming weeks regarding Tehran’s contested nuclear program without seeking congressional approval.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and top negotiator, suggested in a recent interview that the U.N. Security Council should be responsible for approving any agreement reached between Western powers and Tehran over its nuclear program, a proposal that the Obama administration entertained on Thursday.
The State Department argues that a nonbinding agreement with Iran—one that would not be subject to congressional oversight or approval—could be more enforceable due to the removal of opposition by a majority of Republican lawmakers to a deal.
Iran’s backing of a U.N.-approved deal came just days before State Department officials expressed reserved openness to the idea and revealed that they are currently working on a plan with other Security Council members to ease sanctions on Tehran.
Zarif first raised the idea of subjecting a deal to U.N. approval in a recent interview with an Iranian magazine conducted in Persian.
Once the countries strike an agreement, it should be "approved and confirmed" by the Security Council under Chapter 7 of the U.N.’s charter, according to Zarif.
A "resolution under chapter 7 of the U.N. charter is an international and binding treaty for all the member states," Zarif said, according to an independent translation of his remarks in the interview.
Under these terms, "any deal is binding for the current U.S. government and for the future U.S. governments," Zarif said.
These comments are particularly noteworthy given the Obama administration’s insistence in recent days that it is pursuing a "nonbinding" deal, which means that Congress would be cut out of the approval process and that neither country would be legally responsible for upholding the arrangement.
Zarif went on to claim that he and the United States are working on a deal that would lift all U.N. Security Council resolutions against Iran’s nuclear program. When asked about sanctions related to Iran’s missile programs, Zarif claimed that these would be lifted as well under any final deal.
When asked about the prospect of going to the U.N. with any final nuclear deal, Jen Psaki, the State Department’s spokeswoman, said this that idea is being floated in talks with Iran.
"Obviously, we know that that’s their objective… and certainly part of the discussion," Psaki said in response to questions at the department’s daily briefing on Thursday.
Psaki went on to hint that the he United States is seeking a nonbinding deal in order to keep Congress out of the debate in the near term.
"Obviously, if we’re at the point where there’s an agreement and there are sanctions that are rolled back, then that’s a role that they would play," she said."
She added: "But there is a long history, a long precedent for these type of international—government-to-government international agreements" that are inked without congressional say."
A nonbinding framework would also give the Obama administration greater flexibility to re-impose sanctions on Iran should it violate the deal, Psaki claimed.
"The overriding reason to prefer a nonbinding international arrangement to a treaty is the need to preserve the greatest possible flexibility to re-impose sanctions if we believe Iran is not meeting its commitments under a joint comprehensive plan of action," she said. "And we believe that the success of this arrangement will depend not on whether it’s legally binding or not, but rather on the extensive verification measures we are seeking to put in place, and Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose and ramp up our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments."
Reuters reported Thursday that the United States and other major powers are working on a Security Council resolution to lift economic sanctions on Iran.
"Iran and the administration both know that the deal they are forging is not acceptable to the U.S. Congress and probably to the next administration," said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iranian dissident and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). "As a result, both Iran and the administration are trying to come up with creative ways to bypass the Congress and check mates the future presidents."
"The latest creative solution Iran came up with is to seal the deal by a U.N. Security Council resolution," he said. "This is another sign that the deal we are talking about is a bad deal for the West and a good deal for the Islamic regime in Iran."
Republican senators have already begun expressing opposition to any U.N.-approved agreement.
"The United Nations has no authority whatsoever to bind the United States of America," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Daily Beast. "If President Obama attempts to end-run the Constitution by enlisting the United Nations to enforce an Iran deal that sets the stage for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, it would be both profoundly dangerous to the national security of the United States and our allies, and also patently unconstitutional."
Pro-Israel groups are also beginning to speak out against the plan as well.
"Of course the Iranians want to go to the U.N.," said Omri Ceren, press director for the Israel Project (TIP). "They get to leverage every dictator and despot who sits there—and who wants to do business with a terror regime—against the United States Senate."