Moves by UN to Foster Peaceful Deal with Iran Ignites Fury of Senate War Hawks

Sen. Bob Corker (R- Tenn.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), respectively the chair and ranking member the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When it comes to sabotaging nuclear talks with Iran, experts warn there is a strong strain of bipartisanship. (Photo: AP file)

Moves by UN to Foster Peaceful Deal with Iran Ignites Fury of Senate War Hawks

New reporting that members of the United Nations Security Council are moving to foster the development of a pending nuclear agreement between leading world powers and Iran over the nation's nuclear program has sent U.S. lawmakers opposed to a peaceful settlement with the Middle Eastern nation into orbit.

On Thursday, the Reuters news agency said members of the Security Council were working on a "resolution to lift U.N. sanctions on Iran if a nuclear agreement is struck with Tehran" and quoted a western official who said that such "a step that could make it harder for the U.S. Congress to undo a deal."

According to Reuters:

Iran sees their removal as crucial as U.N. measures are a legal basis for more stringent U.S. and European Union measures to be enforced. The U.S. and EU often cite violations of the U.N. ban on enrichment and other sensitive nuclear work as justification for imposing additional penalties on Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress on Wednesday that an Iran nuclear deal would not be legally binding, meaning future U.S. presidents could decide not to implement it. That point was emphasized in an open letter by 47 Republican senators sent on Monday to Iran's leaders asserting any deal could be discarded once President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.

But a Security Council resolution on a nuclear deal with Iran could be legally binding, say Western diplomatic officials. That could complicate and possibly undercut future attempts by Republicans in Washington to unravel an agreement.

Iran and the six powers are aiming to complete the framework of a nuclear deal by the end of March, and achieve a full agreement by June 30, to curb Iran's most sensitive nuclear activities for at least 10 years in exchange for a gradual end to all sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Word of that news, according to the Daily Beast, made GOP lawmakers go "ballistic" in response. The news outlet reported:

Congressional Republicans -- even those that didn't sign the instantly-infamous letter to Iran about the nuclear deal -- were quick to sound the alarm on a pact they say would in effect bypass Congress.

"I just sent a letter to the president requesting that he respond to whether they are in fact attempting to do that," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, told The Daily Beast Thursday. "It's contrary to what we're attempting to do in Congress, having [our] appropriate role. To me, that's a direct affront to the American people and to Congress, and I would hope that's not the route they're planning to take."

Currently in Congress is a bill submitted by Corker and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which says that any agreement made between the State Department and the Iranian government over the lifting of sanctions and regarding its nuclear program would have to be submitted to Congress for review. Obama has vowed to veto such a bill if it ever reached his desk, arguing it would certainly derail the progress so far made in the talks.

Though partisan rancor was set off this week by the letter signed by 47 GOP members in the Senate, there remains, according to foreign policy analyst Robert Naiman, a troubling amount of bipartisan agreement when it comes to finding some way to foil the tenuous talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations. Though a large majority of Republicans have made it plain they will go to great lengths to sabotage any deal with Iran, Naiman argues it is the Democrats in the Senate who now hold many of the cards. In an op-ed published by Common Dreams on Friday, he writes:

Democrats have been outraged by 47 Senate Republicans ostentatiously trying to blow up negotiations with Iran with their "open letter" to Iranian leaders - essentially begging Iranian hardliners to blow up the talks on the Republicans' behalf. Senate historians could find no precedent for the party opposed to the President in Congress trying to blow up an international negotiation involving the United States in this way.

But in terms of practical outcomes, the main drama still lies ahead. The main drama in terms of practical consequences is still all about Senate Democrats, not about Senate Republicans. Without at least six Senate Democrats supporting them, Republicans cannot pass anti-diplomacy legislation in the Senate. Without at least thirteen Senate Democrats supporting them, Republicans cannot override a Presidential veto of anti-diplomacy legislation. Without the support of a substantial group of Senate Democrats, Republicans cannot blow up the talks. The key question in the wake of the unprecedented controversy around the Netanyahu anti-diplomacy speech to Congress and the Republicans' open letter to Iran is: which Senate Democrats will reward the Republicans who did these things by helping them try to blow up diplomacy?

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