European ambassadors go to Capitol Hill to try to save Iran deal

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A group of European ambassadors trying to save the Iran Deal made a pilgrimage to Capitol Hill to make their case before Congress that the agreement to curb and track Iran's nuclear program should be kept in place. 

The ambassadors from the U.K., E.U., France and Germany met with at least 30 senators to lay out the case and said that there is a "lot of misunderstanding" about the deal on the Hill. They felt they had made a convincing argument for preserving the agreement. 

Though the Europeans want to keep the deal intact, they are are willing to consider strengthening monitoring of the Iranian nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They pointed out that there is no part of the deal that forbids inspections on Iran's military sites and reminded senators that Iran has not turned down any request for inspection. They also reiterated that China, Russia and Iran all say there is no way to reopen the deal. And it is not possible to open, or re-negotiate, the deal with one party. None of these entities have plans to walk away from the deal with the U.S. 

"It's impossible to reopen the agreement, but we are open to talk about issues not covered by the deal," explained one of the Western diplomats in describing talks on the Hill this week. 

It is also the case that these countries, whose diplomatic efforts helped forge this deal, have made to the White House. 

"We have offered to work with administration on a range of policies and actions to push back on Iran in the region," explained a Western diplomat. They have been giving White House staffers suggestions about what can be done in the region to exert more pressure on Iran. 

Yet this week signaled a transition, with the diplomats expecting the White House to decertify national legislation on the deal. That would move the issue to Congress, which would decide what to do with the deal.

The ambassadors learned that senators have little interest in disrupting the deal. Congress has been told by the secretaries of state and defense, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that it would be better for U.S. national security to leave the deal intact. 

"The GOP majority is not that excited about getting the 'Old Maid,'" said a Western diplomat. But ultimately, "they would like to avoid a crisis." 

The Europeans do not want to see Iran with a nuclear weapon -- which could happen if the U.S. leaves the deal and it falls apart altogether. Once President Trump decertifies the deal by the deadline of October 15, Congress would take the baton. With that in mind, the ambassadors have now laid out the foundation of their argument this week and they have already planned meetings with members of Congress later in the month.