Congress, US Allies Raise Concerns Over Draft Iran Deal
In the wake of Thursday’s announcement of an outline for a nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. allies in the Middle East as well as members of Congress expressed their reservations with the agreement.
Foremost in his criticism was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told President Barack Obama in a phone conversation that the proposed deal “would threaten the survival of Israel,” according to a summary of the call posted online by Israel’s embassy in Washington.
The deal provides for the rollback of two-thirds of Iran’s civilian nuclear program under ten years of foreign supervision. Thursday’s announcement merely outlined the parameters of a deal, which will be drafted by representatives of Iran together with the U.S. and its fellow negotiators by June 30. (RELATED: Negotiators Announce Plan For 10-Year Iranian Nuclear Restrictions)
Shiite Iran’s traditional rivals in the Sunni Arab states were initially silent, despite the fact that many of them are increasingly committed to a week-old war against Iranian-aligned rebels in Yemen. Reuters quoted a senior Gulf official who said that a response would be forthcoming in the next few days, and be issued not from an individual government but from the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional alliance of six Arab states.
If Saudi Arabia and other regional powers sense that the U.S.-brokered deal provides too much of a chance for Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb, some have hinted that they may seek nuclear enrichment programs of their own. (RELATED: What Would A Middle East Nuclear Arms Race Look Like?)
In his remarks on Thursday, Obama said that he already “spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia to reaffirm our commitment to the security of our partners in the Gulf.” He also announced that he would invite the six GCC heads of state to Camp David in the spring.
Acknowledging the likelihood of Congressional objections, he warned that “[i]f Congress kills this deal … then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy.”
For his part, Sen. Tom Cotton issued a statement Thursday, calling the announcement “only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons,” and saying that the terms of the agreement “do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior.” Cotton has been among the negotiations’ most outspoken critics in Congress.
Likewise, Sen. John McCain provided an itemized list of concerns with the initial framework, though acknowledging that he would “review the details of this agreement closely and look forward to a full briefing from the Administration.” A number of details in McCain’s list reflect discrepancies between the fact sheet circulated by the State Department, and other international accounts of the draft details thus far.
But one of the key elements of Congressional resistance to an Iran deal — the threat of fresh sanctions against the country, which are ruled out by the proposed framework — may be slow in coming. According to Bloomberg, a proposed Senate bill imposing new sanctions will not come to a vote before the end of June.
However, the bill’s Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Mark Kirk, told Bloomberg that Congress would be “an over-watching presence” as the next three months unfold. A bill requiring a final agreement to meet Senate approval is also likely to pass by then.
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