The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers continues to be a matter of debate all around the world, especially in the United States. Recently Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz testified before the US Senate’s Foreign Relations committee on this issue. The aim was to present the merits of the deal and to answer questions and concerns. There are still many individuals that have not been convinced that it’s actually a “good deal” as US President Barack Obama put it.
Last weekend, the duo appeared on numerous television channels for the same goal, and made significant points on air.
A “two-month review period” has started for the lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to decide whether it’s a “good deal.” Afterwards, the Congress can vote for a “resolution of disapproval” to block out the nuclear deal, however Obama made his position clear that he would veto the resolution, if presented. But if the naysayers obtain a two-thirds majority, they would override Obama’s veto, and practically block the deal.
Basic arithmetics display that Republicans do have more seats than Democrats in both houses, but still not enough to obtain the two-thirds majority.
The outcome of the vote will depict how the US perceives the nuclear deal with Iran: has it become a “State Policy” rather than a “Democrat’s Project?”
Experts hinted that the answer to this question is still ambiguous today, but in time it will become clearer. Today, clues among the details point to both a “State Policy” and a “Democrat’s Project.”
Hasan Basri Yalcin, a regional expert from Istanbul Commerce University points out the fact that in the latest US National Security Strategy document released in February 2015, “preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons remains a high priority.”
The document also contains an outlook on the nuclear deal with Iran saying, “Having reached a first step arrangement that stops the progress of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited relief, our preference is to achieve a comprehensive and verifiable deal that assures Iran’s nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. This is the best way to advance our interests, strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, and enable Iran to access peaceful nuclear energy.”
The emphasis of the deal on National Security Strategy is a clue that it’s already becoming a “State Policy.” Another clue is that the deal correlates with the overall foreign policy strategy.
Another esteemed academician, Bayram Sinkaya, a Middle East policy advisor from the Think Tank Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies reminds the Cold War era deals the US carried out with the USSR and China. Initially they also had been subjected to immense criticism, but as time passed, they were accepted as “state policy.” Based on those examples, he puts forward the idea that the deal with Iran would follow the same path and see acceptance in the future.
The “Democrat’s Project” argument has some validity at first glance. Many Republicans have already announced their unfavourable stances against the deal. That is not to say that the result is obvious since many senators stated that they will go over every nook and cranny about the deal before coming to a decision.
US House Speaker John Boehner from the Republican Party says he will do “everything possible” to stop the nuclear deal with Iran. Boehner is known for his close stance to Israel. Before the preliminary agreement with Iran, Boehner had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress and the event stirred controversy with the White House when Obama displayed his displeasure of the invitation.
From the day Netanyahu held up the poster to make his point in 2012, until now, Israel has been and continues to be the most outspoken opposition to the nuclear deal.
Netanyahu insists that “Iran was about to collapse” because of the “international sanctions that were hobbling their economy.” According to this point of view, the deal will do more damage than good by saving Iran from demise and allowing Iran to access funds that can be used to further the expansionist policy.
Bayram Sinkaya gives another angle on Israel’s stance. According to him, Israel’s objections might be “bargaining chips” for future dealings with the West, especially for weapons trade. He backs this claim by reminding the ongoing military hardware deal.
Lobbying groups are actively trying to influence the senators for the upcoming votes. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) sent out emails to all its members to speak out on their opposition.
Mitch McConnell, a Republican Senate Majority Leader stated his disappointment with the deal, saying “What’s already clear about this agreement is that it will not achieve – or even come close to achieving – that original purpose.” And Republican presidential elections candidate Jeb Bush described it as "a dangerous, deeply flawed and short-sighted deal."
Sceptics are not only among the Republicans, Former Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman is also heavily opposing the deal, saying it’s “a bad deal for America, a bad deal for Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East and a bad deal for the world.” Democrat Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey provided his open criticism during yesterday’s committee meeting, however the rest of the Democrats are mostly supportive rather than critic on the issue.
The opposing voices usually focus on a few key issues. Firstly, the nature of the deal is under scrutiny; after all the enmity with Iran will continue and a possibility of Iran cheating the deal will always exist. Other loudly voiced concerns are the 24-day waiting period for inspections on undeclared sites, sanctions removal for conventional arms in eight years and ballistic missiles in 10 years. A scenario in which Iran channels the newfound wealth to fortify its proxies to further the expansionist strategy is frightening. These were the gist of questions John Kerry had been bombarded with.
Kerry defended the deal, saying it is not built on trust, but built on suspicion. He was confident that any breach of agreement would definitely be found out before it is too late. Also, the "snapback" process is a safety valve in the worst case scenario.
Kerry emphasised the point that this deal definitely guarantees that Iran is not obtaining nuclear weapons, but any alternative -including military intervention or continuation of sanctions- does not guarantee that. He said “That outcome cannot be guaranteed either by sanctions alone or - on an enduring basis - by military action. […] the alternative to the deal we’ve reached isn’t a better deal - some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation. That’s a fantasy - plain and simple.”