But lobbyists and political advocates are hacking away at the president’s lead on this issue, raising serious doubts about what the vote margins will be once the congressional debates come to a conclusion. CNN reports that there is some danger of additional Democratic votes being poached by the pro-Israel lobby this week as a delegation including 22 Democrats from the House of Representatives visits the Jewish state.
Among them is House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, who said that his conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have further convinced him that Mr. Obama could have negotiated a better deal.
This belief is making inroads not only among members of both chambers of Congress but also among their constituents. The Tower reports that a recent poll by Monmouth University finds that some 60 percent of Americans worry that Iran will not live up to its commitments under the nuclear deal. Furthermore, 41 percent of respondents said that they believe that the agreement constitutes a better deal for the Iranians than for the US.
This reflects the widespread belief among critics of the deal that Tehran did not make enough concessions or commitments to match the value of the as much as 150 billion dollars that it will receive in up-front sanctions relief after the implementation of the deal. This windfall comes in addition to several billion dollars of unfrozen assets dispensed over the course of the negotiations.
Specific details of the forthcoming sanctions relief adds to the perceived value that the deal holds for Tehran, as well as the possible adverse effects it could have on Western interests. In the past two weeks, there has been much criticism directed at provisions of the deal that promise an end to European if not also American sanctions against certain entities linked to Iran’s terrorist activities and intrusions into the broader Middle East.
Such criticism gave particular focus to the de-sanctioning of Ahmad Vahidi, a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and a suspect in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires.
Last week, Iran News Update raised questions about whether the US was prepared to enforce existing sanctions against Qassem Suleimani, the current commander of the Quds Force and a driving force behind the sectarian warfare in both Syria and Iraq.
On Monday, The Blaze noted, based on a report by Reuters, that Suleimani himself stands to be freed from EU sanctions in eight years. In fact, the Quds Force itself will be removed from some sanctions lists at the same time, although US-led sanctions related to its terrorist activities will ostensibly remain in place and limit the extent to which other entities will be willing to do business with it.
Still, the news may further fuel the argument that new European business interests in Iran will make it more difficult for the US to re-impose sanctions in the event of Iran’s cheating on the nuclear deal, or even in the event of additional evidence of terrorist financing and operations by the Islamic Republic. At the same time, it renews old questions about how Iran will spend the money it receives under the agreement.
Reuters notes that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker has said that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps is going to be the primary beneficiary of the lifting of sanctions. Vahidi and Suleimani are only two of about 90 individuals and entities with links to the IRGC who are named as recipients of sanctions relief in the annexes to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The Tower focused its attention on another of these individuals, Anis Naccache, who was formerly a lieutenant of the infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial by Hooman Bakhtiar, the nephew of Shahpour Bakhtiar, who was targeted for assassination by a hit squad led by Naccache in 1980.
The Tower notes that Iran worked tirelessly to free Naccache after he was sentenced to life in prison in France in 1982. Toward this end, it worked with other terrorist organizations to organize bombings in France, and then directed Hezbollah to take 16 French nationals hostage in Lebanon and to free them in exchange for Naccache. A year later, another assassination attempt on Bakhtiar was successful.
In light of all this, Hooman Bakhtiar’s op-ed urges the US Congress to debate not only the merits of the nuclear deal itself, but also the “nefarious characters whose names would be removed under the deal from Western sanctions lists.” He is certain to be joined in this call by a number of other critics and lobbyists who oppose the deal on the belief that it contributes to a worse security situation for the Middle East and the globe.