Iran deal a true breakthrough in nuclear weapons race
Seven years after then-presidential candidate Barack Obama proposed talking to Iran about ramping down its nuclear program, that idea has become a reality.
The historic agreement between Iran and six world powers freezes Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for gradual sanctions relief, President Obama said in describing the deal in an early morning announcement.
According to a White House summary of the deal, the agreement imposes new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites. It blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon four ways — at each of two separate facilities, in its production of weapons-grade plutonium, and in covert attempts to produce fissile material. The agreement came after months of talks and seeming setbacks between Iran and the P5+1 — the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, and Russia, not to mention the European Union. International inspectors will be able to monitor Iran’s nuclear program every step of the way.
The Iran nuclear agreement will become binding once it is enshrined in an already written United Nations Security Council resolution. Obama stressed that the agreement is based on “verification, not trust.”
Of course, Obama had skeptics seven years ago, when he first proposed talking to Iran, and he’s got skeptics now. The partisan reactions to the historic agreement were quick and unsurprising, from Republicans in Congress to right-wing pundits to GOP presidential candidates.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush called the pact “appeasement.” It’s “a dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted deal,” said a statement from his campaign. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina equated it with “declaring war on Israel.” (This is after he complained on live TV about the bother of having to actually read the entire pact.) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he would “terminate the bad deal with Iran on day one.” And on and on.
GOP presidential hopeful and would-be narcissist-in-chief Donald Trump apparently didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to announce immediately that he wanted to bomb Iran — guess he’s still thinking about invading Mexico. More than an hour after Obama’s announcement, as other Republican candidates started denouncing and threatening, here was Trump’s tweet: “Let Pete Rose into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s time, he has paid a big and very long price!” Remember, Trump is now leading in some GOP national polls.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, author of a March letter signed by 47 Republican senators that tried to sabotage the nuclear talks ahead of time and that was described by many as treasonous — or at least stupid — came out swinging against the new pact. Cotton, who earned the derisive nickname “Tehran Tom” during the negative reaction to his letter, vowed that Congress would kill the deal.
Actually, not so much, Senator. In order for Congress to kill this pact, it would have to pass a bill (or attach such legislation to another bill) against the agreement. Obama has pledged that he will veto any bill that would torpedo this pact. Then Congress would have to override the veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. Which is not going to happen with 47 Democrats in the Senate.
Even Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold hearings to review the pact, admitted that scuttling the Iran nuclear deal would be tough.
In a statement from his office, though, Corker promised a “rigorous review” of the pact. “Whatever actions the House and Senate ultimately take, the American people will have a full and open debate that a national security issue of this magnitude deserves,” he said. Once the Obama administration submits the full agreement to Congress, Congress has 60 days for an initial review, 12 more days if the House and Senate send a joint resolution against it, and 10 days after that to try to override an expected veto.
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed cautious optimism on the agreement. “This is an important step in putting a lid on Iran’s nuclear program,” she told reporters after meeting with House Democrats shortly after the pact was announced, according to a story in The Hill. Clinton added a caveat that “We have to treat this as an ongoing enforcement effort.” Other Democrats in that meeting, however, said Clinton was fully on board with the nuclear agreement.
Other Democrats also are voicing strong support. “I commend our negotiators for this critical effort,” said a statement from Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate minority whip. “Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place.” Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also came out in favor of the deal.
Around the world, the reactions were mostly positive, except, predictably, from Israel, which called the nuclear pact a “bad mistake of historic proportions.” Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world.” Other Israelis, however, blamed Netanyahu for letting his relationship with Obama go south and thus not be in a position to affect the negotiations. Nevertheless, Netanyahu promises to lobby the U.S. Congress to try and stop the deal. He’ll likely have as much luck as Tehran Tom Cotton.
Reactions from other Middle East nations were muted, although Reuters and Politico reported that even Saudi Arabia gave a cautious endorsement to the deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent a slew of tweets celebrating the agreement and trying to reassure the rest of the Middle East. “Region’s security is our security. Region’s stability is our stability. Likewise, our progress is that of the region & will only benefit it,” said one tweet. Of course, he couldn’t resist adding in another tweet, “Do not be deceived by the propaganda of the warmongering Zionist regime.”
“It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations and show that diplomacy, coordination, cooperation can overcome decades of tensions and confrontations,” said European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, who participated in the negotiations. “I think this is a sign of hope for the entire world.”
The details of the agreement will be discussed and dissected at length, and reactions probably will fall along party lines. The pact will continue to be a talking point throughout the presidential election.
But no can remove this historic agreement from Barack Obama’s legacy of accomplishments, which now include rescuing the country from economic collapse, saving the U.S. auto industry, overseeing the creation of millions of new jobs, allowing more than 10 million Americans to get health insurance, and getting Osama bin Laden. And that’s just a few items.
All in all, not bad for a lame-duck president, eh?