Republican hawks and the strong pro-Israel lobby in Washington came together to pass the so-called Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, only to see Congressional Democrats (after initially caving) respond to President Obama’s pressure and not allow for it to come to a vote on the Senate floor.
The chances of the bill passing at this point seems remote and many journalists and commentators have already declared the effort dead and called it a defeat for hawks in the Senate from both sides of the isle and the hawkish pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
However, they would likely be mistaken if they saw this as a complete defeat for the aforementioned politicians and institutions rather than a tactical retreat. As has been reported, the focus in Congress regarding Iran has now shifted to a different piece of legislation.
Not assuaged by the requests of the Obama Administration that they simply do nothing as to allow Secretary of State John Kerry to proceed with negotiations, they have now set their sights on a non-binding resolution aimed at defining what they believe the final agreement should involve.
As early as December of last year Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who Chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was a principal sponsor of the previously mentioned Iran sanctions legislation, said that he would consider drafting a non-binding resolution that would look to the final agreement and allow the Senate to have a hand in molding that agreement.
“I’m beginning to think… that maybe what the Senate needs to do is define the end game and at least what it finds as acceptable as the final status,” said Menendez to US officials who testified on the Iran deal before the Senate Banking committee. “Because I’m getting nervous about what I perceive will be acceptable to [the administration] as the final status versus what …the Congress might view as acceptable,” he added.
Though this resolution has not yet been introduced, one need only to look back two months to see what the contours of such a resolution would be. In December, while the new Iran sanctions bill had yet to be introduced, two Republicans, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Foreign Affairs Comsmittee Chairman Ed Royce along with their Democratic counterparts Steny Hoyer and Elliot Engle introduced a non-binding resolution in the House of Representatives that they claimed would add the input of Congress to help mold the final agreement.
The resolution they drafted claimed that sanctions are the only reason Iran is willing to negotiate and that it is US policy that no country has a right to enrich. The resolution called on Iran to “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities” and allow for inspections of “all suspect sites, including military facilities, and full access to all Iranian personnel, scientists, and technicians associated with Iran’s nuclear program.”
The resolution goes on to become a grab bag for any gripes and complaint the Congressmen have against Iran and would like to see addressed in the context of the negotiations. They make a number of claims against Iran involving international agreements and resolutions as well as human rights. They call Iran a state sponsor of terror and demand American citizens who they claim are “unjustly detained in Iran” to be released, including Robert Levinson who was recently revealed to be a CIA operative.
The purpose of the resolution was to allow Cantor and the House Republican leadership, who have repeatedly criticized the idea of diplomatic conflict resolution between Iran and the US in general, to look for ways to express opposition to negotiations that President Obama is perusing and to put obstacles in its path.
Many of the demands made regarding the Iranian nuclear energy program contradict the positions of the Obama Administrations and the many non-nuclear issues raised have never been discussed by the President in the context of these negotiations. The resolution would create the strictest possible parameters for the American negotiators to the point that it would either significantly harm sensitive international negotiations or derail the process all together.
That resolution eventually lost Democratic support under heavy pressure from the White House and was abandoned by the Republicans in favor of the new sanctions legislation. However, Members of the House involved with crafting the new resolution discussed in recent days have already indicated their interest in many of the provisions of the previous resolution.
“I want this administration to know that the Congress believes in dismantling, removing and stopping” the Iranian nuclear program said Senator Lindsey Graham, a noted Senate hawk.
Therefore, having lost the battle to impose new sanctions and directly violate the terms of the interim agreement, those in Congress and their allies in the pro-Israel and hawkish lobby groups have simply shifted their strategy, rather than accept defeat in their efforts to stand against diplomatic conflict resolution between Iran and the P5+1 countries.