US Congress Elections and Iran's Nuclear Talks

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hassan Beheshtipour

Midterm elections for the US Congress were held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, as a result of which the Republican candidates finally succeeded after six years to win the majority of the congressional seats and, as such, wrench the control of the Senate out of Democrats’ hands.

It should be noted that the US Congress comprises of two legislative bodies, that is, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of the House are elected for a two-year term while the tenure of US senators is six years. Therefore, in every congressional election, members of the House are elected along with one-third of the members of the Senate, which amounts to 33 senators.

Now that the Republicans have won US congressional election, they sway majority in both House of Representatives and the Senate. Such state of affairs will certainly cause the incumbent US President Barack Obama to face more difficulties in the last two years of his second term in office, especially with regard to the conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.

The point that should be taken into consideration here is the possible impact that a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran will have on the congressional elections and its results. The US president can bank on two basic parameters when he wants to get more votes for his party in US legislative polls. One of those parameters is the situation inside the United States with the other one being the foreign policy of the United States. For example, such issues as the price of gasoline, interest rate of banks, general level of consumer prices, insurance coverage, security and so forth are among the most important domestic issues that determine the results of the US legislative polls. Another important issue which plays a role in various elections in the United States is the country’s foreign policy approach, which leaves its mark both on the congressional elections and presidential polls.

A review of the US foreign policy during the past six years that Barack Obama has been at the helm will make one reach the conclusion that his achievements in this field have been meager and he has not been able to break any new important grounds in the area of foreign policy. If Obama administration had managed to pull off a nuclear deal with Iran through Iran's nuclear talks with the P5+1 group of countries, it could have been considered a major breakthrough for his administration because such a deal would have made Obama the first US president to reach an agreement with Iran during the past 35 years. More importantly, by striking a deal with Iran, Obama could have solved one of the most important international crises through diplomacy, not war and conflict.

One the other hand, in view of the power and the influence that the Senate sways over US politics, it would have been better for Obama if the Democrat party could have won a majority, at least, at the Senate and maintained the six seats that it needed for this purpose. In this way, the US president would have felt free to act on a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, especially that part which is related to lifting of anti-Iran sanctions by the Congress. Therefore, the result of the Congress elections is sure to leave its mark on the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Of course, the results for Republicans and Democrats are close and according to media reports, the number of seats won by Republicans compared to Democrats is actually 52 to 48.

Therefore, it seems that even under the current circumstances, if Obama managed to clinch a nuclear deal with Iran, he would still be able to get it through the Congress. This may seem truer when taking into account that during the past 10 months, Iran has taken all practical measures needed as per the interim nuclear deal reached between the two sides in the Swiss city of Geneva last November and has, thus, proven that is it committed to observing its obligations. Therefore, international conditions are in Iran's favor and if the US Congress wanted to cause any disruption in the nuclear talks even under pressure from lobby groups representing the interests of Israel, it would lack enough clout to do so. Additionally, if Iran manages to clinch a comprehensive deal over its nuclear energy program, this will make it very difficult for US Congress to maintain sanctions against Iran. This is true because given Iran's performance with regard to the interim nuclear deal, the public opinion in the United States and other countries around the world would certainly not support the radical policies of Republicans and they will not be able to keep up their propaganda hype against Iran.

Obama, on the other hand, is well aware that the result of the nuclear negotiations and the possibility of achieving a comprehensive deal with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program will have a great effect on the next US presidential polls in the coming year. Despite all the efforts made by the pro-Israeli lobby to prevent such a deal from being realized, it can be greatly beneficial to Obama because of the positive atmosphere that exists at international level with regard to Iran. Up to the present time, the Islamic Republic has shown that while being loyal to its red lines, it is doing its best to make its nuclear program more transparent and has proven this in practice. At present, achievement of a final deal through nuclear negotiations hinges on two basic issues. Therefore, it would be better for the US president not to squander this opportunity and give up his excessive demands in order to pave the way for all involved sides to reach a comprehensive agreement before the November 24 deadline set for this purpose.

The basic issue is that more than being idealistic with regard to such cases as the nuclear negotiations, the United States is pragmatic. Therefore, the White House is currently seeking to get as highest number of concessions from Iran as possible. For this reason, the United States has been intensely bargaining throughout the negotiations. Some observers believe that the failure of Democrats in the mid-term Congress elections is sure to change the future approach of the United States to nuclear negotiations. At the same time, a more realistic analysis of the nuclear negotiations will show that the United States has already reached the conclusion that anti-Iran sanctions are of no use anymore and that Washington should stop its sanctions policy toward the Islamic Republic. The United States is bent on maintaining sanctions against Iran by any means and this has been a major reason why achievement of a comprehensive nuclear deal has been so far delayed. Therefore, if the Americans really reach the conclusion that the sanctions policy has lost its effectiveness, it will most possibly make them change their behavior and pave the way for the achievement of a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.

*A researcher, documentary producer, and expert on nuclear issues, Hassan Beheshtipour received his BA in Trade Economics from Tehran University. His research topics span from US and Russian foreign policy to the Ukrainian Orange Revolution.

Key Words: US Congress Elections, Iran's Nuclear Talks, Senate, House of Representatives, US Foreign Policy, Barack Obama, P5+1 Group of Countries, Republicans, Democrats, Sanctions Policy, Beheshtipour

Source: Hamshahri Online
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Press TV