US Congress Unable to Nix Iran Deal

US Congress Unable to Nix Iran Deal

H.J. Res64, a resolution of disapproval of the Iran nuclear agreement, has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. No matter the majority in the both houses opposes the agreement, Republicans have a very slim chance of blocking it. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says the supporters of the deal will try to mount a filibuster, a procedure to delay a vote on the proposal. They already have the 40 votes needed to obstruct the Republicans’ plans. The showdown between President Barack Obama and Congress over the Iran nuclear deal may drag on. Suppose the agreement reached by Iran and the six major world powers is rejected? What does it actually mean for the United States?

Secretary of State John Kerry, the main negotiator, gave lawmakers a warning: “…if we reject this plan, the multilateral sanctions regime will start to unravel. The pressure on Iran will lessen and our negotiating leverage will diminish, if not disappear. Now, obviously, that is not the path, as some critics would have us believe, to a so-called better deal. It is a path to a much weaker position for the United States of America and to a much more dangerous Middle East.”

It is not surprising that John Kerry puts the issue of sanctions at the top of the list. Those who oppose the deal say the mitigation of sanctions regime will provide Iran with additional resources to intensify anti-US activities in the region. It’s true, but today the rejection of the deal does not mean keeping the sanctions in place. Two years ago Washington reached a consensus with the European Union on enforcing oil embargo, isolating Iran from the international financing system and introducing numerous bans on exporting technology and equipment to the Islamic Republic of Iran. It has lost relevance today. Europe no longer wants to lose benefits derived from cooperation with Tehran. The nuclear agreement paved the way to negotiations and Europeans are seizing the opportunities.

Germany leads the way. Sigmar Gabriel, Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy and Vice President of Germany, visited Iran in July. He was the first Western political leader to visit the country since the deal between Iran and the “big six” was signed. Gabriel met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and many members of cabinet. The agenda included the prospects for expansion of economic and political ties. Talking about the results of the visit, Eric Schweitzer, CEO of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), said the bilateral trade could grow by more than 4 times in four years. In 2014, the two-way trade was 2.7 billion euros. It could increase to ten billion euros in medium term.

The German business is interested in expanding the cooperation, but World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder expressed his disappointment with the visit’s results. "It is somewhat irritating that Germany's vice chancellor and economics minister waited only five days before flying to Tehran with a delegation of German business leaders," Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement provided to Reuters.

Germany is not the only country to waste no time in restoring the economic cooperation with Iran. Austria’s Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, has recently visited Iran. He sets an ambitious goal to increase the bilateral trade up to five-fold after lifting the sanctions. Anyone who thinks that Russia, China and India would maintain the sanctions in case the US Congress repudiates the agreement is completely divorced from reality. In fact, US lawmakers have no arguments they could use to support their rejection of the verification mechanism worked out by the “big six” group to check the Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement provisions. Iran may not be trusted, but congressmen should listen to Andrew Schofer, deputy chief of US mission to international organizations in Vienna (UNVIE).

The report issued by the US mission on September 9 says the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is capable of effectively carrying out verification of the agreement signed by the “big six” in Vienna on July 14. At that, the capability of IAEA to check the Iran’s compliance is still questioned by US congressmen. There is more. Niggard US senators are not eager to approve voluntary contributions to make the Agency conduct additional checks. The essence of the agreement has receded into the background for the opponents of the deal. Congressmen are not so much worried about the Iranian nuclear program. The real concern is losing leverage over Tehran. That’s what unites the opponents and the supporters of the deal.

If the United States ever decides to use force against Iran, the nuclear agreement will enhance the US combat capability. Sounds strange enough, but that’s what US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. According to him, with the deal “would be effective at setting back Iran’s nuclear program, it would do so with potentially serious second- and third-order repercussions.”

It shows that the scenario of having the Islamic regime overthrown is still on the agenda. Former first lady and State Secretary Hillary Clinton argues along the same lines while running for President of the United States.

On September 9, she addressed the Iranian nuclear issue as a part of her speech at the Brookings Institution. According to her, the United States will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. “I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon," she said adding that she treated Iran with distrust. Mrs Clinton believes the United States should be ready for all scenarios and one of them presupposes that Iran might cheat.

Until now, there has been no reason to doubt the Iran’s intention to comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action approved by the “big six”, including the United States. In fact, on some issues Iran is ready to expedite the procedure, for instance moving low-enriched uranium to Russia. Speaking at the Russian Arms Expo 2015 in Nizhny Tagil, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the both sides were making progress by leaps and bounds. He had thought before that something could take shape in concrete terms no earlier than the second half of the next year. Now Ryabkov says he has ground to believe that an agreement on all points will be settled by the end of the year or in early 2016. This is the reality Washington turns a blind eye on. It believes that preventing the spread of Iran’s influence in the Middle East is more important than the state of its nuclear program.

The situation in Syria is of primary concern. The government of Assad is under attack. Its survival directly depends on the aid it receives from Iran and Russia. All these years Iran has been providing Syria with military aid, no matter the financial hardships it has been going through as a result of the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. Republican members of Congress are trying to make Tehran change its Middle East strategy by keeping the sanctions in place and blocking the nuclear deal. This policy leads to a dead end. Iran stands tall. It allows no deviations from its ideology. Tehran is adamant in its desire to prevent US domination in the region. Washington will not upstage Iran. Nor will it succeed in toppling the regime using force, no matter how much the three most recent US presidents wanted to do it. Looks like the time is right for a dialogue with Iran.

Tags: Iran  US