These figures can be expected to justify the opposition that has already been shown by members of the US Congress to the emerging nuclear deal. Legislation is pending on the Senate floor to give Congress significant oversight in the deal-making process, allowing a majority of legislators to vote down any agreement within about 30 days of it being finalized between the executives of Iran, the US, and five other world powers.
Naturally, opposition to the Obama administration’s strategy has been particularly strong among members of the Republican Party, and the latest polling data can only be expected to drive this trend further, as it indicates overwhelming agreement – a margin of 80 to 11 percent – among Republicans to the notion that Obama has been too soft.
Fittingly, the USA Today reported on Wednesday that South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had fully outlined hardline opposition to the Obama strategy, stating that the Senate would only accept a deal that met eight conditions. Graham insists that Tehran must accept inspections of its military sites – something that various officials have flatly refused to do.
Graham also says that Iran must be limited to enough uranium to supply one nuclear power plant, must send all enriched uranium out of the country, must close all nuclear facilities not necessary for its civilian program, and must be prevented from conducting any research on advanced enrichment centrifuges.
The Senator’s proposal also requires that inspectors verify Iran’s compliance with the terms of any deal before Iran is given any further sanctions relief. It urges a defined method for returning sanctions to full force if Iran is found to be cheating; and it requires that the Obama administration demonstrate that Iran is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism.
Graham’s provisions illustrate the gap that must be bridged not only between Iran and the US but also between the Obama administration and Congress in the two months that are left before the June 30 deadline for a final agreement. Negotiators resumed talks in Vienna on Wednesday for the first time since the completion of a much-disputed framework agreement on April 2.
Some of Graham’s points are in keeping with the Obama administration’s own public statements on the deal; some have been rejected out of hand by Tehran; and some are considered non-starters by Obama, who has said for instance that the deal cannot depend upon the nature of the Iranian regime changing so that it is no longer a sponsor of terrorism. Obama also refuses to commit to requiring Iranian compliance ahead of sanctions relief, choosing instead to focus on the importance of a “snap back” provision in the event of cheating.
Congressional statements along the lines appear to be making Iran nervous about the limits of what it may now be able to get out of a final agreement. Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday that at the Vienna talks Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi warned that the congressional oversight bill might have “negative consequences” and asked for the US delegation to “explain” the implications of the bill.