Despite the breakthrough in efforts by the international community to broker a deal over the Iran nuclear program, moves by Congress have threatened the deal before it even takes effect.
The weeks of bargaining that began late last year in Geneva are under attack by lawmakers in the U.S. Congress after a handful of representatives say they are willing to push through a bill that would increase sanctions against Iran. The Obama administration has urged lawmakers to put a halt on the tough diplomacy efforts, saying that such measures are unnecessary in light of recent events.
“Unprecedented sanctions and tough diplomacy helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table,” said President Obama. “Imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that if any new sanctions are passed by the U.S., “the entire deal is dead.”
The announcement Sunday that the “technical” deal struck between Iran and the international community would move forward delighted observers who saw this as a breakthrough in soft diplomacy. A change in course from the typical hardline rhetoric, the six month deal which stipulates that Iran would cap its controversial nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions isn’t enough say some U.S. lawmakers. Skeptics in Congress view the deal as a stunt by the Iranian government to buy time to continue secretly working on enriching uranium to bomb-making capacity.
Lawmakers say that their efforts to push through additional sanctions would actually help President Obama’s hand in the negotiations, putting on a show that the U.S. will not tolerate an ounce of wiggle room for Iran to dupe the international community.
Observers say such measures are unnecessary as a part of the agreement, the relief in sanctions is temporary and can be put back into place at a moment’s notice. Still, some lawmakers in the U.S. aren’t buying it.
Other hard liners in Congress say that the Obama administration is being too soft on the country and is only facilitating Iran’s efforts to attack Israel and American interests in the region.
“I am worried the administration’s policies will either lead to Iranian nuclear weapons or Israeli air strikes.” said Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
To match the harsh rhetoric, Israeli officials are saying that if the agreement falls through, they will not hesitate to “blow up Iranian nuclear development sites,”
Meanwhile, international leaders like Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, say that the breakthrough in the Iran nuclear deal under threat by Congress is the laying of a “foundation” for further talks between Iran and the international community. She went on to say that the talks held over the past six months between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States- plus Germany- have lent a great degree of optimism for the talks ahead.
Following the election of moderate reform-minded Hassan Rouhani in 2013, moves previously unthought of by the Iranian government have been initiated, such as a direct talk in the form of a phone call between Iranian and U.S. leaders- something that hasn’t happened since the western backed Shah was in control of Iran in 1979.
Still, many are wary that the $4.2 billion in relief in the form of unfrozen assets will only provide more resources for the regime in Iran to continue building a nuclear weapons program. The Iranian government insists that its program is intended for peaceful purposes only, such as medical research and domestic energy consumption.
Observers urge lawmakers in the U.S. to heed the breakthrough in the Iran nuclear deal and to quit threatening unnecessary action against a state that has been complying with international demands hitherto.
By John Amaruso