How congressional hawks plan to kill Obama’s Iran deal

October 27, 2014

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani gives a news conference on the sidelines of the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York

Negotiations with Iran over the future of its nuclear program have not even concluded yet some members of Congress are preparing to manufacture a political crisis over a deal. Their beef? President Barack Obama may initially bypass Congress and suspend sanctions imposed on Iran to make a deal possible and only later ask lawmakers to end them permanently when it is determined that Iran has complied fully with its obligations under the deal.

Of course, many of the lawmakers complaining about the potential presidential end run voted to give him the right to waive sanctions when they passed sanctions legislation in 2010 and 2011. And, of course, only Congress can lift the sanctions permanently, so there wouldn’t be any circumventing to begin with.

So what’s really going on?

It’s very simple: If you prefer war with Iran over a deal with Iran – even one that would prevent it from building a bomb — your best and possibly last opportunity to kill the deal is immediately after the nuclear talks have concluded. That’s when distrust of Iran’s intentions will remain pervasive and when its commitment to carry out its side of the deal will still have to be demonstrated. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pursued this tactic in January after an interim agreement was reached in November last year.

Ironically, Iranians, too, seek an immediate vote on lifting the sanctions, though for reasons quite different from hawkish lawmakers in Congress. The hawks want a quick vote the better to kill the deal. The Iranians want a quick vote the better to get permanent sanctions relief sooner.

In the middle is the Obama administration, which is seeking a path that would make the deal durable by offering Tehran reversible economic relief at the outset of the deal with a promise to make it permanent once Iran has fully delivered on its end of the bargain.

And that is precisely what congressional opponents fear: Obama’s strategy will persuade the Iranians to accept significant limits to their nuclear program, allow   inspectors to roam its nuclear facilities and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on compliance — paving the way for a final nuclear deal and permanent sanctions relief for Iran.  Such a scenario would undermine congressional opposition because the Iranians would be allowed to prove over at least the course of a year that they are a trustworthy partner living up to their commitments under the deal. A vote soon after a deal is struck in November would keep distrust alive.

The taming effect of Obama’s diplomacy with Iran on Congress was visible in July.  When the nuclear talks failed to reach an agreement, negotiators extended them for four months. Most lawmakers expected the extension would open the door for the hawks to derail the process by pushing new sanctions. But unlike the sanctions gambit in January, the new legislation was designed so as not to violate the interim accord, which would have given Tehran a pretext to exit the negotiations and  undermine the ongoing diplomacy.

Yet contrary to expectations, the four-month extension did not generate a political showdown over diplomacy and sanctions. Three factors explain why the hawks ended up losing the fight even before it began. First, the focus of the hawks was divided between the interim deal and defending Israel over its war with Hamas. Second, supporters of the president’s diplomacy had prepared the ground in Congress and mobilized resources in defense of it. And third, and perhaps most important, the interim nuclear deal had been a success.

According to all accounts, the Iranians had delivered on all their promises and commitments. They had not dragged their feet. They had not tried to cheat. Six months of continued good news had cleared much of the poison out of the atmosphere in Congress and rendered anti-Iran measures far more difficult to pass.

The hawks in Congress have learned their lesson. They now fear more good news coming out of the nuclear talks in Vienna. To kill these negotiations and pave the way for war, they need a vote now. Not later.


PHOTO: ran’s President Hassan Rouhani gives a news conference on the sidelines of the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York September 26, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif 


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There are so many lies and misrepresentation in this article.

Posted by better1 | Report as abusive

Just remember,its always very easy to tell when iran is lying to you…..their mouth will be moving!!!!!!

Posted by dontbgulible | Report as abusive

Considering that Mr Parsi has been alleged to be a mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic of Iran this “analysis” is not surprising. Shame on Reuters for not giving some background on the author. Check out the following regarding a lawsuit Mr Parsi lost: ngton-insight/434-niac-lost-defamation-c ase-and-sanctioned-for-discovery-abuses

Posted by ybr1dgea | Report as abusive

Just like Americas silly on going attitude with Cuba that that they should be embarrassed about after what 50 years. A total artificial fabrication.

Same what is happening now with Iran. Keep it up America, you have become the laughing stock of this world

Posted by cynical175 | Report as abusive

America does not want peace. Just like the never ending joke with Cuba a total farce and fabrication.

Some with Iran, they don’t want a deal and prefer a war to keep Halliburton and Lockheed Martin working too support the economy and make the GDP look good.

Posted by cynical175 | Report as abusive

I congratulate Mr. Parsi for writing this optimistic and positive article.
I ,as an Iranian,feel honor that the officials of my country showed their determination and their faith to deal with the nuclear crisis and once more proved that if the problem has not been solved by now ,the party to blame is not ,surely,Iran.And ,now it,s expected the other parties,p5+1,may show their good-will in talks and be ready to hammer out a win-win deal to put an end to an unnecessary crisis.

Posted by factseeker | Report as abusive

To be honest about it, look what happened to Libya when they gave up their nuclear ambitions.

Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, but no one says a peep about it. So what is really going on here?

Posted by Cleveland2012 | Report as abusive

Even if America votes for a war, none of its allies will. Not only will they object, they may go against America. For example Germany FOR SURE will say dont use our territory for any thing to do with war. No treatment of injured soldiers and no using any German land for anything to do with the war. Russia will arm Iran FOR SURE with the latest SS missile system. China already has signed a naval pact with Iran. And then the ongoing turmoil in the ME. So even if the Congress voted for a war, America wont. Because it will be America that will loose the most.

Posted by Dhirajkunar | Report as abusive

Mr. Parsi does get one thing right. He correctly spelled President Obama’s name. Other than that, he’s pretty far off in everything else he lays out in this editorial. Let’s deal with his primary thesis which is if you oppose an end run around the Constitution and favor giving Iran access to nuclear weapons then you MUST be a war monger. Unfortunately for Mr. Parsi the vast majority of American voters have a deep and abiding respect for the rule of law, be it paying their taxes, not shoplifting in an Apple store or killing their neighbor. In this case, they believe a President wanting to make unilateral decisions about giving a radicalized Islamic theocracy access to nuclear weapons without approval bu Congress might be a bit problematic. But far be it for Mr. Parsi to ignore such mundane things as political reality. He doubles down with the belief that Iran can be a trusted party. This coming from a regime that has supported Assad in Syria and sparked one of the bloodiest sectarian wars since the Middle Ages and recently and frequently hangs its political prisoners including women and gays. It is reassuring though that Iran’s mullahs have such an ardent and fervent supporter in Mr. Parsi who never fails to disappoint in his loyalty to the small cadre of clerics that run Iran. Lastly Mr. Parsi argues for a narrow pathway for Obama to navigate a deal bypassing Congress. It is this argument that reveals the depth and nature of his slavish support for Iran at the price of a true accounting by America’s political system. He argues that since opponents to an Iran treaty (and this includes a vast majority of both Democratic and Republican senators) are really war mongers, then their views are irrelevant and hence should be ignored in the name of expediency. To listen and act on Mr. Parsi’s suggestion would be no different than taking a direct order from Supreme Leader Khamenei and just as likely to prove disastrous as his decision to support Assad was in giving birth to ISIS.

Posted by ChangeIranNow | Report as abusive

Congratulations to President Obama and John Kerry! It looks like they and the Iranians have outmaneuvered AIPAC and Congressional Israel-firsters. The EU will supply backup, in case the Senate tries to infringe on the president’s power to make foreign policy. The 11% of Americans who have a favorable view of Congress will be in no position to foil a sane and productive relationship between Iran and the US, at long last.

Posted by Gaius1963 | Report as abusive

Trita Parsi is the President of the National Iranian American Council, an organization which shills for Iranian interests. When the Ayatollahs snap, their step and fetch it boy, Trita, jumps. God save the Iranian people from toadies likes this.

Posted by Hamdulallah | Report as abusive

Reuters should just merge with al-Jazeera.

Posted by Hamdulallah | Report as abusive

Reuters might be paying the writer, but obviously Iran is paying Mr Persian even more

Posted by HomerJones | Report as abusive

There is nothing alleged about Mr. Parsi being a mouthpiece for the Islamic Republic of Iran. This article makes it crystal clear.

Posted by Pirovano | Report as abusive

@ChangeIranNow, ISIS was created by the United States and Saudi Arabia, when they decided to arm ‘rebels”. Now those rebels have turned into ISIS. You really need to get your head out of the sand.

As for Iran, I think they should just go for the bomb. The West has nothing but destruction and chaos to offer.

Just look at Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afganistan, Yemen, Pakistan, etc…….

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

The comments here that criticize the article offer only platitudes and personal attacks.

Posted by binogo | Report as abusive

[…] Iranian American Council, that’s what President Barack Obama’s opponents most fear. He explains one possible scenario in a blog post for Reuters: “Obama’s strategy will persuade the […]

Posted by A Republican Majority In Congress Could Mean Doom For A Nuclear Deal With Iran | Report as abusive