Tornado warning for Iran Deal
March 17, 2015
March 24th is the "soft deadline" for a comprehensive agreement between the "P5+1" nations and with Iran. The goal is to have the outline of an agreement by this date with time to work out all of the details by June 30th. However, many hardliners in Congress have been seeing the March 24th deadline as the final deadline. The result has been a hawkish tornado brewing in Congress and headed straight towards the Iran deal.
A cold air front came in January with the Kirk-Menendez "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015", which aims to impose new sanctions on Iran if an agreement isn't reached by the June 30th deadline. Because many Democrats opposed the timing of this legislation, arguing that it wouldn't give enough time for diplomacy to work, Kirk and Menendez signed a letter promising to hold off on introducing the bill for a vote until March 24th. The Senators' hope is to get enough votes when it's introduced to make it veto-proof, since President Obama has already vowed to veto any anti-Iran deal legislation. (A side note, Senator Menendez is currently facing corruption charges, which may hamper his efforts.)
A warm air front came in late February with Senator Bob Corker, who introduced the "Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015". This bill aims to provide Congress 60 days to review the agreement with Iran and either approve or reject it. During these 60 days, it would also bar President Obama from lifting statutory sanctions against Iran (sanctions which Congress can lift vs. sanctions that the president can lift by executive action.)
The cold air front then collided with the warm air front to form the makings of a tornado when John Boehner asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on March 3rd without seeking President Obama's consent. Never has a foreign leader given a speech to Congress with anywhere near the amount of representatives that boycotted this one. Over 60 senators and representatives boycotted his speech due to the timing of it, just 3 weeks before the soft deadline. Among Prime Minister Netanyahu's most memorable quotes, "This deal doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb -- it paves it…We'll face a Middle East littered with nuclear arms." Shortly thereafter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought to rush Senator Corker's bill directly to the Senate floor for a vote without first going through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After outcries from Democratic members such as Menendez who had promised to wait until after the deadline to vote on Iran legislation, McConnell relented and agreed to hold off until after the soft deadline.
The tornado then began to gather speed when Senator Tom Cotton wrote a letter to the leaders of Iran on March 7th to "educate" them on how our constitutional system works. The letter has 47 Senate signatures and reads:
"[W]e will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time."
This letter caused social media to explode with trending hashtags such as Tom Cotton, Iran, and #47Traitors. Many people exposed the fact that 24 hours after writing the letter, Tom Cotton met with major Defense Contractors for an "off the record" event, including such stars as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton.
The moral of the story? This tornado could very well touch down after March 24th if the P5+1 and Iran don't reach agreement by the soft deadline, potentially demolishing all hopes of an Iran deal and flattening diplomatic efforts like this shack.
Send a letter to the editor of your local paper to help keep diplomatic efforts intact! News about the Iran deal is all over social media, newspapers, and media outlets right now. Tell the editor of your local paper that Congress should support resolving this issue diplomatically rather than potentially putting us on the path to another war in the Middle East.