While leading members of both parties seem content to pass the bill in the same form that passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a 19-0 vote earlier in April, a number of hardline legislators hope to encourage the Senate to adopt amendments that would strengthen the bill and place much stricter demands on Iran, even though doing so may imperil Democratic support and lead President Obama to reinstate his earlier promise to veto the bill.
This amendment process was set to begin on Tuesday and could result in a revised bill that requires Tehran to withdraw its support for international terrorist organizations or to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. The latter point speaks to the close connection that some Senators see between the Iran nuclear issue and America’s traditionally close relationship with Israel. This has also been a source of conflict between the Obama administration and politicians who view outreach to Iran as betraying an ally that Iran has repeatedly vowed to destroy.
The Jerusalem Post on Monday reported on the administration’s latest efforts to ameliorate strongly pro-Israeli groups’ opposition to the emerging Iran nuclear deal. Lead nuclear negotiator and US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman addressed American Jews at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, where she argued that the forthcoming agreement is preferable to the alternatives, which might include a military strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
Sherman claimed that whereas the deal would reduce Iran’s nuclear weapons breakout period from two or three months to one year, and would keep it there for ten years, a military strike would only disable Iran’s nuclear program for about two years before it could be restarted in full force.
But the persuasiveness of this argument depends on the acceptance of the Obama administration’s premise that the emerging agreement is both effective and enforceable – a premise many critics reject out of hand. Many fear that the deal will allow Iran to keep its military sites off limits to inspectors, will provide sanctions relief without verification of compliance, and will not require Iran to reveal the past military dimensions of its nuclear work. For some of these critics, a two-year halt to unspecified progress toward a nuclear weapon is a worthwhile outcome to military action.
But for others, such a drastic action is not even necessary as an alternative to the abandonment of a bad deal. Former UK Member of the European Parliament Struan Stevenson expressed this view in an online talk on Monday at IranFreedom.org. In it Stevenson described the Iranian regime as “teetering on the brink of collapse” and advised Western policymakers to encourage that collapse through the implementation of stronger economic sanctions instead of signing a nuclear deal that could breathe new life into the regime.
Stevenson frame the importance of such a policy not only in terms of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon but also in terms of confronting its growing intrusions in Yemen and elsewhere. Also on Monday, The Tower suggested that these interventions are taking their toll on the Iranian regime and that its hold on regional power is already being threatened by competing interests, especially in Syria, where Iran has been propping up the Assad regime since shortly after the beginning of the four year-old civil war.
Analysts indicate that Al Qaeda affiliates have scored major strategic victories over Iranian-led forces in recent days, and The Tower adds that the Sunni push-back is reaching beyond the boundaries of Syria, with a recent attack on Iran’s Lebanese paramilitary Hezbollah being attributed to Sunni competitors.