J Sreet head Jeremy Ben Ami. (flickr) J Sreet head Jeremy Ben Ami. (flickr)
Jeremy Ben-Ami

J Street congratulated the Obama administration for reaching “an historic agreement” with Iran. The left-wing organization is lobbying Congress to support the framework deal.

J Street issued a press release congratulating the Obama administration on successfully reaching a framework nuclear agreement with Iran. The statement, which was co-authored by the Arab American Institute and the National Iranian American Council, praised the preliminary deal as a potential first step towards de-escalation in the region while acknowledging that many concerns remain regarding Iranian policy.

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. (Photo: fouman.com)

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. (Photo: fouman.com)

The joint statement hailed the deal as “an historic agreement that provides a framework for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and averts a disastrous war.”

“This deal may provide an important first step towards de-escalating regional tensions and pave the way for resolving the many conflicts that still persist. The lesson that we all must learn from these successful negotiations is that diplomacy works. This deal demonstrates that no disagreement should be so deeply entrenched that it cannot be resolved through the give and take of serious diplomacy,” the statement read.

The organizations nonetheless recognized Iran’s problematic behavior in the Middle East, saying, “While there is much work to be done to address our remaining concerns regarding Iran’s objectionable policies, reaching a final agreement by June on the nuclear issue is an important step to enhancing American and regional security.”

US Senate

US Senate

J Street is lobbying Congress to support the nuclear deal. Congress and the president have been in what appears to be a power struggle over approval of a final agreement, as the Constitution requires Senate approval for any foreign treaty. The Obama administration has argued that the nuclear deal is not legally a treaty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, meanwhile, is preparing legislation that would require Obama to submit the agreement for Congressional approval, adding that the Iranian issue is too important for Congress not to be involved.

“I don’t think a veto-proof majority is in the bag yet,” Dylan Williams, director of government affairs at J Street, told The Guardian. He noted that Congress would need to pass the proposed bill, vote to override the President’s veto on the bill and then vote again to oppose the nuclear agreement. “It only takes one-third of one chamber of Congress in order to support this deal,” he said. “It’s doable, but it’s not something you want to gamble on.”

The press release did not address the concerns expressed by Israel and the Arab states about the nuclear agreement’s shortcomings. President Obama has admitted that by the time the agreement expires, “the breakout times [to a nuclear weapon] would have shrunk almost down to zero.” The deal notably does not address Iran’s support for terrorism, it’s leading role in the Sunni-Shiite conflict, or its non-recognition of Israel.