Opponents of the Iranian nuclear deal have not given up

Sunday 24/07/2016
US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, speaks on Capitol Hill, last June.

Washington - The first anniversary of the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran was met in Washington with renewed attacks on the deal by Republican politicians and others.

Speaker of the US House of Rep­resentatives Paul Ryan, R-Wiscon­sin, tweeted: “The president’s nu­clear deal has only served to bolster Tehran’s terror proxies and ballistic missile programme.”

Other opponents of the deal vowed to keep fighting it. The or­ganisation United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) teamed with the Jewish Institute for National Security Af­fairs (JINSA) for an event featuring former US senator and vice-presi­dential candidate Joe Lieberman, chairman of UANI. He called July 14th, the date the deal was signed, “a dark anniversary” and said the deal was “ill-conceived, ill-negoti­ated and now ill-monitored”.

UANI is trying to convince busi­nesses in the United States, Asia and Europe that it is not safe to operate in Iran. “It is not moral,” Lieberman said, “to do business with the Iranian regime.”

Chairman of the House Commit­tee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce, R-California, said Iran’s behaviour has worsened since the deal was signed, citing an “increase in execu­tions” in Iran, “attacks on religious minorities”. He said: “Iran remains the world’s number one sponsor of terrorism”.

He accused Iran of destabilising other countries, “overthrowing the government of Yemen” and sup­porting “the continued slaughter in Syria”.

It was Iran’s missile capabilities and reports of Iranian efforts to procure nuclear equipment from Germany that got the attention of Congress, however. Royce claimed that “German authorities detected repeated efforts by Iranians tied to companies and organisations trying to get nuclear equipment”.

The US State Department de­nied there was evidence that Iran violated its commitments under the agreement.

Iran conducted missile tests be­fore and after the deal and contends that such tests are not part of the agreement. Critics claim Tehran is violating UN Resolution 2231, which called on Iran to “refrain from en­gaging in ballistic missile activity designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons”.

Congressional Republicans also complained that the Obama admin­istration continues its “outreach to the regime” instead of countering Iran’s actions. The administration is “going to astonishing lengths to accommodate Iran’s behaviour”, Royce claimed. “[They want] to protect the agreement at any cost.” Royce accused the administration of “advocating for Iran and for do­ing business in Iran”.

Many analysts said changing Iran’s behaviour was not the goal of the deal. Woodrow Wilson Center Vice-President Aaron Miller said the deal was “transactional and not transformational”.

Few people say the deal can be easily overturned by Congress. The best opponents can do is pass leg­islation that tightens limitations on Iran.

The House of Representatives, for example, passed three bills along party lines that impose new sanc­tions on Iranian individuals and companies involved in the coun­try’s missile programme and place financial restrictions on Iran, such as denying it access to US dollars. Royce told the Washington Post, “Iran’s supreme leader can’t be al­lowed to seek ‘death to America’ with US dollars in his pocket”.

Although the bills likely will have trouble passing the US Senate, they send a strong message that Congress has not said its last word on the Iran deal. As Royce said: “More than half of Congress opposes the agreement and no member supports the new policy of bending to Iran.”

The most serious anti-Iran bill was introduced in the Senate. Spon­sored by US Senator Bob Corker, R-Tennessee and chairman of the For­eign Relations Committee, the bill would “extend the Iran sanctions act and expands sanctions for bal­listic missile activities and for Iran’s support for terrorism, and sanctions transfer of conventional weapons to Iran”.

Corker has won the support of several prominent Democratic sen­ators. The bill is to be taken up by the Senate in September.

Pressure on the Obama admin­istration is coming not only from Republicans but also from Demo­crats: 15 Senate Democrats wrote a letter “urging [the president] to secure more transparency from the inspectors tasked with verifying Iran’s compliance” with the nuclear deal.

With hearings on the Senate bill scheduled for September, Iran could become a contentious issue in the November elections.