A Hail Mary Pass From The Iran Hawks

With the July 20 deadline for a final agreement looming, John Kerry returned to Vienna yesterday for another round of nuclear negotiations with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, saying “very significant gaps” still remain between Washington and Tehran’s positions. Opponents of a deal have already moved to preempt any possible success in Vienna, with House Foreign Relations Committee chair Ed Royce and ranking Democrat Eliot Engel circulating a letter

demanding that Obama consult Congress more closely on the ongoing negotiations and suggesting that Iran will have to satisfy Congressional demands on human rights, terrorism, ballistic missile development, and other issues unrelated to the ongoing nuclear negotiations before it will approve major sanctions relief. …

Of course, President Barack Obama himself can provide a certain degree of sanctions relief under executive order as he no doubt intends to if a deal is struck. And there is no doubt that Congress has a role to play in lifting sanctions. But the letter’s assertion that there is no exclusively defined “nuclear-related” sanction against Iran under US law and that any relief can only be extended by addressing a host of non-nuclear-related issues appears calculated to sow doubts about Obama’s ability to deliver among Iran’s leadership, thus strengthening hard-liners in Tehran who argue that Washington simply cannot be trusted.

The messaging continued on the Sunday talk show circuit. After Zarif went on “Meet the Press” to reiterate that Iran sees no benefit in developing a nuclear weapon, hawk-in-chief Benjamin Netanyahu, on “Fox News Sunday”, called that “a joke.” Speaking of the Iran hawks, James Traub urges Obama to “tell them — politely of course — to go to hell”:

After years of inaction and thunderous polemic, the negotiations of the past year have been remarkably professional. A report by the Arms Control Association lists 31 obligations that Iran undertook when it signed the so-called Joint Plan of Action; all but two are completed or in full compliance. Critically, Iran has agreed to stop enriching uranium at 20 percent, to dilute its existing stock of highly enriched uranium, and to allow regular inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The West, for its part, has made good on its promises of sanctions relief. …

Failure is still as likely as not. Very powerful forces in Iran are ideologically committed to an adversarial relationship with the West; others have earned a fortune in Iran’s isolated economy, and would lose out were the country to open up. Iranian negotiators continue to speak as if both sides must make equal compromises, when in fact the onus is on Tehran to comply with the NPT. Yet the Iranian people elected Rouhani to bring an end to their isolation and deprivation, and he knows — and presumably the supreme leader knows, too — that failure to reach a deal threatens Iran’s future, and perhaps the revolution as well.

Previous Dish on the latest round of Iran talks here and here.