The emerging nuclear deal with Iran will reportedly do a number of things to curb their nuclear ambitions. For those unaware, it seems that it will come before the Tuesday deadline (meaning no extensions appear to be coming for the negotiations), and will include at least some of the following provisions:
- A possible provision allowing Iranian centrifuges to run at a fortified underground bunker.
- Limits Iran to 6,000 centrifuges, which would leave Iran taking about a year to get enough material for a nuclear weapon if it chose to pursue one.
- A provision leaving these restrictions in place for ten years or so.
More than that, of course, will be the forced inspections by the IAEA, and expected compliance with the agency.
But as the negotiations come down to the wire, one thing is clear: not everyone is as happy with it as Obama’s administration. Indeed, the tension has spread throughout his own party, as well as other countries with a stake in the negotiations. It is for this reason that Obama will end up needing the deal. To emerge empty-handed would mean all of the fights mentioned below would have been for naught, and he’d look far too silly. As such, he’s stuck with less leverage than ever for an Iran deal, trying to scramble for one to save his own reputation as well as Iran’s, meaninghe needs the deal far more than Iran does. Here are the allies he’s managed to anger, and how, both at home and abroad…
Israel has already made clear its displeasure with the deal, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress made clear. It said that no deal was better than a bad deal, and emphasized many points that Obama made himself made in 2008, saying that Iran had to “…abandon [its] dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel…” if it wanted relief rather than strengthening of sanctions.
But Netanyahu isn’t the only one perturbed by the way these talks have progressed. Gulf countries near Iran have also clearly shown fear that Iran could usurp their position in the Middle East, or even gain a nuclear weapon. Dennis Ross claims Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah (who recently passed away) told him that Saudi Arabia would get a nuclear weapon if Iran did. It seems that Gulf commentators even sided with Netanyahu on the issue, with the editor-in-chief of Al Arabiya writing that Obama should “listen to Netanyahu on Iran”.
While other countries may not be the best places to look when trying to preserve U.S interests, there are indications that even Democrats are unhappy with the way the deal is playing out. It is expected that the deal will circumvent Congress, either by going to the United Nations Security Council (according to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif) or by being concluded as a“nonbinding executive agreement”, which would be enforceable but not really subject to Congressional approval for a period that may last years. This move would go heavily against the GOP’s ideas of how diplomacy should be conducted, as the GOP argues it should have the right to vote on what it believes is, in the words of John McCain (R-AZ), “clearly a treaty”. But this isn’t a viewpoint only held by the GOP.
In fact, all 100 Senators voted for a proposal that is non-binding, but states that Congress will punish Iran with sanctions if a deal is not made. While the teeth of the agreement have been pulled (a binding statement was once proposed), this was not the only indication of Congressional disapproval. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has seen both the top Republican (Bob Corker, R-TN) and the top Democrat (Bob Menendez, D-NJ) propose legislation that Obama claims shouldn’t be discussed. In the meantime, it postponed a vote on a proposal that would require Obama to submit a deal to Congressional approval to only April 14, not long after the deal would be made if it came.
These new developments are a victory for Obama in taming Congress, but they have come at a heavy cost. Congress is more upset than usual with the President, and Democratic Senators like Bob Menendez, Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) have come out in support of the bill adding sanctions on Iran if no deal is reached.
Senators may be punishing Obama for leaving them in the dark, too. After all, the biggest part of the recent breaking story that Israel spied on the Iran negotiations is that it then took that intelligence to Congress. That’s right, Israel was the one informing Congress of the deal’s details: the briefings from the State Department evidently weren’t enough to leave Congress confident in Obama’s deal-making ability, leaving Israel an opening to give them more information that would change their opinions on the deal. Of course, with Israel claiming it got the information from France, which is taking the toughest line on the deal, one can only wonder if perhaps the reality is that Obama is trying to shoehorn everyone into agreeing with his deal.
At this point, Obama must get a deal, and a reasonably good one, or he will look like a fool for all the effort he invested in it, as well as the hits he took over it. Whether or not he will remains to be seen, as is the definition of a “good deal”. We may not know if the deal is good for years to come, as we watch Iran’s nuclear ambitions play out. But one thing is clear: with all these negative reports, it seems not everyone is happy, and Obama needs a deal far, far more than Iran does.