White House Works to Line Up Support for 'Win-Win' Iran Nuclear Deal
In pushing nuclear framework, Obama 'has to contend with a largely hostile, Republican-dominated Congress at home as well as skeptical allies in the Middle East,' analyst writes
In his weekly address on Saturday as well as fervently behind-the-scenes, President Barack Obama is urging support for the newly negotiated framework for a nuclear pact between Iran and the P5+1 nations, announced Thursday.
"This framework is the result of tough, principled diplomacy," Obama said in his weekend remarks. "It's a good deal—a deal that meets our core objectives, including strict limitations on Iran's program and cutting off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon."
Acknowledging what the Guardian describes as a burgeoning "congressional revolt," Obama said he expected a "robust debate" in Congress and among the American people.
However, he admonished his audience:
As we engage in this debate, let’s remember—we really only have three options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program: bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities—which will only set its program back a few years—while starting another war in the Middle East; abandoning negotiations and hoping for the best with sanctions—even though that’s always led to Iran making more progress in its nuclear program; or a robust and verifiable deal like this one that peacefully prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who is leading GOP opposition to the framework, vowed Friday on CNN's The Lead: "I'm going to do everything I can to stop these terms from becoming a final deal."
To counter those efforts, Obama, Vice President Biden, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, "and a whole host of other White House and senior administration officials" have been making calls to lawmakers, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday.
The administration wants lawmakers to suspend legislation related to Iran until after June 30, the deadline for negotiators to finalize a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
But the White House faces an uphill battle.
As The Hill explains:
Resistance from Democrats would be a setback to the president, who has pushed hard against tough opposition for an Iranian deal he sees as, potentially, the crowning foreign-policy achievement of his second term.
Republican leaders are vowing to move quickly this month on legislation granting Congress a stronger hand in finalizing any deal, including proposals for tougher sanctions that Obama says will undercut diplomacy.
Meanwhile, champions of diplomacy continue to say the tentative framework is a "win-win."
"The [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] provides enough room for both sides to claim victory before their domestic constituencies," author and analyst Richard Javad Heydarian writes in an op-ed published Friday.
But, Heydarian continues, while much of the Iranian establishment has rallied behind President Hassan Rouhani's administration's effort to resolve the nuclear crisis, the Obama administration "has to contend with a largely hostile, Republican-dominated Congress at home as well as skeptical allies in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia and Israel, and their lobbies in the United States."
"This explains Obama’s spirited defense of the JCPA, which came after difficult phone calls with his Saudi and Israeli counterparts," Heydarian argues. "Obama described the emerging final nuclear agreement as the best way to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis, decrying his opponents for failing to provide a 'reasonable alternative' and for politicizing a delicate issue, which demands nuanced diplomacy if war is to be avoided."
Major issues have yet to be resolved, Gareth Porter points out, in a piece published at Middle East Eye. "The US interpretation of the agreement...is ambiguous on some aspects of the sanctions removal issue, raising serious questions about what was precisely agreed on," Porter writes.
In its analysis of the deal, Associated Press reports:
The limits are vague on Iran's research and development of advanced technology that could be used for producing nuclear weapons. Inspectors still might not be able to enter Iranian military sites where nuclear work previously took place. The Americans and Iranians already are bickering over how fast economic sanctions on Iran would be relaxed. And Obama's assertion that the penalties could always be snapped back into force is undermined by the U.S. fact sheet describing a "dispute resolution process" enshrined in the agreement.
But the biggest issue may be one U.S. officials have emphasized above all others: the "breakout time" Iran would need to surreptitiously produce a nuclear weapon. The framework imposes a combination of restrictions that would leave Iran needing to work for at least a year to accomplish that goal, rather than the two-to-three months currently.
However complicated it may be, the cost of rejecting diplomacy would be high, Robery Parry warned in an op-ed on Friday.
The agreement announced Thursday "marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war," Parry wrote.
Whether that more peaceful route is followed remains very much in doubt, however, given the adamant opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Sunni Arab allies in Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich sheikdoms. On Thursday, Netanyahu continued his denunciations of the deal—saying it would "threaten the survival of Israel"—and no one should underestimate the Israel Lobby’s power over Congress.
But the choice before the American people is whether they want to join a 1,300-year-old religious war in the Middle East between Sunnis and Shiites – with Israel now having thrown in its lot with the Sunnis despite the fact that Saudi Arabia and its cohorts have been supporting Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists.
Were the U.S. to be pulled into such a war, "beyond the death of many U.S. soldiers, there would be an equally certain death of the American Republic, since the United States would have to become a fully militarized state dedicated to perpetual war," Parry concluded. "That might please—and profit—the neocons but it would be a tragedy for those Americans who believe in constitutional principles and democratic ideals."