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INTERVIEW: UNITED STATES

US Congress could block Iran nuclear deal, analyst

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the framework agreement on Iran's nuclear program  in Washington on April 2, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the framework agreement on Iran's nuclear program in Washington on April 2, 2015 Reuters/Mike Theiler

The deal agreed this week on Iran's nuclear capacity has been welcomed by US Barack Obama but it may be blocked by the US Congress. Tehran and big power representatives agreed on a framework  for the Iranian nuclear programme in Lausanne, Switzerland, this week ahead of a final deal to be completed by 30 June.

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Some people may have cheered after Iran, the United States and six others countries agreed on Friday on a framework for ways to contain Iran's nuclear programme but that doesn’t mean everybody will agree to it.

Experts say the Republican-dominated US Congress might kill off Obama’s diplomatic efforts.

Many Republicans in Congress have suggested the US may be giving too much away in negotiations.

“The constitutional principle of the separation of powers means that President Obama needs the approval of the legislator,” Douglas Yates, a professor of political science at American University of Paris pointed out Saturday.. “Because the Republicans control Congress right now, it’s going to be very difficult for him to convince Congress. Not because most of them wouldn’t like some kind of normalisation of the relations with Iran but because of a partisan block.”

Mario Abou Zeid a research analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center does not see Congress blocking the deal.

"As long as Obama is still there, Congress will not drastically change things," he says. "For the time being, all depends on the reactions of the Iranians and the implementation of the deal."

If the deal goes through in the summer, it will be a landmark foreign policy achievement, which is why Obama has been working for it for months.

"If Congress kills this deal, not based on expert analysis and without offering any reasonable alternative, then it's the United States that will be blamed for failure of diplomacy," he said Thursday.

But the road to closing a final deal with Iran will not be an easy one.

Opponents of a deal believe Obama is obsessed with his place in history and has made too many concessions, abandoning US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia in the process.

Two bills on Iran are to be discussed by the US Congress.

The furthest advanced of the two is the Corker-Menendez bill, which would give Congress the right to review any final agreement before any US sanctions on Iran are lifted.

Obama has vowed to veto the bill in its current form, as well as a separate bill that would impose additional sanctions on Iran.

But David Yates says the US president will have to work with Congress on this topic.

“The separation of power would give ultimately President Obama the right to veto or to accept whatever amendment the Congress proposes,” Yates explains. “One way or another it requires the executive and the legislators for such a major deal”.

Last week US secretary of State John Kerry warned Congress that rejecting a deal would mean the end of the talks with Iran.

"In the worst-case scenario, it would have some drastic measures," Abou Zeid warns. "Because the Iranians would launch the development of their nuclear programme on full-scale and potentially looking to produce nuclear weapons."

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