Rising Support in Congress to Keep the Iran Deal

“Wake up. We are sleepwalking into an armed conflict,” writes Rep. Gerry Connolly. “Now, those most vocal prior to the [Iran] deal about the imminent threat of a nuclear Iran want to scrap the deal, put the world back on the brink of conflict, and open up a second nuclear front,” in addition to the crisis with North Korea.

“Let’s be clear,” says Sen. Tim Kaine. “The Iran nuclear deal is working and has been since Iran dismantled much of its nuclear program in January 2016.” Rep. Connolly agrees: “zero evidence has been provided to Congress concerning Iranian noncompliance.” Sen. Jeff Merkley argues that “the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran might be the single biggest risk we face. According to every assessment, that risk is currently contained. Mr. President, let’s keep it that way; don’t walk away from the nuclear agreement.”

The International Atomic Energy Association has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance; Kaine reminds us “what happens when we don’t listen to the IAEA; in 2003, its experts warned us that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. We ignored them, invaded Iraq and have regretted that mistake ever since.” Connolly writes, “the hidden scandal of the Iraq War — the manipulation of intelligence to support a predetermined outcome — is now an overt political strategy to undermine a multilateral nonproliferation agreement.”

Congress seems to be reacting to the strong pleas and warnings from European allies. Federica Mogherini, the foreign policy chief for the European Union, said this week “it’s not a deal you can easily open and renegotiate. There is no technical nor political space to renegotiate this deal.” If, she said "the United States decided to step out of an agreement, the rest of the world stick to it...What will happen is not pressure to renegotiate an agreement...What will happen will simply be that the United States will contravene an a U.N. Security Council resolution, and the rest of the world will stick to it."

There’s no question that the Iran Deal makes the world safer: Merkley writes, “a U.S. withdrawal could send Iran’s nuclear program back into full swing. A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel, destabilize the Middle East and contribute to an international nuclear arms race,” stressing that our international partners have indicated that they are not interested in renegotiation. “It’s naïve to think that the United States could swiftly set up a crippling international sanctions regime anew,” Kaine says, “especially since our actions would leave us more isolated than ever before.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein warns, “If Trump scraps the Iran agreement, we wouldn't be any safer and he'd lose credibility as his team tries to defuse the North Korea threat.”

“Having voluntarily walked away from an agreement for no reason,” Feinstein continues, “it is difficult to imagine the president would be able to lead the international community in pressuring Iran back to the negotiating table, let alone retain any credibility as we push for negotiations with North Korea.” Kaine writes, “Refusing to make the necessary certifications regarding Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal and paving the way for the U.S. to break its own commitments when Iran has been compliant would amount to the United States going back on its word… If we don’t uphold our end of a nuclear accord with Iran, why would Pyongyang believe we would uphold our end of any diplomatic solution reached on North Korea’s nuclear program?”

“If Iran violates the deal that’s one thing. If they don’t and do other bad things, let’s not violate the deal,” advises Sen. Chuck Schumer, who originally voted against the deal in 2015. Sen. Rand Paul, who also voted against the deal, echoes this sentiment: “Most of the complaints about Iran don’t have anything to do with the agreement. They complain about ballistic missiles and other things, but that’s not part of the agreement. I think while the agreement’s not perfect, my main concern has always been compliance. But if they’re complying with it, I think we should stay in it.” Another opponent of the deal, Rep. Ed Royce, urges that instead of withdrawing from the deal, the U.S. should “enforce the hell out of it.”

Sen. Chris Murphy cautions: “If President Trump or Republicans in Congress choose to unilaterally reimpose sanctions on Iran in the next couple of months, every consequence of that decision would strengthen our adversaries, it would weaken us and our allies, it would harm our vital interests and it would make us all dramatically less safe. It would be a catastrophic own-goal at a moment when the world is possibly more dangerous than it’s ever been before.”

--Meghan McCall is the Policy Associate and Special Assistant to the President at Ploughshares Fund.

More resources:

--“What are the Implications of Decertification of the Iran Nuclear Deal?” by Ashish Kumar Sen for the Atlantic Council, October 10, 2017 here.

--“Tougher Line on Iran Could ‘Fatally Undermine’ Fight Against ISIS” by Tyler Cullis for The Cipher Brief, October 11, 2017 here.

--“Judy Asks: Should the Iran Deal Be Scrapped?” by Judy Depmsey for Carnegie Europe’s Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe, October 11, 2017 here.

--“What’s Really Behind Tom Cotton’s Opposition To The Iran Nuclear Deal” by Nicholas L. Miller for War on the Rocks, October 11, 2017 here.

--“Ehud Barak, Israeli Hawk and No Friend of Iran, Urges Trump to Keep Nuclear Deal” by Mark Landler for The New York Times, October 11, 2017 here.

--“Iran nuclear deal will remain valid regardless of U.S. decision, says EU policy chief” Interview with Federica Mogherini for PBS NewsHour, October 11, 2017 here.

--“Nuclear Crisis Group To Donald Trump: “Don’t Lead Us Down The Path To War With Iran”” for Global Zero, October 11, 2017 here.

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