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Iranian Parliament to Vote on Nuclear Deal after US Congress

The US legislative battle over the issue gave rise to fierce debate, but it is close to being resolved at least in part, now that more than one-third of the Senate is backing President Obama’s plan and thus ready to sustain his veto of a resolution of disapproval. The agreement is poised to be implemented, and the lack of legally binding disapproval will allow Obama to suspend congressional sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Opponents of the deal in Congress may, however, take alternative measures to try to counteract the deal after its implementation.

As contentious as the issue is in the US, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani recently speculated that the discussion in the Iranian legislative body will be even more contentious. It is, however, possible that Larijani is deliberately overstating the case in order to make the deal look like a more serious compromise for Tehran than it is. Indeed, Retuers also notes that Larijani accused the US of acting as a “bully” during the diplomatic negotiations. Yet many Western analysts and lawmakers feel that the Obama administration gave up far too much in those talks.

Contrary to the original negotiating positions of the US and European powers, the final agreement has effectively acknowledged a right to nuclear enrichment for the Islamic Republic, allowing it to be treated as any other signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty after a period of about 15 years since the implementation of the deal. Iran was not compelled to submit to snap inspections of all suspicious sites, and will in fact be given up to 24 days’ advance notice before inspections of non-designated sites.

These perceived weaknesses have contributed to Western fears that Iran will try to cheat on the deal – a situation that ostensibly will result in “snapback” of economic sanctions. Larijani reportedly highlighted this provision as a major source of concern for Iranian lawmakers, and an example of US bullying.

Western opponents of the deal have raised questions about the reliability and seriousness of snapback, and some have expressed the view that Iran should be subject to severe and explicitly defined consequences for cheating. It is not clear what alternative to snapback Larijani and other Iranian legislators have in mind, as the provision deals specifically with Iranian violation of the agreement, and merely strives to return the overall situation to the status quo that was in place before the agreement.

If such basic provisions of the deal are indeed topics of concern for the Iranian parliament, the deal may indeed be in trouble, as such views suggest the desire for an agreement that is even more favorable to Iran in the sense of eliminating or minimizing consequences for cheating.

But it is interesting to note that President Rouhani has recently gone on record as opposing parliamentary review for reasons that may be interpreted as relating to a desire to break the agreement without consequences. He has said that formal approval by the Iranian legislature would make the agreement legally binding in a way that it would not be if it was left as a purely executive agreement.

On the other hand, another report by Reuters on Thursday noted that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is the final authority in virtually all Iranian affairs, supports a parliamentary review. But Khamenei has pointedly avoided stating a position either for or against the agreement, and it is unclear whether his support for a review reflects desire for its failure or for a more broad-based implementation.

What is clear is that Khamenei does not wish to allow that implementation to affect the regime’s overall policies or lead to any sort of cooperation with or influence by the US. Just days after the signing of the agreement, Khamenei gave a speech in which he emphasized that the policies of the US and Iran remained directly opposed to each other, and he has repeated this sentiment a number of times since then.

These sentiments, which are apparently shared by the hardliners who are contributing to the push for a parliamentary review, support the notion that the Islamic Republic’s internal priorities and policies toward the West have not changed a bit in the wake of the nuclear agreement. This argument was expressed on Thursday in the Daily Signal, via a response to some points made by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest speech in support of the nuclear agreement.

The editorial argues that this means the West should assume that Iran will continue to pursue nuclear weapons capability as it had done before. In light of this and in light of the former effectiveness of sanctions, the limited scope of the nuclear agreement, and the apparent weakness of its verification methods, the article concludes that the US Congress should take measures to put sanctions back in place and increase pressure on the regime, regardless of the imminent defeat of the resolution of disapproval.