The US and world powers have struck a landmark deal with Iran over its controversial nuclear program, but the agreement faces tough obstacles ahead — particularly with Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates vowing to unravel it.
With much of the fierce rhetoric against the agreement coming
from the Republican Party, which just so happens to currently
control Congress, the political focus has shifted from whether or
not President Barack Obama would strike a deal with Iran to
whether or not his political opponents can kill it before it even
gets up and running.
Here are three ways domestic political maneuvering could bring
down the nascent nuclear accord.
Congress can kill the deal
Under the compromise agreement passed by Congress and signed by
President Obama, Congress has 60 days to review the international
agreement and vote to either approve or disapprove its
implementation. The deal does not require Congressional approval
to go into effect, but a vote against it would stop Obama from
lifting sanctions against Iran, which is needed to move the
process forward. If they aren’t lifted, the deal may as well not
This option appears to be the most direct path forward for
opponents of the deal, but it will require a significant amount
of bipartisan consensus building on a polarizing issue — not
exactly something the legislative branch has a good track record
for over the past few years. Since President Obama has already
promised to veto any disapproval of the deal, opponents would
have to scrounge up a sizable amount of Democratic votes to
If every single Republican in the House votes against the deal,
44 Democrats would need to join them to form a veto-proof
majority. Given the same scenario in the Senate, 13 Democrats
would have to join the GOP.
So far, many in the president’s party have generally refrained
from criticizing the nuclear accord. One exception has been
Representaive Brad Sherman (D-California), who argued that the
point of sanctions was to change the regime in Tehran, and that
the deal now makes this goal much more difficult. He said Iran
will benefit from sanctions relief and use some of that influx in
cash to “kill a lot of Sunnis … Americans, Israelis and work
Others have taken a more cautious approach, with Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New
York) vowing to closely review the deal before making any
decision on their support.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said
she “applauded” the deal, adding she “would be
absolutely devoted to assuring the agreement is followed,”
Fox News reported.
Dark horse candidate Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from
Vermont, also praised the deal, saying the Obama administration
had produced “a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from
obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Despite the long odds of stopping the agreement in its tracks,
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the
chamber “will review every detail of this agreement very
closely, but I won’t support any agreement that jeopardizes the
safety of the American people and all who value freedom and
A Republican president could immediately withdraw from the accord
If a Republican manages to gain control of the White House in
2016, they could simply reject the accord, remove US from its
participation, and potentially reinstate American sanctions on
Iran. Some Republican candidates, such as Wisconsin Governor
Scott Walker and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have already
pledged to do so.
The deal with Iran “will be remembered as one of America’s
worst diplomatic failures,” Walker said. “In order to
ensure the safety of America and our allies, the next president
must restore bipartisan and international opposition to Iran’s
nuclear program while standing with our allies to roll back
Iran’s destructive influence across the Middle East.”
– Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) July
Rubio added that should the deal go forward under Obama, “It
will then be left to the next President to return us to a
position of American strength and re-impose sanctions on this
despicable regime until it is truly willing to abandon its
nuclear ambitions and is no longer a threat to international
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, meanwhile, called the accord a
“dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted deal.”
“This isn’t diplomacy — it is appeasement,” he said in a
statement. “A comprehensive agreement should require Iran to
verifiably abandon — not simply delay — its pursuit of a nuclear
The nuclear agreement with Iran is a dangerous, deeply flawed,
and short sighted deal. My full statement: http://t.co/sSftOAkyAM
– Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), known for his hawkish
foreign policy views, said, “This is a deal for a deal’s
sake” before adding that it is “akin to declaring war on
Israel and the Sunni Arabs.”
But while it may be tempting for a GOP president to nonchalantly
scuttle one of President Obama’s major accomplishment, such a
move could carry tough consequences. If the US were to
unilaterally withdraw from the nuclear agreement, it may prove
difficult to convince the international community to impose
sanctions on Iran once again. Allies in the EU eager to do
business with Tehran may be unwilling to march in lock step with
Washington, while Iran itself could restart a nuclear program the
US, Israel and others view as dangerous.
“If we try to reimpose sanctions on Iran and no one follows,
then we have the worst of all worlds,” Robert Einhorn, a
former Iran nuclear negotiator at the State Department, said to Politico.
The next president could slowly sow doubts about Iran’s
Another option could be for a future president to try and slowly
undermine the deal rather than kill it outright. According to
Politico, a new commander in chief could initiate a review of the
agreement in order to determine whether Iran had violated any of
the provisions and, if so, the frequency of infractions.
Additionally, a new president could try to build support for
further restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program instead of voiding
“The president could insist, for instance, that if within
five years UN inspectors cannot verify that Iran’s nuclear
program is entirely peaceful, then the restrictions on Iran’s
nuclear activities that would have dropped off after year 10
would stay on,” wrote Nahal Toosi at Politico.
A new president could also find other ways to constrain Tehran,
such as by implementing sanctions unrelated to its nuclear
program. These could target Iran’s support of groups such as
Hezbollah, which the State Department claims Iran uses to
interfere with other nations.
This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.
Via RT – Reprinted with licence.