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Editorial: Congress' new role in Iran deal

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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There is one thing for certain that Democrats and Republicans in Congress can agree on — they both want the power to decide. In near unanimous bipartisan agreement, they’ve asked, and have been granted President Obama’s approval, to have a say in the final framework of Iran’s nuclear deal. The most pressing issues involved with the bill, and ones that could make or break the final deal, involves lifting economic sanctions and inspecting Iran’s nuclear program. 

Although it is honorable of Obama to allow Congress to deliberate the framework of such a crucial foreign-policy exchange, giving a disagreeable and emphatic U.S. Congress the ability to tamper with sensitive parts of the agreement could further complicate matters.

Congress will now have a chance to review the bill and change its contents to reach a final agreement. The concern is that an agreeable plan will not be reached before the deadline of June 30. Secretary of State John Kerry is optimistic that Congress will approve a plan soon, but what it will consist of, and whether it is agreeable to both the U.N. and Iran, is left to question.

Noting this approval from the president, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has made it clear that Iran’s negotiations are with esteemed world leaders and are not concerned with the opinions the U.S. Congress. Rouhani also stated that no final deal would be made if economic sanctions were not lifted.

The sanctions imposed by both the United States and the United Nations have resulted in a 60 percent reduction in Iranian oil exports. There is strong reason to believe that the sanctions against Iran have been devastating enough to strong-arm the country into disbanding its nuclear-weapons programs.

But is the responsibility of Congress and ultimately the United Nations to make sure that in the deal there is a specific framework that details formal investigations and check-ins to be certain that Iran does not pose a threat of terrorism (though under the current deal, this in and of itself would not trigger a new round of economic sanctions) as well as a military based nuclear weapons programs.

Iran has claimed its nuclear program is for energy use, but trust in that is hard to believe, given its refusal to allow a formal inspection of all of its nuclear sites. Within the context of this nuclear deal, a final agreement must contain language that states that frequent and random inspections must take place to confidently proclaim that Iran is truly not a threat.

Although Congress could potentially cause headaches in the process, it is worth a review from it to come to an agreement in the final plan to reduce and eliminate Iran’s threat of nuclear weapons. Congress originally imposed these sanctions, and it is only fair it also has a say in how they are to be removed.

The political leverage that Obama (and now Congress) has currently to negotiate an effective peace deal with Iran is as high as it has ever been. The sanctions have promoted further negotiation, but Rouhani’s pragmatic rhetoric for the removal of sanctions should be mirrored by Obama and Congress in the direction of Iranian nuclear inspections.


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