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U.S. Congress Torpedoes the Iran Deal

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

The buzz word in Washington around the Iran Nuclear Review Bill that was approved unanimously by a Senate committee is "compromise," parroted even by the White House spokesperson who has let it known that President Obama will endorse it despite some reservations. But, in reality, "compromise" is a code word for "concession," i.e., appeasement of the anti-Iran hawks in U.S. Congress, as well as Israel.

The big question is, of course, what is behind Obama's flip flop, notwithstanding his repeated warnings to U.S. Congress to stay out of Iran negotiations or face his veto power? The answer to this question should search beyond the facade of executive versus legislative 'turf war' on Iran nuclear issue and touch the underlying root cause -- in U.S.'s geostrategic interest to keep the furnace of Iran nuclear standoff alive instead of  extinguishing it.   

Indeed, why let a good thing go, perhaps some Washington 'insiders' are asking quietly, given the multiple benefits of the nuclear crisis -- in sustaining U.S.'s hegemony in Persian Gulf, containing the Iranian power,  and appeasing Israel's need to keep the limelight on Iran indefinitely. 

Thus the U.S.'s perpetual self-sabotage of the Iran deal, following last November's last minute change of heart by Obama, who refused to sign onto an agreement that his own negotiation team had reached. Obama's excuse then was reportedly that it was premature in light of a new Congress and he had to wait to size up the situation. It now appears that Obama has done that and reached the point that signing any deal with Iran is a bad deal, just as Iran hawks and the pro-Israel lobbyists have been saying for a long time. In other words, Obama's acceptance of the Iran bill is but a definite sign that the chicken has to roost and, indeed, the emperor has no clothes.

But, of course, without critical lenses, the Iran Nuclear Review Act appears as relatively benign and an exercise in constitutional checks and balances, which is why the polls indicate the majority of American people are in favor of a Congressional role in the Iran deal. It is only when one reads the bill's fine prints and pays close attention to its details that the real intention of its sponsors to torpedo the nuclear talks becomes apparent.

This is basically an intrusive legislation that impacts the content of negotiations by, for example, creating an issue linkage between nuclear and non-nuclear, e.g., terrorism, issues and conditioning Congress's approval of the deal on the executive branch's certificate of Iran's compliance with the demand to stop funding terrorist groups. 

Essentially, this means a revised script for the nuclear talks and the imposition of brand new 'parameters' such as terrorism, that have not been part of the intense negotiations; the latter are solely focused on the nuclear issue and, yet, must now due to this bill,  expand the requirements for compliance by Iran -- to U.S.'s arbitrary demands.

Another aspect of the bill that is equally problematic is that it raises the necessity of White House's certificate that the atomic agency is satisfied with Iran's compliance on the "possible military dimension" issues which, as we know, raise the prospect of IAEA demands to access Iran's secret military bases, a taboo from the vantage point of Iran's military and civilian leadership. In fact, the Supreme Leader in his recent speech drew a red line and categorically opposed any suggestion that Iran would accommodate the West on this matter.

Hence, Iran's stern negative reaction to the latest developments in U.S. Congress and Obama's inexcusable turn-around from a critic to an admirer of the Iran bill is a given, raising the prospect that the bill can be a show-stopper and spell doom for the nuclear negotiations. The path ahead is now made doubly more complicated and the new hurdles by U.S. Congress act as so many powerful torpedoes aiming to sink the ship of diplomacy.

*Kaveh Afrasiabi, PhD, is a former political science professor at Tehran University and the author of several books on Iran’s foreign policy. His writings have appeared on several online and print publications, including UN Chronicle, New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Journal, Harvard International Review, and Brown's Journal of World Affairs, Guardian, Russia Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Mediterranean Affairs, Nation, Telos, Der Tageszeit, Hamdard Islamicus, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Global Dialogue.

More By Kaveh L. Afrasiabi:

*Iran and the 2015 NPT Review Conference: Disarmament: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran-and-the-2015-NPT-Review-Conference-Disarmament.htm

*‘Oil Conspiracy’ Theory and Its Critics: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/-Oil-Conspiracy-Theory-and-Its-Critics.htm

*Iran and the 2015 NPT Review Conference: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran-and-the-2015-NPT-Review-Conference.htm

*Photo Credit: The Washington Post

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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