This outcome seems generally unlikely in light of the importance of the agreement to President Obama and the consequent effort that his administration is pouring into retaining Democratic support for that issue. But the opposition to that deal is pouring its own effort and money into the issue as well, by some estimates outspending supporters by a factor of 20. As these efforts continue to build, the certainty of adequate Democratic support for the agreement seems to be increasingly in doubt.
Illustrating this fact, Mondoweiss reported on Friday that Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz has still not declared a position on the nuclear deal. This is surprising in light of Schultz closeness to the president and the general support for the deal that seems to prevail within the district that she represents. Not only that, but Wasserman Schultz is also the chair of the Democratic National Committee, so if she comes out against the deal it is plausible to think that she may bring other Democrats with her.
Opponents of the deal are pinning similar hopes on New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a leading Democrat who has also refused to take a position on the deal but has emphasized that he would vote against the president if he considered it a matter of conscience.
Given their constituencies and their own backgrounds, naturally both of these congressional figures have tended to provide a great deal of access to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee and other members of the Jewish lobby, which is worried that the Iran nuclear deal poses an existential threat to the state of Israel, both by doing too little to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and by providing sanctions relief that is expected to be partially channeled into the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxies.
This latter threat was highlighted once again on Friday when the government of Argentina confronted the United States over the fact that the Iran nuclear deal provides for the end of sanctions against Iranian figures associated with overseas terrorist activities, including notorious incidents that took place in South America.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman wrote a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini addressing this topic and bringing special attention to Ahmad Vahidi, a former Iranian defense minister and commander of the Quds Force at the time of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.
Fox News notes that Timerman’s letter says, “I would be grateful if you could advise us whether, as a result of the agreed conditions, scope and effects of the commitment assumed by the European Union or by any other signatory to the deal, individuals or actions linked to the AMIA attack would be included.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal claims that Argentine President Cristina Kirchner is using this aspect of the nuclear deal as part of an effort to defend her own government’s 2013 deal with Iran, which has added fuel to speculation of collaboration between the two governments at a time when Iran’s past terrorist activities in Argentina remain unresolved.
In January, special prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found shot dead in his home a day before he was due to give testimony allegedly presenting information of the Argentinian government’s cover-up of Iranian officials’ culpability for the AIMA bombing. A hearing on the topic is set to take place in August.
In the meantime, Kirchner’s new defense of her government’s relations with Iran underlines some of the potential side-effects of the nuclear deal. It reflects critics’ worries that the implicit rapprochement with Iran will diminish international will to confront Iran on its destabilizing behavior and violations of human rights.
In other words, some critics are concerned that the deal undermines Western leverage over Iran, which had formerly been carved out by economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure. This perspective was expressed on Fox News Radio’s Kilmeade and Friends by Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who accused the Obama administration of needlessly negotiating from a position of weakness.
But Dershowitz also suggested that the existing deal could be fixed through the passage of binding resolutions stating that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon and putting sanctions and military action back on the table as potential future actions for the US president to take in the event that Iran is shown to be moving toward a bomb anyway.
This perspective reflects a fair portion of the recent advocacy directed at the US Congress, although other critics of the deal have shown a preference for tearing the deal down and starting over, even if through unilateral US action. But this possibility appears to have received some support from outside of the US recently, when Jacque Audibert, senior diplomatic advisor to French President Francois Hollande reportedly said in a meeting with US lawmakers that if Congress voted down the existing deal, it would be possible to secure a better one.
According to the Jerusalem Post, witnesses to the meeting also claim that Audibert said US sanctions alone would be sufficient to prevent Iran from doing business with much of the world, and thus would return enough pressure to the Islamic Republic to potentially force it into giving more concessions.
Although the French government has since denied these remarks, they would serve as a significant denial of the Obama administration’s dominant narratives from elsewhere in the P5+1. The US President claims that refusal to abide by the existing deal would necessarily result in war. But critics feel that a better diplomatic solution is possible, and this largely reflects the French position in the lately-concluded negotiations.
During the talks, French diplomats earned a reputation for a particularly hard line on Iran, including the rejection of late-stage Iranian demands for an end to sanctions on conventional weapons. These demands were ultimately built into the international agreement, allowing Iran to freely buy and sell weapons five years after the implementation of the deal.