Iran Declares Victory, Helping the Case of Nuclear Deal’s Opponents

 

Western critics of the deal tend to regard it as entailing a massive giveaway to Tehran in exchange for few commitments or guarantees, but even the National Council of Resistance of Iran has emphasized that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei nonetheless was forced to walk back some of his red lines and begrudgingly accept a deal.

This is also illustrated by the fact that a number of hardline Iranian commentators have lashed out against the deal. Meanwhile, the regime has taken measures to silence such criticism, demanding that Iranian news outlets repeat the government narrative.

Khamenei’s personal website published a statement on Monday signifying that active steps were being taken to curtail anticipated American efforts to “infiltrate” the Islamic Republic politically and culturally in the wake of the deal’s implementation. Khamenei’s and Salehi’s remarks demonstrate that regime officials are coping with their concession to a diplomatic agreement by redoubling their opposition to the West in areas that are not covered by that agreement.

Along these lines, Arutz Sheva notes that “since the deal has been reached, Iran has announced construction on two new nuclear sites, and shown an increasingly aggressive military stance particularly vis-a-vis its ballistic missile program.”

For Western critics of the deal, this uptick in Iranian belligerence can be expected to worsen anxiety about an agreement in which Iran is already perceived as having the upper hand. This perception is driving a vigorous effort to block full implementation of the deal in the US Congress. Al Monitor reported on Monday that those efforts are still rather far from having the desired effect of mobilizing enough congressmen to overturn a presidential veto of a resolution of disapproval, but more progress seems to have been made toward solidifying opposition to the deal than toward solidifying support.

The Associated Press notes that President Obama effectively lost all hope of being able to tout any bipartisan support for the deal on Monday when Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake declared he would vote against it. Flake had been the lone Republican holdout in the Senate who might have been swayed to vote against a resolution of disapproval. In his statement on Monday, Flake noted that he believed the provisions of the deal gave unprecedented leverage to the Iranian government while stripping the US of some of its power to impose sanctions not only against the Iranian nuclear program but also against its human rights violations, interference in the broader Middle East, and support for terrorism.

The absence of any notable Republican support for the nuclear agreement may make the issue look even more partisan and politically unpopular, thus further degrading its support among constituents. According to the latest polling data, as much as two-thirds of Americans are against the deal. This includes a significant proportion of Democrats, even congressional Democrats.

New York’s Charles Schumer remains the only Senate Democrat who is committed to voting against the deal, but only 10 are committed to voting for it, thus leaving open the possibility of the chamber securing a veto-proof majority before the mid-September vote.

Schumer has since contributed to the coordinated efforts to sway opinion against the deal, highlighting among other problems the provision that allows Iran up to 24 days’ notice before inspections of sites not already designated as under suspicion by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On Monday, the Washington Post examined two statements that Schumer made on this topic and made judgements of their accuracy. While it found that Schumer appeared to imply that the 24-day period was a minimum period of notice for all sites, the Post made clear that the deal does indeed allow for Iran to dispute requests for access to newly uncovered sites, after which it can negotiate the point for fourteen days, force it into seven days of consultations with an international commission, and then delay three days before complying with required inspections.

Critics expect that Iran will delay inspections by the full 24 days wherever possible, and that it may use the time to conceal evidence of illicit research and development. David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security, acknowledged this exact possibility, adding that Iran has gained “extensive practice at defeating IAEA and U.S. detection methods” and could be expected to utilize this to the fullest extent allow by the weak nuclear deal.

Saying that Iran ought to be put under pressure to accept inspections immediately, as is technically required by the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Albright seemed to suggest the possibility of a more effective alternative to the existing deal. Naturally, the notion of renegotiating from scratch is rejected out of hand by most of the agreement’s supporters, but this is precisely what most of the congressional lobbying and campaigning on the issue is aimed at.

According to most reports, that outcome is very unlikely. Owing to participation of five other parties in negotiating the deal, the AP says that even a successful vote on a resolution of disapproval would not stop President Obama from entering into the agreement on his own, although doing so would have political consequences and would likely make domestic opposition to the deal even stronger.

And given the existing strength of that opposition, it is clear that congressional efforts to block or at least weaken the implementation of the deal will not end with the September vote to disapprove. The AP indicates that there is a growing push among Republican congressmen to extend the Iran Sanctions Act even if the sanctions themselves will be suspended by presidential authority. Doing so would ostensibly keep the mechanisms in place to enforce new sanctions in the event of Iranian cheating or under the leadership of a different president. But proponents of the deal note that this might give Iran legal cover for walking away from the agreement.

In addition, Al Monitor points out that Senator Lindsey Graham has threatened to defund the IAEA if opponents of the agreement do not gain access to the text of so-called “side deals” between Iran and the UN monitoring agency, which outline the exact details of the inspections regime that will supposedly prove or disprove Iran’s compliance.