U.S. Bishops Warn Congress Not to 'Undermine' Iran Nuke Deal

An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector checks the uranium enrichment process inside Iran's Natanz plant in January 2014.

As congressional opponents of the “Lausanne framework” agreement with Iran prepped for Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings tomorrow, proponents of the deal, meant to hamstring Iran’s purported nuclear weapons development, got some help today from the U.S. bishops.

Las Cruces, New Mexico’s Bishop Oscar Cantú, Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged Congress to give the framework and peace in the region a chance. “We welcome the most recent step the United States and its international partners have taken with Iran and encourage our nation to continue down this path,” he wrote in a letter to Congress. “Now is the time for dialogue and building bridges which foster peace and greater understanding. We urge Congress to support these efforts.”

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Bishop Cantú added: “It is vital to continue to foster an environment in which all parties can build mutual confidence and trust in order to work towards a final accord that enhances peace. For this reason, our Committee continues to oppose Congressional efforts that seek to undermine the negotiation process or make a responsible multi-party agreement more difficult to achieve and implement.”

He said, “The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the Church.”

Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t agree more. The AP reports that on Face the Nation yesterday he urged congressional opponents of the deal to "hold their fire" until they see the text of a final agreement, due June 30. "We've earned the right to be able to try and complete this without interference and certainly without partisan politics," Kerry said. Months of complex negotiations included representatives from Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, China, Germany and France. Reaching their framework of understanding was called “no small achievement” by Bishop Cantú.

Kerry and the Obama administration hope to beat back an effort in Congress to seek greater oversight over the Obama administration initiative with Iran. A bill proposed by Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and embattled Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, would give Congress a say on any agreement that would mean lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for surrendering nuclear material and supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Holy See has long supported dialogue aimed at reducing tensions with Iran and resolving concerns over its nuclear development program. On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis offered his prayers for a successful conclusion to those negotiations: “In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

“This is a big issue for the Vatican, for the Holy Father,” said Rose E Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, who was “very glad” to hear the pope’s remarks on the framework. Gottemoeller is in Rome this week for meetings with Vatican officials in preparation for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference, scheduled for April 27-May 22, at the United Nations.

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Tom Maher
3 years 4 months ago
On Tuesday April 14, 2015 the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted 19 - 0 to support bill on the Iran nuclear negotiations that would require by law the President report all detail of the negotiations to Congress before any negotiations are agreed to by the President and further required formal Congressional approval of any nuclear negotiations with Iran. In a huge and sudden political shift President Obama who agreed to sign this new legislation due to overwhelming bi-partisan political opposition and grave concerns over many of the provisions to the Obama/Kerry Iranian negotiations. Publically Iranian leaders understanding are widely at variance with the Obama Administrations representations of the negotiations. This wide difference between Iran and the U.S. strongly indicate the negotiated agreement is not currently politically in the United States Congress viable without extensive revisions. In addition the sanctions on Iran will not be lifted without lifted without the Congresses approval that an acceptable and viable negotiations with Iran have been concluded. Congress effectively had obtained a veto-proof majority to legislate what would or would not be agreed to by the United States. The Obama administration face with this total loss of control over the negotiations finally agreed to accommodate and work with the many very strong concerns Congress had with the Iranian nuclear negotiations. As Senator Corker said of the vote this was a run-away train that would not allow the Obama administration to ignore the overwhelming will of Congress in both the Senate and the House.
Martin Eble
3 years 4 months ago
Although this article is entitled "U.S. Bishops Warn Congress Not to 'Undermine' Iran Nuke Deal", a single bishop apparently made the statement - not warning - Bishop Oscar Cantú. Bishop Oscar Cantú is the Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace: http://www.usccb.org/about/international-justice-and-peace/ whose membership is unidentified on the USCCB website. There appears to be no vote documented on the issue of the pending negotiations with Iran. Bishop Oscar Cantú is certainly entitled to have and express an opinion on any topic he wishes, but doing so hardly constitutes the "U.S. Bishops" let alone a "warning".
Dexter Van Zile
3 years 4 months ago
I disagree with the message offered by the letters to both John Kerry and to Congress, but it appears that the headline is appropriate. He's writing in his capacity of Chairman and it's an elected position, he's chosen by the other Bishops. I have grave misgivings about the deal, but after making an inquiry, it appears that the headline is not unreasonable.
Martin Eble
3 years 3 months ago
He is writing personally. Whether he is the chairman of a committee or not, unless until the bishops review his report and formally approve it, it his alone. I looked up his history and he has zero relevant experience or training to bring to bear on this topic.
Francis Byrne
3 years 3 months ago
How can you support a deal with the likes of Iran. They support terrorist activities where more than likely Christians have been executed because they are Christians. Tell me what you'll say to your congregations in ten years when Iran will put a nuclear device together and drop on the United States. If you think this can't happen then you need a reality check.

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