A Congress of War or Peace? Diplomacy at Risk with Passage of 'Dangerous' Iran Bill
'This summer, the U.S. Senate will choose between war and peace with Iran'
After the House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that gives Congress more power to obstruct a final nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, advocates of diplomacy are saying now is a critical time for people in the U.S. to pressure lawmakers to choose peace—not military escalation and potentially war.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which overwhelmingly cleared the Senate last week, gives Congress 30 days to review any final agreement with Iran, during which the president is prohibited from suspending congressional sanctions. If Congress were to vote against the deal, and amass the votes to override a presidential veto, Obama's hands would be tied on sanctions relief and the deal would likely be sabotaged.
The bill passed the House in a vote of 400 to 25, with both Democrats and Republicans throwing their support behind it, and Obama has signaled that he will sign the act. The full roll call is available here.
Analysts say the legislation is a boon to opponents of a deal, as it gives them more tools to undermine a potential agreement.
Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams that the act is "dangerous, not because it prevents a deal with Iran, but because it signals to Iran, U.S. allies, and the rest of the world that members of Congress prefer the threat of war to a real agreement." Bennis emphasized that the stakes are high, especially for ordinary people in Iran, who have been financially devastated by U.S. and international sanctions.
However, hawks in Congress are declaring that the bill does not go far enough and that sanctions should be tightened even further. This, said Bennis, amounts to an embrace of harsh measures that would almost certainly derail talks. "If you don't want negotiations, you are saying you prefer war," said Bennis.
Iran and the P5+1 countries—the U.S., Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany—reached a framework deal last month and are aiming to wrap up the final language by the end of June. Advocates of diplomacy say that the passage of the bill on Thursday means that this summer will be a critical time for grassroots forces in the United States to vocalize their support for a diplomatic agreement. Numerous surveys show that U.S. public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of negotiations.
"This summer, the U.S. Senate will choose between war and peace with Iran," wrote Jamal Abdi and Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council in an article published Friday. "If the right decision is made, Obama's pending nuclear deal with Iran will be sustained and both a war and an Iranian nuclear bomb will be avoided. If the wrong vote is cast, diplomacy will collapse and the US and Iran will once again be on a path towards a disastrous war that will make the Iraq war look like the cake-walk it was promised to be."
Stephen Miles, advocacy director for Win Without War, told Common Dreams, "There will be a lot of mobilizations in the weeks and months ahead to support a deal. While the legislation that passed was unhelpful and unnecessary, what it does do is set up a fight in Congress, and we're going to engage. Folks are going to be very fired up and engaged."