The New York Times reports that when it comes to the nuclear negotiations with Iran “the White House has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.” Although “many members of Congress see the plan as an effort by the administration to freeze them out” there’s nothing controversial here since the final deal will not be a treaty that requires Congressional approval. What Congress would be voting on related to the deal would be the full lifting of sanctions–a move only they can approve and which will ensure the deal doesn’t fall apart later. Those legislators who are making a fuss over this are doing so because they seek “a role larger than consultation and advice.” Israeli officials are also alarmed by the administration’s choice to avoid any attempt to lift sanctions for years because they “see a congressional vote as the best way to constrain the kind of deal that Obama might strike.”
Yet it’s not a bad deal the Israelis are worried about but what happens once the curtain finally closes on this insipid Iran nuclear drama they’ve literally helped script. Building the groundless case that Iran is champing at the bit to make nukes has been great for keeping the U.S. and Iran at arms length (not that the U.S. has needed any prodding for that) and so determined have the Israelis been in sustaining this narrative that they forged documents, as Gareth Porter explains:
“David Albright, the director of the Institute for Science and International Security, who enjoyed a close relationship with the IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen, revealed in an interview with this writer in September 2008 that Heinonen had told him one document that he had obtained earlier that year had confirmed his trust in the earlier collection of intelligence documents. Albright said that document had “probably” come from Israel. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei was very skeptical about all the purported Iranian documents shared with the IAEA by the United States. Referring to those documents, he writes in his 2011 memoirs, “No one knew if any of this was real.” ElBaradei recalls that the IAEA received still more purported Iranian documents directly from Israel in summer 2009. The new documents included a two-page document in Farsi describing a four-year program to produce a neutron initiator for a fission chain reaction. [Robert] Kelley has said that ElBaradei found the document lacking credibility, because it had no chain of custody, no identifiable source, and no official markings or anything else that could establish its authenticity–the same objections Iran has raised about the high explosives document.”
That these negotiations and the stringent sanctions regime are founded on fraud is a major reason why the IAEA’s probe into the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program won’t pose any obstacle to the final deal once it’s settled. The U.S. will accept a less than thorough accounting of Iran’s alleged activities for fear that if this issue is pressed it will confirm beyond all doubts the intelligence fixing. Washington would rather sweep these accusations under the rug than face the fallout of another intelligence scandal so soon after the Iraq WMD skulduggery. Another reason is that the Iranians can walk away from the table worry-free and not have to answer for anything. Trita Parsi argues that the deal won’t have legs if the Iranian people aren’t on board with its conditions, writing
“While all indications show that the [Iranian] public supports a deal, a new poll by the University of Maryland may shed light on the thinking behind Iran’s negotiating position, but also explain why the Rouhani government may think it can live with a no-deal scenario. The poll shows that the Iranian public is resistant on two key matters: Rolling back the number of operating centrifuges and limiting Iran’s ability to conduct nuclear research. Demands for strict limitations on these issues by the P5+1 would essentially be deal breakers for the Iranian public: 70 percent oppose dismantling half of Iran’s existing centrifuges and 75 percent oppose limits on Iran’s research activity. The public’s position on these matters is likely rooted in both a longstanding narrative of the West seeking to keep Iran weak, dependent, and downtrodden by depriving it of access to advanced science…”
But even if Iran does reject the terms or the deal fails to otherwise materialize, like Rouhani recently said, it doesn’t mean relations will revert to how things were before the talks (i.e. all the belligerence) and that there could be another way to proceed. My guess is that could mean there would be an understanding short of an officially signed agreement that will amount to the same thing and the sides will treat as just as binding. It may not come to that, however, because this deal is 95 percent done, according to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and there are creative solutions for that niggling–but supposedly tricky–5 percent. Regarding centrifuge numbers and enrichment, “A potential phased agreement that would satisfy both sides,” the editors of Bloomberg News write “could, for example, give Iran some of the centrifuges it wants but require that it stockpile uranium in powder, rather than gas, form so as to expand the breakout period.” So, two months after I said the deal is still on track, nothing has changed.