US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 15 to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of continuing talks on Tehran's nuclear program. What stance will Iran take in its dialogue with the US government which is losing trust? As the meeting approaches, 47 Republican senators sent an open letter to Iran warning that a nuclear deal signed by Barack Obama will stop being effective as soon as the incumbent President leaves the White House. Nothing like that has ever happened in the Senate’s 226-year history. Some things strike an eye. The senators wrote a letter to the leadership of the country the United States has no diplomatic relations with. Iran is at the top of the US adversaries’ list. The senators involved Iran into internal bickering. Lawmakers directly interfered into the negotiation process. Actually, the senators sent a message saying the United States had no defined position on the issue. It’s not clear what Obama plans to achieve by agreement with Iran: is it putting an end to the 35-year old hostility or is it a demonstration of independence from Congress? It’s hard for the «P5+1» partners to ignore the opinion of the senators. Iran is suspicious about Obama’s plans. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also poured derision on the Republican letter in a statement expressing astonishment that members of Congress would seek to undermine a US administration by writing directly to a foreign power. At the same time, Tehran realizes that the Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress is nothing but kind of a political show.
After the Netanyahu’s speech a congressional vote was held on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 bill to establish direct control of Congress over the talks with Iran. Senate Republican leadership had to postpone consideration of a bill that would require congressional approval of any Iran nuclear deal citing Democratic opposition to moving on the bill before the deal's deadline at the end of March. They decided to hold a vote when the bill will have an overwhelming majority. The vote is postponed but the deliberations never stop. Netanyahu could have missed his chance to address Congress. Obama is right saying he said nothing new. But the appearance of Israeli Prime Minister in the performance staged in Washington was needed exactly at the time when the US Congress was trying to disrupt the negotiation process. There is a wide gap between the US legislative and executive powers and it’s growing. According to Barack Obama, Republican senators took the side on America’s enemies. President Barack Obama says a letter from Republican senators to Iranian leaders is ironic because, in his words, some members of Congress appear to want to align themselves «hardliners» in Iran. Obama says, «It's an unusual coalition». Of course, there is nothing like a coalition, but this is an extraordinary situation. Iran believes this is a US problem to become a burning issue in 2017 if a new President will suspend the agreement. Iran is not going to leave the talks. Even if the negotiations fail, it will not be the fault of Tehran. Rejecting the consolidated position of the «big six» is one thing; a unilateral rejection by the United States of the already signed agreement is something quite different. It makes a lot of difference. The unilateral action would damage the US international stand, so the Congress is trying real hard to frustrate the negotiation process before the agreement is concluded. There is another factor to influence the US policy which has no relation to the Iran’s nuclear program. The United States has geopolitical interests in the Middle East. It does not want to lose such an important instrument of leverage on Iran as sanctions. But lifting the imposed sanctions is the Tehran’s indispensable condition for signing the deal.
The congressional opposition to the agreement has given rise to speculations on possible changes in the ranks of Iranian leadership, and even the resignation of President Hassan Rouhani. Iranians expect with hope the successful termination of the talks. They realize it’s not President Rouhani only the outcome depends on. The recent Gallup poll showed that 22% of responders in Iran believe there is a big chance the talks will end up successfully while 48% view the prospects for reaching a deal with caution while hoping for the better. In the spring of 2013, before Rouhani took office, the corresponding figures were 13% and 43%. There are no drastic changes in public opinion. No doubt the stance on the nuclear issue taken by President Rouhani is approved by Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Unlike the US Congress, the Iranian Majlis does not step on the way of confrontation with the country’s President and sends no letters with accusations against him to Washington. There is no ground to blame Rouhani for refusing to seek a compromise. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that, in his opinion, in 2014-2015 Iran became a constructive negotiator for the «big six». Talking about the Iran nuclear deal talks, Obama is on the verge of political debacle. It’s not the advocates of «tough line on Iran» who made it, but rather his political opponents on the Capitol Hill. The Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei condemned the senators letter on the Iran’s nuclear issue. According to him, the letter runs contrary to America’s political ethics. Khamenei has been quoted by Mehr news agency as saying: «Of course I am worried, because the other side is known for opacity, deceit and backstabbing. Every time we reach a stage where the end of the negotiations is in sight, the tone of the other side, specifically the Americans, becomes harsher, coarser and tougher. This is the nature of their tricks and deceptions,» he said.
The United States has extended political and economic sanctions against Iran for another year, the White House press service said on March 11. In his notice to the Congress US President Barack Obama said «certain actions and policies of the Government of Iran continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States». It also mentions the progress in the talks between the international intermediaries and Iran. How real is the intent of the administration to achieve a deal? Does it want to achieve its ends by the pressure of sanctions? This is a questionable approach. But the sanctions are not enough for US senators. They want a return to the times when the use of force was the main US argument in the relationship with Iran.