Advertisement

The Iran nuclear deal -- Buckle up for a very rough ride

By Harlan Ullman, Arnaud de Borchgrave distinguished columnist
The Iran nuclear deal -- Buckle up for a very rough ride
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (C), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) attend last working session of Iranian Nuclear negotiations on July 14, 2015 in Vienna, Austria. Six world powers and Iran reached an agreement on limiting Iran's nuclear ability in return for the lifting of international financial sanctions on July 14, 2015. The six nations negotiating with Iran were the five members of the UN Security Council -- United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France -- plus Germany. Photo by Ali Mohammadi/UPI | License Photo

Make no mistake: the intense debate and negotiations over the P-5 plus One nuclear agreement with Iran are just beginning. However difficult the talks in Switzerland and Austria over the past four years may have been, the coming months will make that pothole filled road look like a modern eight-lane super highway. Certain members of Congress abetted by the Israeli government and its American supporters will do their level best to kill the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has already promised to "die trying" to defeat this agreement. Many Republican members will refuse to accept the agreement. Some have already come out against the JCPOA without having read it. And the presidential campaign will turn this debate into the political equivalent of a Mel Brooks movie gone astray. Meanwhile, none of the other signatories to the JCPOA has opposed the agreement so vehemently or with any such intensity. One wonders why that is.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Unfortunately, government in Washington is so broken and the divisions between parties so visceral that a rational evaluation of the JCPOA is mission impossible. That said, it would be refreshing if proponents and opponents would step back for a moment and consider several facts and realities. The first is that this is not a bilateral U.S.-Iranian agreement.

The JCPOA has been signed by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union and of course Iran. Further, it is the U.N. Security Council that will lift the U.N. sanctions on Iran based on the JCPOA. And, as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the legal right to maintain a nuclear capability for peaceful purposes. Hence, the requirement to end all of Iran's nuclear programs has no legal basis and contrary to a binding international treaty signed by the United States.

That said, how might this controversy play out? Congress has sixty days to review the agreement and then vote on it. At this stage, it seems unlikely that if Congress were to vote against the JCPOA and President Barack Obama vetoed the legislation, that veto would not be overridden in the Senate where 67 votes are needed for the required 2/3 majority. But if the veto were overridden, how would the other signatories react? And what will be the effect of the U.N. having lifted sanctions when the United States did not?

Advertisement

No matter that outcome, this Congressional review and accompanying hearings along with what will be a vicious political campaign to defeat the agreement will have another predictable effect. At best, America's credibility and image as a serious state will be greatly damaged and further challenged. At worst, we will be regarded as a laughing stock. And once this storm passes, intense criticisms and attempts to block the JCPOA will continue, as they have with the Affordable Health Care Act, producing even greater erosion and dissipation of American standing abroad.

The administration will try to assuage Israel and key Arab allies in the region in part by providing more military weaponry and probably beefing up military presence as a reassurance measure. It is very unlikely the United States would transfer so-called "bunker busting" bombs to Israel or anyone else to reduce the prospect of a pre-emptive strike against Iran that surely would precipitate a regional war. And the White House will take a strong rhetorical stance against any Iranian actions to increase its regional influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen regardless of whether or not that works.

In a rational world, three outcomes would be expected. First, the JCPOA would be assessed on the basis of a rigorous, objective and non-partisan cost-benefit analysis. Second, the administration would come forward with a comprehensive strategy for the region. Third, this strategy would explore the prospects for a broader agenda with Iran regarding Iraq, Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperative Council and Hezbollah.

Advertisement

Washington, sadly, is not a rational world. President Obama and his team, particularly Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, should be commended for their vision and perseverance. Clearly, the JCPOA is a bet that Iran can and will abide by international agreements and be conducive to re-entering the world community. That may not happen.

But for an administration that has preferred caution to boldness and rhetoric to action, the JCPOA is a dramatic and even stunning policy choice. If it works, and the path ahead will be nasty and fraught with setbacks, the JCPOA could be the diplomatic triumph of the post-World War II world. A big bet yes, but a bet worth taking.

________________________________________________________________ Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist as well as Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business and Senior Advisor at both Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security. His latest book is A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement